Recent Submissions

  • Studying Land Cover Change In The Goviefe Todzi Sacred Forest, Volta Region Ghana

    Young, Stephen; Bremer, Madden (2020)
    Sacred natural sites can be defined as any place in nature possessing a unique spiritual significance to peoples and communities. Throughout the world, sacred natural sites support ecological biodiversity, provide habitat stepping stones, and play a crucial role in the continuation of traditional spiritual practices. These variables in combination create a unique biocultural landscape that warrants conservation and conversely, sacred sites offer a mode of conservation. This research examines land cover change within the Goviefe Todzi sacred forest, located in Ghana’s Volta region, using satellite imagery. We utilized techniques in digital image processing to generate land cover classification maps of the study area for 2012 and 2015. Land cover classifications of high resolution QuickBird-2 and WorldView-2 imagery informed the hypothesis that closed forest cover within the sacred site decreased at a lesser rate than neighboring non-sacred closed forest cover. The Global Forest Change dataset from the University of Maryland framed our understanding of how forest cover changes within the study area and how it fits into the global context of forest cover change. Results demonstrated that the Goviefe Todzi sacred forest exhibited less closed forest loss when compared to non-sacred forest and closed forest was most often converted to open forest in the event of a land cover change. We recognized that other factors such as accessibility to nearby settlements, pre-existing agricultural fields, the time span of the study, as well as the topography of the sacred forest may also contribute to its lack of closed forest loss.
  • Need for Greater Access to Language Services in Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

    Luna, Marcos; Castonguay, Meghan E. (2020)
    This research assesses the geographic access to drug treatment centers providing interpretation services for limited- or non-English speakers seeking drug or alcohol treatment in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Only 68% of the available treatment centers serve languages other than English. A lack of language services may contribute to rates of relapse. This research uses rasterized surface distance analysis, also known as Euclidean distance analysis, to measure the average straight-line distance from each Census tract in Massachusetts to available treatment centers. The results of the Euclidean distance demonstrate how access to treatment services varies for those who speak English less than “very well.” This research may potentially impact healthcare policy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by providing sound and necessary data for policymakers and other interested stakeholders to make practical decisions on providing language services for addiction treatment in the Commonwealth.
  • Public Opinion: How Strong Is the Public Voice in Society Today?

    Krebs, Lorri; Fleury, Lindsey (2015-05-01)
    Many scholars of the present day have various questions about prominent aspects of the "democratic citizen's" role in the democratic process. These questions include: (1) Should ill-informed citizens have the right to voice their opinion in the public sphere? (2) Does the "everyday citizen" really have the capability to place the "good of the many" over their "own individual desires"? (3) Do only those of the "civic mind" who are "well-off" financially have the ability for their voice to be heard over the voice of the many?, and (4) What actually constitutes the "democratic process"? In the present day, all American citizens have the right to vote, if they should so choose. In order for the process of democracy to be fully utilized, though, it is pertinent that these democratic citizens make it a point to educate themselves before voicing their opinions in the public sphere. Without the basis of a proper education, "ill-informed" citizens, given enough resources, have the opportunity to voice their "ill-informed" views to the public. Many historic politicians have suggested that those citizens who are "well-off" financially, often have the proper basis of of an education to be accurately involved in the process of democracy. These democratic individuals will also have the means for their voice to dominate the public sphere; thus overshadowing and influencing the "everyday citizen's" voice in society. This monopoly of public opinion tends to sway the process of democracy in favor of those citizens who are "powerful" enough to make their opinions heard throughout the fabric of society regardless of whether or not these "powerful" opinions fully coincide with the opinions of the general public. This research utilizes a case study on casino location choices to explore the actual strength of the public voice in society, today.
  • Art Driven by Adventure

    Demarjian, Haig; Burke, Erin M. (2014-05-17)
    Diana Vreeland, a famous editor for Vogue Magazine said that "the eye has to travel." I think that this is timelessly true. Travel is an integral part of being a modern creative human. Through travel there comes an opening of the eyes, an expanding of the heart and a refreshing of the soul. Travel exposes our creative minds to new experiences and those experiences are what make each one of us successful and unique as human beings. Each one of us holds infinite creative potential. The ability to create is a very human process that arises out of personal reactions to our life experiences. The art-making process allows our interpretations to take form, captures and moment in time and adds a new piece to the puzzle that is our world. From that piece of art other people will gain a new perspective on our world, and experience their own reaction. Personally, traveling has given rise to a fascination with "place" and what it means to "journey" and how these unique types of experiences have influenced my artwork. In this thesis project, I have examined those journeys that have most heavily influenced my creative process. I explore the idea of travel and examine how a seven week cross country road trip and my study abroad experience helped to broaden my artistic productivity and deepen my connection to my self as a creative being. Also part of my thesis work was the development of an artists website as a non-physical platform, untied to any particular place, where I can organize curate and collect my work. The website can currently be found here:
  • An Analysis of Cycling Infrastructure and Cycling Activity

    Luna, Marcos; Gilroy, Nicholas (2014-05-17)
    Over the last decade, the City of Salem, Massachusetts has made significant investments in infrastructure to support cycling in the City, such as the construction of new bike lanes and cycle paths. To what extent do these investments meet the actual activities and needs of cyclists? What routes do cyclists commonly use? To better understand cyclists' usage of roads in the City of Salem, this research will analyze user-populated information from Strava, a mobile application that records a user's coordinates as they cycle through Salem. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be used to analyze and create maps that highlight the aggregate habits of cyclists in Salem and compare those to cycling infrastructure, and public safety. This information can be used to help guide cycling growth and investment in the City of Salem. The research and analysis is valuable for demonstrating the true impact and usage of cyclists on roads in Salem.
  • A Whale Of A Good Time: Whale Watches Spreading Conservation Through Education

    Ratner, Keith; Cooney, Shannon (2020-05-01)
    Ecotourists are more concerned with their impact on the environment compared to mainstream tourists. They have a strong commitment to preserving nature and look for educational experiences. These values and motives translate into the activities ecotourists choose to participate in while vacationing. Understanding ecotourist behavior is important, so that destination managers can better market their sites or activity. For example, whale watching is increasing in popularity. Whale watches are a good way to incorporate ecotourist values and help further the conservation of whales. Studies have shown whale watches have an educational component that satisfies visitor expectations. If people are satisfied with the experience, they are more likely to pass on the conservation related information they learned and get their peers to undergo a similar trip. This research project is a literature review of the history of whale watching, motivations of ecotourists, and case studies of whale watches in different areas. In addition to the literature review, I went on a whale watch tour in Cape Ann, Gloucester to see how tours on the North Shore of Boston compare to the case studies. The conclusions in this research project are important as they can be applied to any whale watch to improve visitor satisfaction and better incorporate ecotourist values.
  • Prospects For Massachusetts Community Supported Fisheries

    Silvern, Steven; Sulick, Caroline (2019-05-01)
    Marine fisheries across the globe are challenged by unsustainable industrial fishing practices resulting in the depletion of fish populations. Fish become global commodities, traded and shipped all over the world, accumulating thousands of food miles and benefiting companies and food processor many miles from the fishery itself. Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) were created in the last ten years as a solution to unsustainable, industrial fisheries practices that undermine marine environmental health and local fishing jobs, communities and cultures. Closely related to the land-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, CSF seek to minimize the distance between producers and consumers, offering fresh and local fish to consumers and allowing for greater profits remain in local fishing communities. CSF are smaller in scale and support more environmentally sustainable fishing practices. This model has spread throughout the United States over the last decade with no two CSF being identical. Through personal interviews with two local Massachusetts CSF, I document the evolution of these CSF. I assess the implementation of sustainable fishing practices and consider whether the CSF model promotes the sustainability of people and planet. I examine barriers and threats to CSF success; information that will be relevant to those interested in starting their own CSF. Finally, I examine CSF marketing strategies and consider how they employ localisms (local identities, branding) to market themselves to the nearby communities based on their local surroundings and demographics.
  • Public Transportation: Resources Demand And Mobility - Impact On Companies In Boston, USA And Munich, Germany

    Ratner, Keith; Adam, Emily (2019-05-01)
    This project researches the impact of access to public transportation on companies and their employees through a comparison between Boston, Massachusetts and Munich, Germany. Long commutes to work together with the traffic problems in the inner cities and the huge environmental impact of single occupancy vehicles, show the increasing importance of public transportation. After analyzing online sources through a literature review, interviews with representatives of different companies in both cities were conducted along with an online survey among the employees about their usage and opinion of the importance of public transportation system to their employer. In addition, to further the research, politicians’ perspectives on public transportation were included. The results revealed that companies and employees in Munich significantly rely on public transportation. Furthermore, accessibility to public transit influences the location decision of companies and employers. In Boston, on the other hand, public transit is not as widely used as many of the employees stated, that it is not suitable to their work schedule or they do not have access to it. Analyzing both public transportation networks for differences, the research unveiled that the city of Munich has a more advanced and modern public transportation system than the city of Boston. To convince companies and employees in Boston to increase their usage of the public transportation system, improvements to the schedule, accessibility, affordability and reliability should be made. A good public transportation system provides immense benefits to the community by improving the environment and quality of life, as well as attracting companies, creating jobs and increasing tax incomes.
  • Mindfulness in Elementary Schools

    Carroll, Greg; Polino, Amber Lee (2016-05-01)
    Breathing is vital to our well-being. Being attentive to our breathing and taking deep breaths can actually help our bodies relax and focus. Teaching students to pause and focus on their breath can help them handle difficult situations that arise during the school day. This technique is something students can carry with them and use as they grow up. Breathing also helps develop mindfulness, which helps improve attention skills and memory. Mindfulness also encourages compassion, kindness, and understanding. In this children's book, Bah Bah faces many difficulties on his first day at a new school. He handles his emotions discreetly by pausing and having breathing breaks throughout the day that help him relax and move on. Read along and learn to breathe like Bah Bah!
  • Testing Park Cool Island GIS Analysis Methods For Use In Semi-Urban Conservation Planning

    Luna, Marcos; Heacock, David (2020-01-01)
    The human and environmental impacts of urban heat islands (UHI) have become an increasingly relevant issue to city planners. This topic has spurred research into the relationships between land cover, ambient temperature, and the role of greenspace in emitting cooler air to its surrounding area, now known as the ‘park cool island’ effect (PCI). While ample research has been given to this phenomenon in dense urban areas, much less has been dedicated to semi-urban communities who may wish to inform their development practices as they expand their footprints. This research used satellite-derived Landsat Level-2 Provisional Surface Temperature data, MassGIS 2016 Land Cover / Land Use data, and MassGIS Standardized Assessors’ Parcels data to analyze parcels in Essex County, Massachusetts, for PCI intensity and the influence of land cover and parcel characteristics on PCI. LST data from July, 2016, were used to evaluate the mean temperature difference between parcels and their surrounding area to derive PCI. Replicating methods demonstrated by Cao et al. [Landscape and Urban Planning, 96(4):224-231 (2010)], linear regression analyses were undertaken to determine the relationships between PCI, parcel land cover and geometry. The 500 meter buffer distance used by Cao et al. to calculate PCI was also analyzed. Twenty iterations of the linear regression model were run based on a changing buffer value to calculate PCI. Two sensitivity analyses were performed based on these model iterations: 1) change in model performance, as expressed by its R2 value, across the range of PCI buffer distances and 2) the change in the coefficient strengths of the independent variables across the range of PCI buffer distances. The linear regression model underperformed as compared to Cao et al.’s study, however, it affirmed the 500 meter buffer distance as a parameter for calculating PCI, with that model iteration returning the highest R2 value (0.587). Buffer distances greater than 500 meters performed relatively well, however, smaller buffer values were associated with weak model performance. Among land cover coefficients, there were scale-sensitivities observed, with some variables changing in strength and polarity across the model iterations. It was determined that PCI could effectively evaluate cooling intensity in the study area, however, using it as a dependent variable within a linear regression model had only moderate performance. This was due to heterogeneity among the makeup of land cover within parcel buffer areas which inhibited the regression model’s ability to build consistent relationships between land cover and PCI.
  • Improving Compactness Measures For Political Districts

    Luna, Marcos; Ratner, Keith; Strohschein, David; Hugenberger, Sarah (2019-05-01)
    Political redistricting plans often need to consider the compactness of the district’s shape. For states requiring districts to be compact, there is a need to quantify compactness. Existing measures of compactness unfairly penalize districts with coastlines and islands or whose geography itself is not compact. By incorporating information about the underlying geography into the calculation of a modified compactness score, it would be possible to use a compactness test more effectively and fairly across all districts. Several methods of incorporating such data were explored with test districts. A Python script was created to apply the calculations behind the selected method to any polygon shapefile. The script was run on the 436 districts of the 114th Congress of the United States to consider and analyze the modified compactness calculation and its usefulness. Scores for districts covering areas with a significant amount of water were improved when the modified compactness calculation was applied.
  • Which Urban Residents Vote and Why? A Geospatial Analysis of Voting Behavior in Worcester, MA

    Ratner, Keith; Holbrook, John D. (2018-08-01)
    This study investigates the relationship between voter travel distance to polling places in Worcester, MA and voter turnout. Linear and geographically-weighted regression are used to evaluate the significance of travel distance and demographic control variables. Worcester appears to be unique when compared to previous studies investigating travel distance and voter turnout. Travel distance to polling place does not reliably predict voter turnout in Worcester, but vehicle ownership, race, and age do.
  • Spatial And Temporal Determinants Of A-Weighted And Frequency Specific Sound Levels—An Elastic Net Approach

    Walker, Erica D.; Hart, Jaime E.; Koutrakis, Petros; Cavallari, Jennifer M.; VoPham, Trang; Luna, Marcos; Laden, Francine (2017-09-18)
    Background: Urban sound levels are a ubiquitous environmental stressor and have been shown to be associated with a wide variety of health outcomes. While much is known about the predictors of A-weighted sound pressure levels in the urban environment, far less is known about other frequencies. Objective: To develop a series of spatial-temporal sound models to predict A-weighted sound pressure levels, low, mid, and high frequency sound for Boston, Massachusetts. Methods: Short-term sound levels were gathered at n = 400 sites from February 2015 – February 2016. Spatial and meteorological attributes at or near the sound monitoring site were obtained using publicly available data and a portable weather station. An elastic net variable selection technique was used to select predictors of A-weighted, low, mid, and high frequency sound. Results: The final models for low, mid, high, and A-weighted sound levels explained 59 – 69% of the variability in each measure. Similar to other A-weighted models, our sound models included transportation related variables such as length of roads and bus lines in the surrounding area; distance to road and rail lines; traffic volume, vehicle mix, residential and commercial land use. However, frequency specific models highlighted additional predictors not included in the A-weighted model including temperature, vegetation, impervious surfaces, vehicle mix, and density of entertainment establishments and restaurants. Conclusions: Building spatial temporal models to characterize sound levels across the frequency spectrum using an elastic net approach can be a promising tool for noise exposure assessments within the urban soundscape. Models of sound's character may give us additional important sound exposure metrics to be utilized in epidemiological studies.
  • Equity in Transportation Planning: An Analysis of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization

    Luna, Marcos (2014-08-08)
    This article presents an analysis of representational equity within the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). MPOs are regional transportation organizations that exert significant influence over state transportation planning and the allocation of funding. The analysis shows that under almost any voting or membership configuration, population representation is correlated with racial and ethnic composition. This outcome is not just a function of the system of representation but also the geography of residential segregation. The results of this analysis highlight the problem of creating systems of equitable representation within the context of preexisting and persistent social inequalities.
  • Geography Deserts: State And Regional Variation In The Formal Opportunity To Learn Geography In The United States, 2005–2015

    Jones, Mark C.; Luna, Marcos (2018-10-30)
    The formal opportunity to learn geography in the United States is unevenly distributed across space, creating possible geography deserts. Data on the number of exams taken in Advanced Placement Human Geography (APHG) and bachelor’s degrees earned in geography are mapped at the state and regional scales. Normalized rates are ranked and grouped into quintiles. For APHG exams, states in the southeastern region of the United States are in the uppermost quintiles while states in the northeastern region are in the lowermost quintiles. The pattern for bachelor’s degrees in geography is somewhat the spatial inverse of that for APHG.
  • MBTA Bus Equity Analysis

    Luna, Marcos (2018-11-11)
    This ZIP file contains the files used to build the interactive version of this report. This document presents an equity analysis of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) bus performance across three service metrics for the years 2015 to 2017: ontime performance, dropped trips, and overcrowding. These performance metrics are calculated to compare performance of bus lines serving historically underserved populations (i.e. minority, low income) to bus lines serving the rest of the population in the MBTA system. Special attention is paid to Route 111, an important transit connection between Chelsea and Boston, and a line with high percentages of minority and low income bus riders. In general, the analysis shows that minority and low incomes lines experience worse performance for reliability and dropped trips, but these differences do not exceed MBTA thresholds for disparate and disproportionate impacts, which require a difference in service metrics of at least 20%. On the positive side, minority and low income lines experience the same or less overcrowding than other bus lines. Route 111 shows better than average reliability, but is among the worst in terms of dropped trips and overcrowding. The major findings of this analysis are the following: Minority and low income bus riders experienced worse reliability or ontime performance than other bus riders Minority and low income bus riders experienced a higher percentage of dropped trips than other bus riders Minority and low income riders experienced the same or even less overcrowding than other bus riders Systematic differences in bus service for minority and low income riders are clearly evident but are not captured by the MBTA’s threshold for determining disparate or disproportionate impacts Deficiencies in the MBTA’s survey data make equity determinations problematic Details of the analysis, including interactive graphs and maps are presented in the report.
  • Fossil Fuel Divestment: Implications For The Future Of Sustainability Discourse And Action Within Higher Education

    Healy, Noel; Debski, Jessica (2016-12-07)
    This paper provides a critical overview and analysis of the student-led fossil fuel divestment (FFD) movement and its impact on sustainability discourse and actions within US higher education. Analysing higher education institutes’ (HEIs) divestment press releases and news reports shows how institutional alignment with cultures of sustainability and social justice efforts played key roles in HEIs’ decisions to divest from fossil fuels. Key stated reasons for rejection were: minimal or unknown impact of divestment, risk to the endowment, and fiduciary duty. Participant observation and interviews with protagonists reveal the intricate power structures and vested business interests that influence boardroom divestment decision-making. While some HEIs embrace transformative climate actions, we contend that higher education largely embraces a business-as-usual sustainability framework characterised by a reformist green-economy discourse and a reluctance to move beyond business interest responses to climate politics. Nonetheless, the FFD movement is pushing HEIs to move from compliance-oriented sustainability behaviour towards a more proactive and highly politicised focus on HEIs’ stance in the modern fossil fuel economy. We offer conceptual approaches and practical directions for reorienting sustainability within HEIs to prioritise the intergenerational equity of its students and recognise climate change as a social justice issue. Fully integrating sustainability into the core business of HEIs requires leadership to address fundamental moral questions of both equity and responsibility for endowment investments. We contend that HEIs must re-evaluate their role in averting catastrophic climate change, and extend their influence in catalysing public climate discourse and actions through a broader range of external channels, approaches, and actors.