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The Penn Environmental Innovations Initiative is pleased to announce our inaugural research communities.
A research community is a multi-year effort that fosters collaboration from different disciplines around a common theme of broad environmental significance. Each community should demonstrate inclusion, innovation, and impact. Communities must be led by members of the Penn community, collaboration with additional partners is valued.
Growing Together: A Community-Based Initiative for Greening and Nutrition
Over 93% of residents in Cobbs Creek are African American, and 47% live below the poverty line—more than twice the rate in Philadelphia overall. Access to nature is a significant and often overlooked factor in preventing and addressing many health challenges such as asthma, high blood pressure, and anxiety. In the Cobbs Creek area, this is compounded by chronic issues with sewer overflows, discharging raw sewage directly into local waterways, and flooding, as well as limited access to fresh foods. A collaboration between the Weitzman School of Design, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, the Water Center, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and the Food Trust, this research community will install rain gardens, raised beds for vegetables, and food forests. These ecological enhancements will be at the heart of co-developed curricula in the public schools about gardening and watershed management, and Penn student research assistants will capture, analyze, and share data about the outcomes of the project.
Laboratorio para Apreciar La Vida y El Ambiente - Mar (LAVA-Mar)
Globally renowned for its biological, historical, and scientific importance, the Galápagos Archipelago is attractive to tourists and scientists alike. However, the growing local human population is putting stress on the environment, and most residents are only marginally aware of the historical and scientific significance of their home even though it is UNESCO’s first World Heritage site. Over several years, Proyecto LAVA has focused on engaging community members on environmental issues of local interest, while simultaneously collecting data to expand scientific knowledge and point the way towards solutions. Funds from the Initiative will expand the reach of this program by helping to train local students to dive, enabling them to regularly collect data in the municipal bay and in less-disturbed areas of the marine reserve. Within Penn, collaborators in this research community include the departments of Philosophy and Biology; the Schools of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Design; and Perry World House. It also includes collaborators from Virginia Tech, the University of Cincinnati, and Villanova, as well as local experts and professionals.
Public Health, Cities, and the Climate Crisis
Structural inequities in urban settings exacerbate challenges to climate awareness, coping, mitigation, and adaptation. In recognition of this, this research community will build collaborations between different Schools, programs, and Centers on campus through a graduate-level course that takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying how community behavior and our built environment must adapt to climate change using health as an outcome. The course, which will be offered for several years, will yield proposals for community resilience improvements via policies, programs, or projects with which the faculty and students would collaborate with community members. This community is a collaboration between the Master of Public Health program, the Weitzman School of Design, the Water Center, the Urban Health Lab, the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, and the Center for Public Health Initiatives.