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Completed Research Projects

Community & Economic Vitality

Communities across the New England region and the country are facing challenges from climate change including more extreme storms, hotter and longer-lasing heat waves, more rain in winter and less in summer, as well as the slower but significant effects of sea level rise. Given the incremental development and long lives of the built environment, changes in municipal regulations take years to significantly change the buildings and infrastructure that make up our cities and towns. As a result, it is essential that communities begin now to adapt their built form regulations (zoning, building codes, road specifications, sewer infrastructure, etc.) so that as climate impacts worsen in the next decades, harm is minimized. However, outside of the major global cities such as Boston and New York, it is not clear how many communities have taken steps toward climate change adaptation.

This project focuses on male equine infertility from several perspectives: 1) understanding at the molecular level the mechanisms of the causes of male infertility; 2) Methods to be developed during this project could easily be translated to standardized tests in the clinical laboratory; 3) Understanding of male infertility at the molecular level could provide rational strategies to treat infertile stallions and/or improve assisted reproductive technology.

New research into the challenges facing Springfield will offer insights into processes and approaches for revitalizing cities and will:

· Identify trends and reasons some American cities are rebounding

· Identify the factors that are inhibiting the revitalization of legacy cities

· Identify the factors that are inhibiting the revitalization of Springfield

· Identify new approaches to revitalizing legacy cities, including Springfield

· Disseminate new approaches to revitalizing legacy cities in ways that can impact other cities

· Explore ways to optimize the partnership between the UMass Design Center and the City of Springfield

· Implement new university supported design and planning projects in Springfield

After years of decline, many American cities are experiencing growth and renewal. In the first decades of the new century a host of U.S. cities saw increases in urban employment and population along with decreased rates of poverty and crime (McDonald, 2008). For the last three years, data show American cities growing faster than their surrounding suburbs (Voith & Wachter, 2014).

Still, the urban resurgence is not happening everywhere (Ehrenhalt, 2012). This is especially true for the country’s traditional manufacturing centers, or “legacy” cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo (Mallach, 2012). A similar situation can be seen in Massachusetts where the state’s so-called “Gateway Cities,” the former manufacturing centers that once provided a “gateway to the middle class,” lag behind more prosperous areas such as Boston and its suburbs (Forman, 2009). For this study, the term “legacy city” is used to describe former manufacturing centers, in general. The term “Gateway City” is used to describe former manufacturing centers located in Massachusetts.

The goal of this project is to understand  the many complexities of physical and mental health faced by rural low-income families within the context of their communities.  As more and more families, regardless of income level, face financial insecurity, those who are already at the bottom of the economic ladder become even more vulnerable. It is the economic issues confronting rural, disadvantaged families due to poor physical and mental health that will be addressed through this project.

This project will study and numerically model road salt impact on water quality in a typical aquifer in eastern Massachusetts.

The food industry is under transformation due to some important changes in consumer preferences. With a trend towards a healthier lifestyle, food quality, nutrition, and safety are increasingly important to consumers today. There is an increasing demand for more information about the nutritional content of food, for food considered healthy and health-enhancing. However, at the same time, obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise and so do health care costs as a result. There is significant interest in developing and implementing policies to address these problems and promote healthy eating. In this Hatch project, we examine the effects of two public policies aimed at improving consumer health outcomes.  More specifically, we propose estimating the welfare effects of a policy proposal that bans use of partially-hydrogenated oil in food products leading to a ban on trans fat. Partially hydrogenated oil as a source of trans fat, is a primary cause of deaths related to heart attack and obesity in the United States. However, use of partially-hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, even in small amounts, significantly decreases cost of production by providing longer storability and shelf stability. To evaluate welfare effects of this ban, taking into account the demand- and supply-side responses, we use the microwaveable popcorn market as a case study, use Nielsen retail scanner datasets, and estimate a consumer demand model for microwaveable popcorns. We recover consumer preferences as well as marginal cost of production. We propose estimating counterfactuals by allowing firms to endogenously choose prices as well as product portfolios. Using our model, we can simulate the expected product offerings in the market as well as the prices of those products, hence we can compute the total gain in welfare from both before and after the ban is imposed.


This project will examine use of a sensory-affective, comprehensive approach to promote early childhood consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It is piloting a "Mass Farm Fresh" classroom methodology intended to increase levels of intake that are closer to meeting the USDA recommendations.

This research will address cultural tailoring of nutrition education programs intended to improve food security and nutrition of diverse cultures. It will further investigate cultural and ethnic differences in the language that is used to describe food security and the responses to household constraints that affect food purchasing. Finally, it will implement and evaluate a nutrition education program with a multicultural group of low-income Massachusetts residents.

The goal of this project is to clarify the essential link between the best design and management practices for green infrastructure in new suburban residential developments, the actual results those practices achieve, and the value that residents place on the protected areas.

Municipalities worldwide are showing substantial interest in urban greening, defined here as the introduction or conservation of outdoor vegetation in cities. In many cases greening involves substantial tree planting, and across the United States cities have established ambitious canopy cover goals and major tree planting programs.  This study aims to assess longitudinal links between street tree vigor and neighborhood satisfaction and safety of recently planted urban trees. A "cohort" approach is especially relevant because trees are living organisms whose physical form changes substantially over time. Research on newly planted urban trees as a cohort across time is a relatively new line of scholarship that focuses primarily on tree survivorship and mortality; and to the best of our knowledge, no previous research has studied links between neighborhood satisfaction and safety, and urban tree plantings, as a longitudinal cohort. Neighborhood satisfaction and human safety are multidimensional phenomena that can be studied through a combination of objective and self-reported data. Four study areas will be determined based on a matrix of street tree health and recorded incidence of crime, which is one dimension of neighborhood satisfaction and safety. Residents on these streets will be incentivized to complete a neighborhood satisfaction survey which will include a prompt to communicate the places and features they perceive as safe/unsafe. In addition, urban design features and landscape characteristics will be documented for each study area. This combined set of data inventory and analysis will be conducted in the first year of the study (2018) and repeated in 2021. The data will be spatially and statistically analyzed to understand if street tree health and/ or changes in tree size/morphology contribute to neighborhood satisfaction and safety outcomes over time. This, in turn, may yield important insights about urban tree planting and management practice.

Environmental Conservation

This project utilizes robotic submersible technology to characterize submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) blooms in the Charles River in Massachusetts.

The expansive growth of solar photovoltaics (PV) in Massachusetts has helped make the state a leader in renewable energy production, but there have been public concerns regarding the development of agricultural lands for solar PV electricity production.  In response to these concerns, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) included provisions in the new state solar energy program which limit conventional ground-mounted solar arrays on farmland, while encouraging innovative "dual-use" technology.   Under the new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, there is a significant financial incentive for dual-use systems which limit shading and obstructions, and require continued agricultural production on the land below and around solar arrays.

Dual-use systems are still novel, and to a degree experimental.  What agricultural activities are most compatible with dual-use is not well understood, nor is whether the new incentive will be sufficient to spur significant adoption of dual-use cropping systems.  UMass has important roles in the development and adoption of dual-use systems.  First, UMass Extension will serve as a clearinghouse of information and an educational resource for the agricultural and solar energy communities regarding the new technology and new incentive program.  Second, UMass faculty will provide feedback to DOER and the agricultural community regarding the success of the program, and suggest any modifications that could help further the goal of promoting expansion of renewable energy capacity, while preserving farmland and agricultural production capacity within the state.

In keeping with these roles, UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE) is proposing an investigation that will address gaps in agricultural knowledge about the impact of dual-use systems on agricultural methods and productivity, while also exploring farmer motivations and decision-making around the adoption of this new technology.

Hypothetical bias is a major problem in the economic valuation of ecosystem services. Because of this bias, the estimated value of ecosystem services may often be in error. The purpose of this research is to devise and test an improved method for the elimination of hypothetical bias

This research continues exploration of biological (non pesticide) control of a series of invasive plant and insect species that affect crops and forests.

The purpose of this research is to identify the microbial community constituents of mosquito midgut contents in order to identify new pathogens and functional gut microbes.

This project aims to design and synthesize the renewable biopolymer chitosan into novel nano-constructs that will efficiently remove tungsten from dilute aqueous solutions.

Bursaphelenchus antoniae, a species of nematode associated with pine weevils and maritime pine, was first described in 2006 in Leiria, north-western Portugal. The nematode has evolved with the pine weevil, and the pine weevil carries the nematode to dead and dying trees where the weevil lays its eggs. During egg laying, the nematode leaves the weevil and invades the tree where it feeds on fungi that have colonized the tree internally. Inoculations in Portugal with B. antoniae showed that this nematode was not pathogenic to maritime pine, a pine native to Portugal. Bursaphelenchus antoniae was discovered during surveys for Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, the pinewood nematode. Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, a native of North America was recently introduced into Portugal where it has devastated forests of maritime pine.
Bursaphelenchus antoniae was just discovered in the United States (Massachusetts) from white pine, and if this nematode was recently introduced into North America, our pines could be susceptible hosts. We propose to inoculate white pine, red pine, pitch pine and scots pine with B. antoniae to determine if it is pathogenic to any of these species. We include the non-native scots pine because it is very susceptible to B. xylophilus We are currently raising B. antoniae on fungal cultures in the laboratory.  Terminal shoots will be cut from 2 to 3-year-old potted trees and the nematodes pipetted onto the cut surface. The pathogenicity trial will be carried out twice. Positive results (pine wilt) will be retested on field grown trees. We will also trap pine weevils in various locations in southern New England and examine them for B. antoniae and other species of Bursaphelenchus, and this will help us understand the extent of distribution of the nematode. Forest service entomologists will initially help with collections and identifications.

The concept of the current experiment is to study carbon storage and possible cycling in soils which alternate between saturation and nonsaturated conditions on an annual basis. To allow the data to be considered robust, or applicable to numerous locations and soil types it will be necessary to have multiple years of data, but to also have data that 'repeats' or replicates itself. Statisticians contend that replicate study areas are required, but it may be that the soil environment is different enough from one place to another that the least variability within the data will come from multiple or replicate data stations within a single area.

The goals and objectives of the project are: To better understand the hydrological, biogeochemical and pedological properties and processes that affect SOM decomposition, CO2 and CH4 greenhouse gas fluxes, and C sequestration in depressional wetland ecosystems, as expressed across geographical and climatic gradients. I also hope to determine the relationship between soil and air temperature and accumulated soil C stocks and fluxes in depressional wetland systems, to determine the relationship between hydroperiod (i.e. duration of saturation and inundation) and accumulated soil C stocks and fluxes in depressional wetlands. Finally, I will seek to develop morphological indices of the hydroperiod within depressional wetlands in order to estimate or predict C

Communities across the country are face challenges from climate change. However, changes in municipal regulations take years to significantly change the buildings and infrastructure that make up our cities and towns. As a result, it is essential that communities begin now to adapt their built form regulations so that as climate impacts worsen, harm is minimized.  Outside of the major cities, it is not clear how many communities have taken steps toward climate change adaptation. There are a range of ways that communities could progress local adaptation policy, including preparing adaptation plans, including climate projections into other policy, or increasing resilience to current hazards and hoping that will help with intensified future risks. To explore these issues, this project will pilot a web-trawler that can identify adaptation actions at the local level in the New England region, and compare these to the situations of the communities. We will also survey Regional Planning Agencies and a sample of communities in the region. Taken together, this work will allow us to identify the status and types of adaptation actions underway in the region, the goals and barriers they are designed to address, and characterize these connections.

This research involves modeling of cell growth, metabolite production rates, and product yields on various feedstocks using a variety of target organisms that can perform the bioprocess. These emphases need to be addressed prior to commercial implementation of generation of biofuels and industrial precursors from hydrothermal vent microbes.

Your land is a part of your legacy. You have been a good steward of your land. Deciding what will happen to your land after you are gone is the next critical step of being a good steward. In fact it may be the most important step you can take as a landowner. Who will own your land and how will it be used? What will your legacy be?

Your land is likely one of your most valuable assets, especially if you have owned it for a long time and it has increased in value.  However, there is more to land than just its financial value. Because land can be connected to memories, experiences, and feelings, your land may also have significant personal value. Deciding what to do with your land brings with it the challenge of providing for both these financial and personal needs.

This project involves monitoring the levels and locations of EDCs (endocrine disrupting compounds) in the Assabet River of eastern Massachusetts to advance the protection of the aquatic environment.

This project will develop and diversify Crambe (an oilseed crop) and brassica (mustard green) species as dedicated bioenergy crops for biodiesel production. The proposed strategy will increase crop biomass and seed yields while growing these crops on marginal and heavy-metal-contaminated lands, thus increasing both yield and arable acreage.

Fishing is highly popular worldwide and a dominant use of many fish stocks (Cooke & Cowx 2004). There is a growing movement where anglers voluntarily practice catch-and-release to help maintain healthy fish stocks. It is therefore essential to develop conservation-minded angling practices to ensure the sustain ability of recreational fisheries and the conservation of exploited fish species.

Should management actions for declining species, such as forest-dwelling songbirds, focus more on enhancing habitat, controlling predators, controlling basal resources, or combined approaches?  We aim to address this question by investigating two key hypotheses that may account for the so-called predation paradox. The outcomes of these two interconnected studies will provide information to assess whether actions to reduce predator densities would be an effective means of managing urbanizing forests for declining songbird species.

 The purpose of this work is to determine if depolarizing insecticides, specifically the neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, cause insulin resistance (IR) in the obesity model insect D. melanogaster.  Employing field-realistic concentrations establishes this as a proof-of-principle experiment to develop the tools and strategy to study this process in the honeybee and its relationship to CCD. Nutritional factors are established major stressors involved in CCD. The reduced ability of bees to assimilate glucose due to IR would intensify the stress already caused by nutritional resources that are limited or of poor quality.

Eastern white pine has enormous economic value throughout its range. Over the region, the net volume of white pine saw logs is over 186 billion board feet (USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis). With a typical market price of $100/1,000 bd ft, the potential value of standing white pine is $18.6 billion. White pine attains the largest dimensions of any eastern tree serving as a critical habitat for many species of wildlife that depend on emergent crowns and large snags and downed woody debris. In addition, white pine serves as an important landscape ornamental and is widely planted in towns and cities across the eastern United States.  However,  in recent years White pines have experienced unprecedented damage due to native pests and pathogens that reduce growth, productivity and economic value.

This project aims to design and conduct economic laboratory experiments to investigate behavioral issues related to the defense of common pool resources from encroachment by outsiders. Common pool resources are assets -- often natural assets such as forests, fisheries and water supplies --t hat are managed by a group of users. We will design and conduct a series of laboratory experiments to examine the ability of a group of resource users to simultaneously manage their own exploitation of a resource and defend their resource from outside encroachment.

This project focuses on the economics of coping with decision environment anomalies through preparedness. Approaches to decision making in the presence of global anomalies and the economic implications for individual and collective preparedness will be investigated.

Recreational angling for striped bass is a popular activity in Massachusetts. Many bass are released following capture because of regulations and a growing conservation ethic, however, little is known about how stresses associated with capture impacts behavior and survival. This research is the first extensive approach to systematically link the physiological and physical stress response to angling with measures of post-release behavior and survival for coastal striped bass.

The goal of the project will be to develop methods to screen for mitochondrial impairment in human and animal tissues, a possible effect of exposure to a common pesticide.

Pitch pine-scrub oak forests are a significant contributor to the biodiversity of the Northeast. This project is examining the effects of management strategies on native bees within the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area in central Massachusetts.

Despite the significant efforts to reduce nitrogen discharge from wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs), the Long Island Sound (LIS) area affected by hypoxia actually increased over the last decade. Our preliminary research has suggested that WWTFs utilizing the biological nitrogen removal (BNR) process may actually increase particular forms of N that are more potent for algal bloom in LIS. We propose a research plan to evaluate the true impact of upgrading WWTF for N removal (i.e., BNR) on receiving water eutrophication and toxic algal bloom.

Forest conservation and management is already complex in New England.  Changes in temperature, precipitation, winter conditions and the timing of seasons have already been documented, and further changes are expected well into the future (Horton et al. 2014). Changes in forest conditions and the geographic distribution of forest types are likely to threaten some ecosystems more than others. Areal coverage of boreal forest and Northern hardwood forests are projected to decline based on model projections (Janowiak et al. 2018). This would affect those species of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms that depend on these ecosystems (Janowiak et al. 2018).
Ecosystems within forested environments, such as streams and wetlands, are also likely to undergo changes that will make it difficult to support viable populations of fish and wildlife and maintain forest biodiversity. For example, as air temperatures rise, corresponding increases in water temperature will further stress cold-water streams. As a result, cold-water stream habitats may disappear or become smaller and more fragmented (Preston 2006, Manomet Center 2013).
Landowners, foresters, conservation organizations, and municipal officials (forest decision- makers) need research-based information on potential impacts on forests and spatially explicit information to guide adaptation strategies and actions. Active conservation measures are necessary to: limit stream warming, identify and conserve potential cold-water refugia, strategically target land protection for refugia for threatened forest types, and ensure terrestrial and aquatic connectivity to maintain viable populations of species dependent on these threatened forest ecosystems. To increase resistance and resiliency to climate change, forest management practices will need to change to ensure species and structural diversity, and adjust to emerging threats, such as invasive species, pests and diseases. 

The research focuses on responses to extreme flood events in Vermont, primarily Hurricane Irene, but also prior flood disasters. This research contributes to theoretical debates on adaptation to extreme events by explicitly accounting for the impacts of human-actions in response to flooding on riparian forest ecosystems needs. This research also investigates the motivations for human action.

A home that has been designed according to LEED green building standards may not necessarily be sustainable unless the systems operations and maintenance are tuned up and owners are. This project will include environmental audits of fourteen LEED-certified homes in New England at least twelve months after they were occupied. Findings will be evaluated by comparing baseline (predicted) performance data (LEED documentation) with actual operational data in order to identify the issues that effect sustainability.

Trees and forests act as a sink to collect and hold carbon and as a result are thought of as part of the answer to mitigate increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increased global warming. Roughly 55-percent of all forests in the United States are privately owned and 92-percent of these owners are families. This project will investigate the opinions and preferences of family forestland owners in order to build effective educational and management programs.

A number of studies show that the probability of audit and the size of the penalty for violation impact compliance rates, Advancing our understanding of these issues will lead to more efficient enforcement in the sense that for a given budget the regulator will be able to induce a higher level of compliance. The second stage of the project will investigate the effects of general deterrence and audit uncertainty in markets.

 Invasive plants are species introduced from another region (non-native) that have established self-sustaining populations and are spreading, often with substantial negative consequences.  Invasive plants have numerous detrimental effects on forest ecosystems.  Several forest understory invasive plants, such as oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, and honeysuckle outcompete or reduce growth of native vegetation. For example, glossy buckthorn grows in dense thickets that shade out native tree saplings and reduce their overall survival by up to 90%. Invasive plants also threaten forest regeneration by altering soil chemistry. For example, garlic mustard releases allelopathic chemicals that kill soil mycorrhizae and inhibit the establishment of native tree seedlings.  As a result of their vigorous growth, invasive plants are often able to dominate ecosystems following disturbance and impede forest succession.

Many bee pollinators are in decline, and exposure to diseases has been implicated as one of the potential causes. In my lab, we have already established that pollen from one domesticated sunflower source dramatically reduces Crithidia infection loads in the common eastern bumble bees in the laboratory, and that consumption of this pollen improves performance of healthy and infected bee microcolonies. We will expand this work by growing many sunflower cultivars and related taxa, collecting pollen, and repeating laboratory assays to establish how widespread this medicinal trait is across sunflower-related taxa.

Wetland identification, protection, and restoration is a multi-million dollar industry in the United States. State, regional, and federal agencies are working to develop and enforce regulations to maintain, enhance, increase, and protect our nation's wetlands. Non-profit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and Ducks Unlimited have joined forces to support many of these efforts. In contrast, economic development can be stymied by over-regulation and thus developers argue for a balance between natural resource protection and development. In between these arguments are often the small isolated wetlands known as vernal pools that have already suffered serious loss (some regions report as much as a 90% loss of vernal pool wetlands, mostly due to draining for agriculture). Although many states protect vernal pools in their wetlands regulations, federal protection under the Clean Water Act is limited because these systems are often not connected at the surface to the larger wetlands. Thus, showing a connectedness to the regional hydrology could be an important issue regarding their protection.

Researchers will evaluate the potential use of field indicators of hydric soils to characterize wetland hydroperiods with respect to frequency, depth, and duration of water table fluctuations; test the effectiveness of proposed hydric soil indicators to identify 'problem hydric soils'; test monitoring protocols used to identify reducing conditions to determine if they are effective within a range of soil conditions within the Northeast; and investigate the hydraulic properties of hydromorphic soils with episaturation.

Managing conflict between people and black bears is a significant challenge confronting wildlife professionals. The challenge is heightened by the species’ large geographic range, acceptance of human disturbance, and propensity to exploit anthropogenic food sources such as garbage cans, bird feeders, apiaries, fruit orchards, and agricultural fields. Understanding and quantifying the range of variation in the nutritional ecology of free-ranging black bears in the Northeast is important for effective management of the species.

This research studies the effectiveness of stormwater Best Management Practices as tools to mitigate umpacts resultng from urbanization. The results of the study will highlight the implications for adaptation to flood mitigation risk under climate change scenarios in the Boston Metro Area and other urbanized watersheds.

The goal of this project is to gain further understanding of the genetic and evolutionary consequences of stream fragmentation by applying an evolutionary perspective to the consequences of stream fragmentation on wild brook trout populations in Massachusetts. Because brook trout are an indicator species for cold, unpolluted stream habitat, this work will help conserve and retain the ecosystem integrity of this critical habitat type.

The intent of this research project is to investigate the structural viability of using low-value local trees as part of a new, value-added wood-bamboo glue-laminated building product.

Invasive plants in forest understories in Massachusetts threaten native ecosystems and working forests. This research will use satellite remote sensing to map three understory invasive species (buckthorn, honeysuckle, and barberry) in western Massachusetts. Occurrence maps will be compared to geology, topography, and land use to better identify correlates of invasion across the landscape and create maps identifying high invasion risk.

Invasive plants lead to the loss of crop revenue in agricultural systems, damage native habitats and wildlife populations, and alter ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling. This project will map the abundance of 13 problematic invasive plants across the northeastern United States by collecting expert knowledge. We will then predict invasion risk based on current climactic suitability, as well as future risk associated with climate change.

American elms represent some of the most culturally and economically significant urban trees. Their contributions to the urban landscape are numerous and include: carbon sequestration, capture of storm water and airborne particulate matter, reduced heating and cooling costs through wind buffering and shade and enhanced aesthetics with their large, sweeping canopies. Prior to the introduction of Dutch Elm Disease, American elms dominated the urban and suburban landscape because of their beauty, rapid growth rates and ability to tolerate difficult growing conditions.  Despite the devastating effects of the disease, millions of American elms still occupy the urban and forest landscape today. But, after decades of regular injection the costs associated with these treatments are adversely impacting tree heath and this issue must be addressed. The UMass Shade Tree Laboratory, now the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, was founded in 1935 with the sole purpose of combating the DED epidemic. Now, 80 years later the fight against this destructive disease continues in ways that could never be predicted decades ago.