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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Maryland Researchers Receive $1.5 Million NSF Grant to Understand How Humans Can Better Interact With the Environment

University of Maryland School of Public Health Associate Professor Dr. Sacoby Wilson is part of a team of researchers that has received a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to identify techniques that can help improve water quality and human health along urban waterways.

Excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous and pollutants such as sediment are a threat to water quality and environmental health in many locations. Urban waterways are especially at risk due to their tendency to take on large amounts of pollution from a variety of sources including industrial discharges, trash and polluted stormwater runoff.

To help alleviate this issue, the interdisciplinary research team, led by Dr. Paul Leisnham of the Department of Environmental Science and Technology (UMD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources), will develop and evaluate practices that foster sustainable water resources while helping to educate participants including teachers, students, and residents.

Calling on his extensive experience working using community-based participatory research to alleviate environmental health and justice issues, Dr. Wilson will provide expertise to help the research team understand the issues and needs across diverse stakeholder groups that inform stormwater best management practices. Dr. Wilson will be using tools such as PhotoVoice to assist with community engagement efforts that will inform how enhance community awareness and positive behaviors to improve water quality and protect urban green space.

By examining two watersheds in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland that possess different degrees of urban decay and revitalization, the researchers will be able to compare the effectiveness of different interventions at reducing unhealthy processes and feedbacks between the environment and people.

The project will train graduate and undergraduate students in interactive social, biological and ecosystem sciences as they relate to water resources sustainability, neighborhood planning, mosquito ecology and environmental justice.

The researchers will also develop a tool that uses geographic data to guide future watershed management and enhance  community awareness. They will teach residents behaviors that can help improve water quality and protect urban green space.

In addition to Dr. Wilson, the interdisciplinary research team includes Dr. Paul Leisnham (PI) of the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Amanda Rockler of the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program, Dr. Victoria Chanse of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and Dr. Hubert Montas of the Department of Bioengineering.

This grant is one of 13 new grants from the NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program.