Villanova Scientists Awarded $200,000 Grant from National Science Foundation

Peleg Kremer, PhD and Kabindra Shakya, PhD to involve 50 Philadelphia schoolchildren in their research, encouraging interest in STEM

Peleg Kremer and Kabindra Shakya and professors in the Department of Geography and the Environment.

Villanova, Pa. – Rapid growth in the global urban population poses major challenges to the health and well-being of city dwellers and requires innovative approaches to urban planning. Two professors in the Department of Geography and the Environment in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Peleg Kremer, PhD, and Kabindra Shakya, PhD received a three-year, $200,007 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support their project, “The Multi-Dimensional Structure of Urban Landscapes and the Supply and Distribution of Ecosystem Services.”

The two colleagues will conduct a multi-dimensional urban structure classification and comparative analysis of the relationships between urban structure and surface temperature in seven U.S. cities. Their work will include a case study in Philadelphia, examining the relationship between urban structure, air and noise pollution using fine scale, spatially explicit mobile monitoring campaigns

“The project will explore answers to several critical questions regarding sustainable urban design,” said Dr. Kremer, who is principal investigator for the project. They include, “’How is urban structure associated with ecosystem services such as air pollution and noise mitigation?’ and ‘How do different configurations of urban vegetation help mitigate air and noise pollution in cities such as Philadelphia?’”

The NSF grant will enable Villanova undergraduate and graduate students as well as 50 schoolchildren from the School District of Philadelphia to work on the project. The latter will take part in educational outreach activities designed to introduce students from a diverse set of urban backgrounds, including members of groups underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, to concepts and hands-on data collection and analysis activities related to ecosystem services in their localities.

The students will use mobile monitoring units and GPS to collect data to investigate the spatial distribution of particulate air pollution and noise pollution in four neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Air pollution, noise and spatial data will be processed and mapped, and results will be correlated with surrounding physical and socio-economic attributes to reveal patterns in the distribution of air pollution and noise.

“It is our hope that the project findings will benefit researchers and public officials working in the fields of urban planning and design, environmental health, environmental justice and environmental modeling,” said Dr. Shakya.

Dr. Shakya’s specific research areas are environmental pollution, environmental health and sustainability issues. Dr. Kremer’s are urban sustainability, social-ecological urban systems and spatial analysis of urban ecosystem services.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.