Environmental Studies (Bi-College)

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 17
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    Forest Restoration: How History and Culture Shape Restoration in the Wissahickon Area
    (2024) Argueta-Roman, Adelma; Wilson, Jonathan
    This capstone project discusses the history of the Wissahickon Valley, and the restoration efforts that maintain the natural splendor of the area. From the settlement of the Lenni-Lenape to today, the Wissahickon forests have undergone many changes and anthropogenic stresses. Today, the forest is recovering with the help of non-profit groups, volunteers, and funds from governmental institutions. The overall goal has been to increase native biodiversity, decrease invasive exotic plants, and maintain a functional space for Philadelphia residents. I will discuss how life history alongside the current culture of biking, deer culling opposition, and lack of funding for parks have impacted how restoration works in the Wissahickon Valley. Having grown up in the Wissahickon Valley, I have a deep appreciation for the area. As a biology-environmental studies double major, I have also been interested in the conservation and restoration of natural spaces that have been negatively affected by anthropogenic actions. When the opportunity to intern with the Wissahickon Restoration Volunteer (WRV) non-profit group came, I was able to take my experience from my classes and supplement it with hands-on learning. While WRV taught me about logistical matters concerning restoration under high disturbance, I was able to grow my skills in measuring trees to determine growth rates in one of the sites, which are essential in understanding how restored areas are progressing. This capstone project gave me the opportunity to learn more about restoration in a way that tied theory with practice. Urban forest restoration has the responsibility of upholding ecosystems and public health, making it an extremely important effort.
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    Understanding Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in the 21st Century: Case-study of Longdan Xiegan Tang
    (2024) Chen, XingZhi; Wilson, Jonathan
    Traditional medicine (TM) is a fluid system of understanding the relationship of the human body, disease, and materia medica which has changed throughout centuries with the rise and fall of dynasties, empires, social reformation, and cultural revolutions. This project aims to develop a better understanding of one branch of TM, traditional Chinese herbal medicine (TCHM) in the 21st century. As the popularity of TCHM and herbal supplements are rising in more wealthy, developed countries in the West, it is important to understand the history and origins behind the development and accumulation of this knowledge. The introduction and background section explore the Orientalist and essentialist implications of official language about TM from organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). To contextualize TM and TCHM in the 21st century, the background also describes the inability of current legal frameworks to protect traditional knowledge and medicine from exploitative practices in the post-colonial era. The second section, titled “Historical Context,” identifies some of the historical literature and classical Chinese Pharmacopeia, with a focus on Bencao Gangmu, Compendium of Materia Medica, or Great Pharmacopoeia by Li Shizhen, and discusses the process of compiling herbology and natural history. This section also describes the significant change in TCM during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the late 1900s. The methods section describes the process of interviewing TCM practitioners, visiting and contacting local apothecaries, collecting literature, and documenting and translating interviews for this project. Lastly, the discussion section reflects on the interviews, conversations, and archival work done to acknowledge the complexity of how TCM is perceived in the 21st century due to the ongoing impacts of orientalism, essentialism, and empiricism. Additionally, Longdan Xiegan Tang (LDXGT) is used as a case-study to understand the usage of plants and plant material in TCHM, the paper describes the ethnobotany, morphology, and pharmacology of each specific component in the prescription.
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    Live Fast, Die Young: Examining Hydraulic Conductivity Of The Extinct Lepidophloios And Extant Wollemia Nobilis
    (2024) Korgen, Jessica; Wilson, Jonathan
    The climate is changing at a scale never before seen by humans, and it is impossible to anticipate with certainty how these changes will affect the planet. The best way to attempt to predict how species and ecosystems will respond to our ever-evolving climate is to look to the past. Paleobotany—the study of plant fossils—can inform us about the environment in deep time and how plants previously interacted with, responded to, and influenced a changing climate. The Carboniferous period is the most recent climate parallel we have to today. Although the world looked very different 300 million years ago, with the supercontinent Pangea and so-called “primitive” plants dominating the Earth, there were several similarities to the modern climate. Carboniferous CO 2 fluctuations were within the range anticipated for the twenty-first century and, like we are seeing today, these variations in atmospheric CO 2 were associated with large decreases in sea ice volume, rising sea levels, and the cyclical restructuring of the planet's most extensive tropical forests (Montañez et al., 2016). This was also the last time the planet had complete deglaciation, a phase that we are currently on the trajectory for, so Carboniferous floral transitions during its glacial-interglacial periods could provide insight for what is to come. Several Carboniferous plants are reviewed in relation to their hydraulic efficiency and safety, providing insight to their plant function and the environments they inhabited. An important factor in the hydraulic capacities of plant fossils is the size, shape, and porosity of their pit membranes: the permeable barrier separating xylem cells which water passes through. A larger, more porous pit membrane allows water to pass through the plant quickly while a smaller pit membrane better protects the plant from the entrance of gas and possible embolism. Arborescent lycophytes (lycopsids)—which dominated the first 20 million years of the Carboniferous—are analyzed in particular. Hydraulic elements from lycopsid fossils are measured and considered in the context of the biomes they occupied. The extant Wollemi pine is also measured to contrast with the extinct lycopsid. Consequences for plants with low hydraulic safety when the Carboniferous climate changed and implications for modern plants are discussed.
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    Hold The Salt: Effects Of Road Salt On Freshwater Systems In The Delaware River Basin
    (2024) Korgen, Jessica; Wilson, Jonathan
    Road salt has been effectively used to combat icy roads in the United States for nearly 100 years, causing an 85% reduction in vehicular accidents (Godwin, Hafner, and Buff 2003; Hintz, Fay, and Relyea 2022; Kuemmel and Hanbali 1992; Mullaney et al. 2009; Usman, Fu, and Miranda-Moreno 2010). As urbanization has increased, road salt use has skyrocketed, with application tripling in just the last half century (Dugan 2017; Hintz et al. 2022; Kaushal et al. 2005). The environmental consequences of NaCl on freshwater ecosystems has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Elevated salinity levels have been found to have an enormous impact on organisms that rely on freshwater bodies, especially those of lower trophic levels, which has a ripple effect across the whole ecosystem (Arnott et al. 2020; Hintz and Relyea 2017). Several species integral to the food web living in environments impacted by road salt face higher mortality rates, lower reproduction rates, reduced growth, and behavioral and physical abnormalities (Collins and Russel 2009; Hintz and Relyea 2017; Arnott et al. 2020). Four streams in the Delaware River Watershed were studied to determine the effects of road salt on their ecosystems. The chloride levels of each stream were monitored over the months of January and February 2024. Spikes in chloride concentrations were correlated with winter storms and road salt runoff. Baseflow conditions for many of the streams hovered around or above US EPA chronic chloride toxicity levels. First flushes following winter storms rose above acute toxicity levels, raising concern for the organisms that live in and rely on the streams. The possible effects of these elevated salinity levels are analyzed, and road salt alternatives and mitigation strategies are discussed.
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    "A River Filled With Ghosts:" The Massacre River in Diasporic Memory
    (2024) Rodriguez-Gomez, Alex; Wilson, Jonathan
    This paper revisits the memory of the 1937 Massacre of Haitians, Afro-Dominicans, and rayanos in the Dominican borderlands in light of recent increased border militarization by reading for representations of the Massacre River in Freddy Prestol Castillo’s El Masacre se pasa a pie, Edwidge Dantica’s “Nineteen Thirty Seven” and Roxane Gay’s “In the Manner of Water or Light.” I argue that the Massacre River represents multiple contradictory meanings – both a border/boundary and a threshold, a place that generates both life and death – but ultimately in diasporic memory exists as a place for necessary reckoning with the legacies of colonialism. I also argue for the continued study of river-borders in the context of Black diasporic studies and border studies, as an expansion of theories related to the Black Atlantic.