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Research Assistant Opportunity

Planning for Urban Sustainability [Research Assistant]

Professors Melissa Keeley, Lisa Benton-Short

Department: Geography

The Project

In the US, the municipal-level is where the sustainability action is. Join us in a research project that uses municipal sustainability plans to understand how cities of different sizes and different region are approaching a variety of interconnected environmental, economic and social issues.

Although deliberately planning for sustainability takes place at different scales, there has been growing attention paid to the role of the city in this process. In recent years, and despite many hurdles, US cities have necessarily evolved as loci of sustainability efforts. This phenomena is seen in many ways, including the relatively recent development and implementation of urban sustainability plans.

In parallel, over a similar time period, there has been a shift in discussions of natural systems—here we call this green infrastructure—and the way that considered utilization of trees, parks, wetlands, etc. provide human benefits. Discussions of the role of green infrastructure similarly occur at different scales, but are perhaps most fraught in urban areas, where demand for green amenities is high yet density restricts implementation.

In this paper, we will first explore the rapidly growing and interdisciplinary literature on both urban sustainability and green infrastructure. We focus particularly on disconnects between the two practice areas, including the discourse framing current discussions and notions of open/green space and density in relation to sustainability at different scales. Yet, we also discuss areas of similarity and synergy, such as the holistic nature of sustainability and urban green space planning processes, and the demand for planning and implementation process that is regionally sensitive and which cross departmental and jurisdictional boundaries. We see green infrastructure as one important tool to achieve more sustainable urbanism, and seek through this analysis to contribute to synergies between these subjects.

Research Assistant Tasks

You will work on literature reviews on mutually-agreeable sustainability-planning related subjects (like climate change, transportation, land use planning or green building). Further, you will likely help in data collection (reviewing the sustainability plans of different cities and understanding how they approach and discuss different problems). We will meet as a group occasionally to discuss, but largely, this can be independent work occurring gradually over the semester or intensively over a break.

Time Commitment: 4-6 hours per week

Contact Emailkeeley@gwu.edu

Additional Instructions for Applying: You are welcome to contact me with questions or for more information. To apply, please send an email with a paragraph or so on why this topic interests you, and any relevant experiences you have had (in classes or out). Please include the name and contact information of one GW faculty member who will serve as your reference and attach your transcript (it can be an unofficial one through GWeb) and a writing sample (a paper your have written for a class will do).