Research

Past and ongoing RISE Lab research projects include:

Detroit Water Stories: An Open-Access Oral History Project

Access to basic natural resources, like water, is key to ensuring a fair and sustainable society, and in urban areas with persistent economic inequality, inadequate access can exacerbate underlying social tensions, leading to grave environmental injustices. Guided by ethos of open and public scholarship, this oral history project examines meaning-making of water access and security in Metro Detroit, recognizing that public decision-making and policies about water governance depend crucially on how people make sense of water in their everyday lives—for instance, as a valuable commodity, public resource, or simply as “background” and thus immaterial. Using collaborative ethnography, we trace personal and public narratives related to water, place, and community. We showcase these compelling narratives through short webisodes and social media to aid meaningful conversations about how water access affects our everyday lives, and how we might consider governing it in a sustainable manner. You can learn more about the project here.

Smart Management of Microplastic Pollution in the Great Lakes

This is an innovative three-year initiative aimed at reducing microplastic pollution in communities surrounding the Great Lakes, led by my colleague Dr. Yongli Zhang at Wayne State University’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Our approach includes research utilizing innovative sensor technology, targeted microplastic control methods, and a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing microplastic mitigation engagement in the Great Lakes region. My team is focused on tracing the local communities’ social construction of environmental health risks associated with microplastics, so that we can understand how effective various protective actions to mitigate microplastic pollution might be. The theoretical framework of social-ecological resilience also guides our work. While community sense-making is necessary for studying resilience, this is particularly true for microplastic risks that are not yet well-understood and for which information may be limited. Communities are complex adaptive systems that exhibit a variety of responses to real or perceived threats. Understanding the institutional and behavioral conditions and context for those responses is an important part of crafting effective public engagement strategies. You can learn more about the larger project here.

Transformation & Resilience through Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (TREE)

The latest project at the RISE Lab examines how entrepreneurial ecosystems can facilitate inclusive and long-term socioeconomic development in the urban environment (i.e., urban sustainability). By making Detroit the natural laboratory for this project, we are especially interested in building resilient grassroots and institutional systems in post-industrial cities that have long been dismissed as out-of-touch with 21st century organizing. The project draws on immersive, ethnographic methods to trace meaning-making around entrepreneurship and the urban environment. Our eventual goal is to build a predictive framework to help design interventions, with grassroots inputs, for urban sustainability. You can learn more about the TREE project here.

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Implementing Sustainability in Higher Ed

This project adopts a “practice-based” approach to study how institutions of higher education interpret and implement sustainability agendas, given their highly influential role vis-a-vis students, community members, and faculty/staff. Using a case study, this paper examines constitutive role of communicative practices in shaping sustainability—specifically in the four areas of recycling, food waste management, energy conservation and alternative transportation.