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2011 Summer Sustainable Solutions Collaboratory Projects


Summer Sustainable Solutions Collaboratory 2011The Summer Collaboratory Program is designed to facilitate trans-disciplinary teaching, research, and engagement, by bringing together faculty, graduate students, and community partners on innovative projects which are complementary to ongoing sustainability research at PSU.  These projects both push and cross boundaries and move PSU towards continued excellence in the field of sustainability.  


2011 Projects

Moving Forward: Adaptation and resilience to climate change and land development through integrative river basin modeling and management (proposal abstract)

Heejun Chang, David Jay, Martin Lafrenz, Hamid Moradkhani, Yangdong Pan, Vivek Shandas, Mark Sytsma, Alan Yeakley


The Lower Columbia River Estuary Coupled Human and Natural System -- Support of an NSF Proposal (proposal abstract)

David Jay, Randy Bluffstone, Valence Brenneis, Catherine De Rivera, Hamid Moradkhani, Stefan Talke


Oregon Social Enterprise and Innovation Practicum for Sustainable Economic Development (proposal abstract)

Scott Marshall, Kim Alter, Cindy Cooper, Alison Dennis, Sheila Martin, John Rueter


Collaboratory to Develop the Center for Integrated Multiscale Modeling (proposal abstract)

Vivek Shandas, Fletcher Beaudoin, Johanna Brickman, Craig Briscoe, Naomi Cole, Geoffrey Duh, Shanna Eller, Sarah Eppley, William Garrick, Patricia Graf, Lucy Hutyra, Kevin Kesckes, Barry Messer, Huafen Hu, Todd Rosenstiel, Andrew Rice,  Amy Spring, Alan Yeakley


Proving Sustainability: Collaborative Proposal and Course Development around Accountability in International Sustainable Development (proposal abstract)

Evan Thomas, Sergio Palleroni, Cindy Cooper, Kelly Clifton


Social Equity & Environmental Health for Sustainable Cities (proposal abstract)

Veronica Dujon, Eileen Brennan, Jana Meinhold, Marion Sharp, Mary King, Betty Izumi, Laurie Powers, Margaret Everett, Tricia Tillman, Christina Nicolaidis, Leroy Patton, Jordan Folks


Collaboratory for Transdisciplinary Eco-Development Solutions in Hoi An City and Quang Nam Province, Vietnam (proposal abstract)

Marcus Ingle, Ellen Bassett, Shpresa Halimi, Jennifer Allen, Dave Irvin, Michael Klepinger, Nathan Sage, Kathy Shea, Sou Souvanny, Julia Babcock, Ashley Hollenbeck, Trish Graff, Rajeev Indira, Huan Dang, Ron Witczak, Sandra Tate, Naomi Cole, Vinh Mason, Lang Marsh, Quang Lee, Ju Lee,  Le Than Thao

Greening the Portable Classroom: A Multi-Disciplinary Design Process (proposal abstract)

Margarette Leite, Sergio Palleroni, Tim Dacey, Seth Moody, Taryn Mudge, Kendra Cox


Financial and Institutional System Change for Long-Term Human and Ecological Benefit (proposal abstract)

Craig W. Shinn, Jennifer Allen, Langdon Marsh
Read the report


Proposal Abstracts


Moving Forward: Adaptation and resilience to climate change and land development through integrative river basin modeling and management

Climate change and land development are two of the major driving forces that challenge current water resource systems and water sustainability in many large river basins worldwide. While many studies investigated the potential impacts of climate change and land cover change on various sectors of water (e.g., water supply, water quality, sediments, floods, aquatic species habitat, etc.), these studies typically focused on one or two sectors of future water resource system changes. Accordingly, such narrow-focused studies provide insufficient information to help solve the complex water problems faced by decision makers. An interdisciplinary team of water resources research faculty and community partners will attempt to fill in this gap through regularly meetings and discussions throughout summer
2011 and beyond.

The objectives of this study are threefold. First, we will review the current status of water resources research across multiple water sectors as they relate to climate change and land development at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Second, we plan to identify the critical knowledge gaps and new research needs through a combination of literature review and interactions with community partners. Third, we will compile necessary basin data that are pivotal for developing an integrative basin information model and a decision support system. Participating team members will collectively gather and share such information and will discuss the utility of such information with community partners. The anticipated outcomes of this project are (1) A synthesis paper summarizing major knowledge gaps and research needs for sustainable river basin management, (2) A website containing a conceptual framework for integrative river basin studies and basin information, and (3) a draft proposal that can be submitted to funding agencies. (back to top)


The Lower Columbia River Estuary Coupled Human and Natural System -- Support of an NSF Proposal

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems (DCHNS) competition ( is a prime example of the movement of NSF funding from specific disciplinary panels to broadly integrative efforts that address sustainability. It is vital that we at Portland State University (PSU) pursue funding in such integrative research for several reasons. Integrative research is important from a societal point of view ‐‐ disciplinary research, while providing the necessary tools, often does not address the problems of greatest interest. It is also essential in order to build PSU's research funding base. PSU lacks the depth in many specific disciplinary areas possessed by other regional universities with a larger research portfolio. We do excel, however, at interdisciplinary and systems thinking and collaboration. Sustainability, as an area of expanding federal investment and (through ISSS) a focus for PSU investment, can help PSU expand its research income and range of faculty expertise. Finally, an expanding ISSS/sustainability research program will help PSU attract high‐quality faculty and students.

The backgrounds of PSU faculty are particularly appropriate for submission of a Columbia River and Portland Metropolitan area‐related proposal to the next DCHNS competition, 15 November 2011. A tentative title is: "Understanding and Adapting to Climate Change in an Urbanized Coastal System, the Lower Columbia River Estuary: the Coupling of Hydrology, Habitat, Hydropower, Invasive Species, and Navigation". This proposal makes use of existing strengths at PSU in Columbia Basin and Portland Metro area science, history, management and education. See Figure 1 for a conceptual view of the issues and Appendix A for further details regarding our proposal approach. Some preparation is needed, however, to assemble a successful proposal, and this is one reason for the present submission to ISS. (back to top)


Oregon Social Enterprise and Innovation Practicum for Sustainable Economic Development

Oregon has been hit hard by the recession compounding the problem of poverty and putting more Oregonians at risk of living in poverty. Compared to the average unemployment rate in the US at 8.8%, some 10% or 380,000 of Oregon's 3.8M residents were unemployed in March 2011.1 March also marked Oregon's 26th consecutive month of double-digit joblessness, nearing a 30 year record--28 months of unemployment--set between 1981 and 1983. Unemployment and underemployment (jobs paying less than a living wage) are key factors contributing to the more than half a million Oregonians who live below the poverty line, a number that has been growing steadily since 2007.

The problem is clear. The response must create sustainable solutions for employment, innovation, and enterprise development that will help provide opportunities for living wages and break the cycle of poverty. Oregonians need jobs so they can develop skills, gain experience, earn wages, and start building careers. Oregonians need jobs so they can reap the value of increased self-sufficiency, family stability, community participation, and hopefulness about the future. To this end, social enterprise and sustainable innovations can play a critical role in offering employment opportunities and a way to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty, and move forward on a path to a better, more hopeful life.

The primary objective of the work proposed is to develop a course and practicum, and related interdisciplinary teaching methodology focused on social enterprises and social innovations that serve the Oregon economy. The campus-wide course will be designed for graduate students from a broad range of disciplines, including but not limited to: business, public administration, planning, community development, engineering, and environmental sciences. We would also like to offer the course to members of the general community to catalyze action among a broad base of individuals. (back to top)


Collaboratory to Develop the Center for Integrated Multiscale Modeling

We propose a transdisciplinary collaboration between university researchers, educators, and community members to create a framework for conducting research at multiple scales organized around a central theme of Ecodistricts and supporting the goals of the recently developed Center for Integrated Multiscale Modeling (CIMM) at PSU. The collaboration will occur through three months in Summer 2011, and will consist of the following activities: (1) evaluate the current extent, type, and

quality of data available for Portland Ecodistricts (meso‐scale) and create an inventory of EcoDistrict research activities to identify gaps and needs to help shape a future research agenda; (2) conduct a literature review and develop a framework for deepening our understanding of urban carbon dynamics; (3) identify the hardware and software requirements for analyzing and modeling existing and emerging datasets to support the goals of CIMM; (4) identify regional stakeholders that might be directly involved in the integration of data and visualization platforms; (5) engage sustainability faculty members to explore the role of using Ecodistricts as an organizing concept in curriculum and pedagogy.

This collaboration will result in (1) a submission of a multi‐million dollar grant proposal to NSF's Coupled Human and Natural Systems (due November 2011) organized around the theme of urban metabolism and scaling sustainability; (2) a synthesis paper on the relationship between carbon dynamics and scaling in urban systems; (3) a comprehensive EcoDistrict research inventory; (4) a suite of curricular and pedagogical resources for faculty to engage in place‐based education; and (5) the creation of a website that hosts information about the CIMM. This project will complement other ongoing projects at PSU, including A Database for the EcoDistricts of Portland (ADEPT), capstones on place‐based education, ULTRA‐Ex, and IGERT. The integrative efforts proposed in this collabratory will help in establishing PSU as a sustainability‐hub that links research with practice and curriculum. (back to top)


Proving Sustainability: Collaborative Proposal and Course Development around Accountability in International Sustainable Development

Nearly a billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water, two billion have inadequate sanitation facilities, and three billion use biomass for their daily energy needs. Combined, these resource limitations are the leading causes of death and economic and political insecurity.

Contributing to addressing these challenges, the Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies (SWEET) Laboratory at Portland State University is seeking to build a collaboration with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the School of Business Administration's Impact Entrepreneurs program, the Building Sustainable Communities (BaSiC) Initiative, and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) to develop a course and linked technology program that encourage the development of verifiable sustainable technologies, products and projects, while integrating business, engineering, architecture and public health undergraduate and graduate students with international development efforts. This collaboration will result in a proposal to the National Science Foundation "Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program," which "promotes interdisciplinary analyses of relevant human and natural system processes and complex interactions among human and natural systems at diverse scales."

Additionally, the team will develop a course entitled "Proving Sustainability: International Sustainable Development" that is designed to examine the roles of technology, business, public health and development sectors in international quality of life improvement efforts. This course will address a gap in the PSU Graduate Certificate in Sustainability by directly linking technology, business and international development.

The course and collaborative proposal will be integrated with technology projects in the SWEET Lab designed for developing communities. These projects are differentiated from similar efforts in that an emphasis is placed on instrumented monitoring technologies that can provide verifiable and quantifiable data on the successes and failures of implemented projects. This focus encourages students and implementing partners to think critically with a long-term view of their projects, knowing that the project is structurally predicated on accountability. (back to top)


Social Equity & Environmental Health for Sustainable Cities

This proposal continues the research trajectory of the PSU Social Sustainability Network. It builds on our earlier work on planning social infrastructure for sustainable cities funded by the Miller Foundation to develop a major external grant proposal that addresses our latest findings on environmental and social health inequities. Health disparities experienced by underserved populations is a critical national problem (LaVeist, 2002). Over the past two years, research projects conducted by members of the Social Sustainability Network have concluded that low income and racially and ethnically diverse groups in the Portland Metropolitan Area have disproportionate exposure to harmful environmental conditions, economic disadvantage, and social barriers to healthful lives. Our current engaged community research collaborations with community partners focus on understanding the intersection of social determinants of health, health equity, and environmental health conditions, including both natural and built environments and identifying strategies to improve outcomes. We address this intersection with the conceptual framework of social sustainability that we have been developing. We are encouraged by the findings of the recently released National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity report (HHS, 2011) that suggest we are on the right track both with the substantive orientation of our research as well as our community based participatory research approach. For the Summer Collaboratory we will 1) complete a scholarly paper which will lay out the conceptual map for the proposed research and 2) produce a major grant proposal for external funding to investigate effective approaches that address social and environmental determinants of health, promote health equity, and reduce disparities. To achieve this we will tap into our network to assemble an interdisciplinary team of faculty, students, and community partners, including the State of Oregon Office of Multicultural Health and Services and OHSU Department of Public Health. (back to top)


Collaboratory for Transdisciplinary Eco-Development Solutions in Hoi An City and Quang Nam Province, Vietnam

This proposal for an Eco-Development Collaboratory aims to deepen and extend PSU's international transdisciplinary scholarship for faculty, students and community through the Sustainability Leadership Collaborative (SLC). The SLC was initiated in 2008 with support from the Ford and Miller Foundations. The SLC uses an integrative, whole systems approach for fostering innovative and emergent solutions for complex and dynamic "wicked" challenges. In 2010, the SLC hosted a multi-disciplinary faculty immersion visit to Vietnam on urban sustainability. While there, the UN-Habitat and PSU's faculty facilitated a multi-stakeholder Eco-City Scoping Workshop in Hoi An, a UN World Heritage Site. The Workshop identified a core need -- to generate innovative and inclusive participatory solutions for Eco-Development sustainability strategy implementation through shared-power leadership and multi-level governance. Officials in the UN-Habitat, Quang Nam Province and Hoi An City are committed to addressing this need and are inviting PSU's continuing involvement.

In response to this Eco-Development opportunity, the SLC is proposing a 2011 Sustainability Solutions Collaboratory (SSC). The proposed PSU team of faculty, students and community partners will first engage in preparatory "learning laboratory" research work in Portland, and then outreach with partners in Vietnam in an interactive solutions-driven "Atelier course".

Along with the UN-Habitat and other key stakeholders in Vietnam (including UN agencies, multiple levels of government, regional corporations, Vietnamese universities and affected Quang Nam communities), the PSU team will take responsibility for four primary outcomes: (1) the development of an action-plan for implementing Eco-Development rural-urban strategies; (2) a solutions-driven Eco-Development training model in the form of practical guidelines for replication in additional Eco places (Cities and Districts) in Vietnam and the U.S.; (3) a grant proposal to UN-Habitat to assist with Phase II Eco-Development strategy implementation; (4) further development of partnership agreements and urban-rural sustainability research venues in Vietnam that can lead to a PIRE research or other proposal to the NSF in collaboration with ISS and other PSU entities. (back to top)


Greening the Portable Classroom: A Multi-Disciplinary Design Process

The goal of this proposal is to gather people and resources that will serve to finalize the design of a "greener" and more socially and environmentally sustainable portable classroom for Portland. This first stage would consist of a 6-week design process that would build upon previous research and design investigations begun by students and faculty at PSU, and professional and industry partners (identified below). It would take the lessons learned and collected during several events - a symposium and charrette in April of 2010 (and documented in a publication currently in production), 3 courses at PSU's department of architecture as well as a series of meetings of professional and industry partners as well as stakeholders - that serve as a basis for developing a proposal to the Oregon Governor's office that would provide support for funding and development, through Oregon Solutions, of a portable classroom which would benefit Oregon industries and PSU. This summer Sustainable Collaboratory would provide support for the gathering of this multi-disciplinary group of experts to finalize a design for the innovative new portable classroom, preparing it for final production engineering and construction by our industry partners. With a market estimated by USGBC at 4-5 billion (US) per year, the prototype could become a significant contribution to local industries and, most importantly, the health and welfare of our student population. (back to top)


Financial and Institutional System Change for Long-Term Human and Ecological Benefit

To meet the complex economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century, policy and economic tools must deliver things people want and need, like health, income and personal security, while protecting and restoring natural ecosystems so they retain their capacity to support current and future generations. The transformation to a sustainable economy will require a whole systems approach designed to avoid harmful externalities, like climate change and poor health, and create wealth that sustains people and nature through profitable business partnerships and secure long-term investments for workers and retirees.

The proposal is to create the capacity at PSU for it to become an international hub for research, education and demonstration projects addressing this leading sustainability issues.  The objective is for PSU to be a leader in the systems approach required to integrate the interconnected components of  a sustainable economy, including business systems,  governance and institutional mechanisms, life cycle assessment,  sustainability accounting,  measurement of key outcomes,  efficient technologies, innovative financial tools, government policies and data management.

Anticipated outcomes of all phases of this proposal will be (A) a synthesis paper suitable for peer review for publication in appropriate journals, a clear statement of the vision, goals and potential components of an outcome driven economic and business system at regional and global scales and (B) a major grant proposal to fund ongoing studies and regional pilot projects. Read the report
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