Contact: Louise Rosen
Environmental Thesis Project: Green Roofs Could Help NYC Sewage System
Using a computer model she built herself, Debra Tillinger, an environmental science major, came up with a prediction as to how much better New York City’s sewage system would function if plant-covered roofs throughout the city slowed the flow of rainwater to the sewers.
Tillinger’s research, which was part of her theses project for her undergraduate environmental science degree, was a vital component of the New York Ecological Infrastructure Study that advises policymakers on the costs and benefits of green roof development in the New York City metropolitan area.
Communicating one's research to policymakers is one of the great challenges of any scientist. During the April 2004 theses poster session for undergraduates, Tillinger's complex estimates and predictions were presented to many who have no background in environmental science.
“It was the closest that most undergraduates come to a scientific conference," said Tillinger of the Theses Poster Session. "Posters have become the lingua franca for scientists trained in different disciplines who want to understand a broader spectrum of research topics.
"Being able to make [a poster session] that is both detailed enough for experts within one's own field and clear enough for others to understand is an invaluable skill."
The Thesis Poster Session is an annual presentation of the theses that are completed by seniors in the undergraduate environmental programs including Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Earth and Environmental Engineering; Earth and Environmental Science; or Environmental Science at Columbia University and Barnard College.
This past April, seniors in undergraduate Environmental fields of study completed their theses and made presentations on their research findings to fellow classmates, faculty members, administrators, graduate students, and friends.
Students chose as their thesis topic areas such as: climate research, integrated uses of waste, landscape ecology, and water conservation.
Part of each student’s presentation included posters that served as explicating what they researched and the findings that developed from their studies. The Thesis Poster Session allows students to present their complex research findings in a clear coherent manner that allowed those not in the particular field of study to understand the relevance of the findings.
Research topics that were presented include:
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit www.earth.columbia.edu.