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School of Sustainability Graduate Culminating Experiences


Student capstone and applied projects from ASU's School of Sustainability.


Date Range
2016 2018


In Senegal, West Africa, soils are a vital resource for livelihoods and food security in smallholder farming communities. Low nitrogen (N) soils pose obvious challenges for crop production but may also, counterintuitively, promote the abundance of agricultural pests like the Senegalese locust, Oedaleus senegalensis. In this study I investigated how the abundance of locusts and grasshoppers are impacted by soil fertility through plant nutrients and how these variables change across land use types. We worked in two rural farming villages in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. Overall, there was little variation in soil properties and an agricultural landscape low in ...

Contributors
Word, Mira, Hall, Sharon, Robinson, Brian, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-10

This report describes the process by which I created a concise but comprehensive online source of information about best practices in sustainability for urban planners. The goal of the project was to provide accessible information that would help planners in ways that help them comprehend and implement sustainable solutions to common planning problems that are found throughout the United States. To create the website, I researched methods for communicating clearly to planners, took a graduate course in communicating about sustainability, and drew on information that I had compiled on sustainable solutions for transportation, economy, water, green space, and governance.

Contributors
Nassar, Cara, Pijawka, David, Kyle, Kathryn
Created Date
2017-12-01

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a non-profit organization that prides itself in “responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crises”. Through its New Roots program, IRC is using an aquaponics urban garden incubator site “to train refugee farmers in aquaponics agriculture and good business practices in the United States.” The site is an example of the conversion of brownfield into “healthfields” and sustainability and resilience initiatives including the Year of Healthy Communities Program-2017, the Maricopa County Food Systems Coalition, and other community health initiatives that involve major partners including the City of Phoenix. Entering into the next development phase, IRC ...

Contributors
Jordan, Amanda (Toohey), Dunton, Tristan
Created Date
2017-04-28

Infrastructure degradation is a chronic problem for fats, oils, and grease (FOG) pretreatment programs at wastewater utilities, which can lead to harmful bypass and high loss of a renewable energy feedstock. Not only does this exacerbate the potential for environmental harm, but not taking advantage of this resource leaves most FOG anaerobic digestion programs non-resilient and non-scalable. It is vital that there are strategies utilizing a sustainability perspective and integration of hard and soft infrastructure management principles to address this infrastructure degradation issue before there can be fully implemented zero-waste, FOG resource recovery initiatives. This applied project sought to answer ...

Contributors
Phillips, Katie, Mac, Cassandra, McNeil, David, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-27

Since the the Long Walks of the 1860’s Navajo people have wrestled with the problems of acculturation and assimilation, while trying to preserve their spiritual and cultural foundations. Though history has negatively affected Navajo wellbeing (happiness), sustainable Navajo principles and practices act as a positive counterweight. Aspiring to build the most socially and environmentally sustainable chapter house possible, the Navajo Nation’s Tonalea Chapter collaborated with our ASU research team. Two roundtable discussion with Chapter elders and members, led to a vision foundation that embodies physical, functional and environmental conditions, as well as cultural and spiritual beliefs and values. Initially, Houde’s ...

Contributors
Prosser, Paul, Cloutier, Scott
Created Date
2016-11-24

Strategies and interventions have promoted the sustainability of urban communities, but effective communication of these solutions is lacking. Documentation of current solutions tends to be dense and difficult for non-academics to understand. Sustainability scientists and practitioners need ways to meaningfully and intelligibly communicate their experiences to the lay public. This project sought to visually present sustainable community development solutions to address this communication barrier. Members of urban/community gardens in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, and Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark, were photographed, interviewed. Their feedback was then examined to assess the degree to which photographs can tell a holistic sustainability story. The ...

Contributors
Rosenstein, Rachael, Cloutier, Scott, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-11-15

"Community and Composting in Victory Acres” implemented a pilot composting program for a local neighborhood in an effort to increase community cohesion. Victory Acres is a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood located in Tempe that used to have easier access to the Escalante Community Center before the 101 freeway divided the community. Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding ECC do not have access to the Escalante Community Garden except on Community Harvest Days twice a month. The goal of the project was to reconnect broken ties to the ECG through a neighborhood composting service. Through composting, residents could directly benefit from the ...

Contributors
Kiefer, Alyssa, Cloutier, Scott, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2017-04-28

The City of Apache Junction is located in an environmentally and culturally rich location on the eastern edge of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. This suburb is expected to grow in the future with undeveloped land zoned for development. Despite its uniqueness, the city is challenged by a negative reputation in the region. To help improve the city's image and promote development, the City of Apache Junction has partnered with Arizona State University's Project Cities program. Through this partnership both parties work to work toward sustainable development of Apache Junction. This Culminating Experience project is one of several initiatives working for ...

Contributors
Gonzalez, Andres, Prosser, Paul
Created Date
2018-04-27

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cause climate change, and if the world does not lower its GHG emissions soon, it will cause irreversible damage that will have overwhelmingly negative cascading effects on the entire planet (Mann & Kump, 2008). Up to 47% of the United States GHG emissions are the result of energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods that we consume (US EPA, 2009). The linear-economy status quo does nothing to slow down climate change because it puts resources into landfills. This project promotes a circular economy which combats climate change ...

Contributors
Velez, Daniel
Created Date
2017-04-10

Humans, throughout the world, build houses to live in and raise their families. The construction of houses and other buildings produces a large quantity of waste during this process. This waste is not necessarily biodegradable or derived from environmentally friendly materials. They often damage the environment causing pollution and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions (Tam, V. W., & Tam, C. M, 2012). This type of waste is categorized as Construction and Demolition(C&D) waste. My culminating experience focuses on C&D waste and this summary is divided into three parts. In the first part, the report covers the impact of the C&D ...

Contributors
Parthasarathy, Soumya, Breetz, Hanna
Created Date
2017-04-28

Multiple studies have reported potential risks posed by a rapid expansion of glacial lakes in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. People’s perception of such cryospheric hazards can influence their actions, beliefs, and responses to those hazards and associated risks. This paper analyzes local people’s perceptions of cryospheric hazards and risks using a social survey dataset of 138 households in the Khumbu and Pharak areas of the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. A statistical logit model of categorical household data showed a significant positive correlation with the perceptions of cryospheric risks to their livelihood sources, mainly tourism. Local people’s GLOF ...

Contributors
Sherpa, Sonam Futi, Shrestha, Milan, Boone, Christopher, et al.
Created Date
2018-04-18

Globally we are struggling to match the need for development with the available resources. Kate Raworth’s (2012) developed the idea of a “safe and just space” as a balance between the planetary boundary approach and ensuring a level of basic needs satisfaction for everyone. O’Neill et al. (2018) argue that countries are currently not able to provide their populations with basic needs without concurrently exceeding planetary boundary measures. While attempts have been made to get people to change their habits through moral self-sacrifice, this has not been successful. Kate Soper (2008) argues that a change towards sustainability will only be ...

Contributors
Lilje, Markus, Abson, David, DesRoches, Tyler, et al.
Created Date
2018-07-04

Sustainable purchasing has become and increasingly salient way by which local governments can decrease their resource consumptions, while also addressing broader climate action goals. Successfully implemented sustainable purchasing policies have the potential to reduce consumption and waste, expand green purchasing markets, and catalyze spillover benefits such as financial savings. Furthermore, city-level actions have become increasingly significant as the federal government ceases critical climate research and pulls out of collaborative climate deals (i.e. The Paris Climate Accord). Using data from the Sustainable Purchasing Researching Initiative at Arizona State University’s Center for Organization Research and Design, as well as qualitative policy analyses, ...

Contributors
Burwell, Caitlin, Darnall, Nicole, Schoon, Michael
Created Date
2017-12-01

Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council is a mission driven organization that aims to help build the leaders of tomorrow. Girls in Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-pine are served through mission building programs that aim to build girls of courage confidence and character who make the world a better place (Girl Scouts, 2017). The intention of my sustainability engagement initiative was to ask staff to take part in a three-phased program that encouraged them to think differently. The initiative asked them to look at how, as an organization they can work to improve their sustainability habits. Tasking them to be just as ...

Contributors
Pontius, Cristi
Created Date
2018-04-13

Cities are restoring rivers to recapture the social, ecological, and economic benefits of rehabilitated rivers. But, traditional urban planning and flood management tools may not address the complex relationships between humans, the built environment, and natural elements in the social-ecological systems of which rivers are an important part. They also may not acknowledge and address the factors that led to channelization. The field of regenerative design and development—an eco-centric approach that aims to dismantle the underlying processes and viewpoints behind the most pressing environmental problems—offers tools to plan more effective and inclusive river restoration projects. To explore these issues and ...

Contributors
Pearthree, Genevieve, Cloutier, Scott, Ehlenz, Meagan, et al.
Created Date
2018-06-08

Sustainable purchasing policies and e-procurement are both fast becoming popular topics across city governments in the United States. As these two relatively new initiatives meet, the relationship they share has some promising implications that have gone mostly unexplored until now. E-procurement systems have gained a reputation of being one of the most effective ways to advance sustainable purchasing goals, but the belief alone may not be enough to create director-level buy-in throughout city governments. The possible link between these two tools was identified while working with the City of Phoenix’s Office of Environmental Programs. While helping them integrate sustainability considerations ...

Contributors
Iles, Jeffrey, Darnall, Nicole
Created Date
2017-04-17

Implementing Social Sustainability solutions requires leaders to utilize a unique set of skills to engage stakeholders, connect with audiences, and a drive a project to implementation and ultimately results. Taking careful consideration for the social system that currently exists leaders must map their project and harness their individual narrative to connect fragmented pieces. The power of clearly articulated purpose coupled with passion are key drivers for implementing change. Systems thinking, and empathy help a leader integrate a project within the organization confines they are trying to work. This paper examines the design, implementation, and leadership of addressing social inequity through ...

Contributors
Wilson, Brandy
Created Date
2018-04-29

Greater cross-disciplinary collaboration between the fields of sustainability and clinical psychology could lead to improved outcomes for both. Moreover, some forms of mental disorder, such as PTSD and Moral Injury, constitute serious challenges that require the attention of sustainability’s interdisciplinary, systems-focused, solutionsoriented approach. My research frames the impacts of combat-related psychological trauma on military veterans as a sustainability problem according to criteria put forward by Arnim Wiek’s Transformational Problem Solving framework. I also provide a review of studies demonstrating the treatment benefits of agricultural therapy for veterans diagnosed with PTSD or symptoms associated with Moral Injury. I then describe my ...

Contributors
Gabriele, Adam, Hirt, Paul, Cloutier, Scott, et al.
Created Date
2018-03-27

Cities with a car-oriented mobility system are significant consumers of energy and require drastic transformations in their structure and function to minimize their harmful impacts on environment and people and to achieve sustainability goals. To promote such sustainable transformations, municipal administrators need to act as change-agents. Because municipal governments are often not agile organizations, they tend toward incrementalism even in the pursuit of transformational goals. Therefore, there is a need in municipal governments to build individual transformative capacity so that municipal administrators can design, test, and implement plans, projects, and policies that are capable of transforming cities toward sustainability. This ...

Contributors
Reutter, Leo, Withycombe Keeler, Lauren, von Wehrden, Henrik, et al.
Created Date
2018-06-28

Hydroelectric dams, often part of larger development programs in developing countries are characterized by conflicting interests of stakeholder groups, emblematic for the contested nature of development. Because of these different interests, stakeholders develop different evaluations of such projects, that can be understood as frames of events and projects. Frames are “the different ways of understanding or representing a system" (Leach et al. 2010 b). In this article, I analyze frames stake-holders use to convey a distinct perspective on problems, root causes, solutions, and benefits associ-ated with the hydroelectric Gibe III dam and accompanying sugarcane plantations in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia. ...

Contributors
Gerigk, Rebecca, Fischer, Daniel, Aggarwal, Rimjhim, et al.
Created Date
2018-06-27