Senior Projects

Fall 2019 Senior Capstone Projects

Portable Water Diagnostic Test Kit Development and Environmental Health Applications 
Lauren Questell
Faculty advisor: Kellogg Schwab, PhD – Department of Environmental Health and Engineering

This presentation highlights the process of validating and refining portable water quality testing kits and the possible applications of this tech. Diagnostic Test Kits provide low resource environments with a way to accurately and robustly test the chemical and microbiological quality of their water. This presentation will highlight how these test kits are currently being used to study the relationship between water insecurity and obesity in the Navajo Nation and how drinking water quality changes following rain events in Baltimore.

Benefits and Constraints of the Experiential Education Program at Johns Hopkins University
Erin Baggs
Faculty advisor: William Smedick, PhD – Center for Leadership Education

The Experiential Education (EE) Program at Johns Hopkins University provides free and low cost outdoor recreation trips to undergraduate and graduate students. The organization employs almost 100 student instructors and has an extensive alumni network. This project investigates the benefits that this program provides for its student instructors. It also explores the constraints facing the student body in participating in EE trips and possible strategies to mitigate these constraints. Professionals working in EE and in outdoor recreation offices at other universities are asked questions about their program to understand a broader scope of college outdoor programming. Data from current students and alumni show that there are resounding benefits to participating as an instructor in EE at Johns Hopkins. Main constraints involve issues related to time and schedule and the perceived skill involved with an outdoor activity. Recommendations are given and involve making trips more accessible to the student body.

Barriers to Reducing Meat Consumption on Homewood Campus 
Jonah Kasdan
Faculty advisor: Anne Palmer – Center For a Liveable Future

Meat consumption is an issue of significant environmental importance – livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and animal feeding operations significantly pollute local waterways and communities. Therefore, a large-scale reduction in meat consumption is an important environmental goal. According to research from the Center for a Liveable Future, a significant percentage of students on Homewood Campus are interested in reducing their meat consumption, but have not yet taken the steps to do so. This presentation seeks to identify the barriers that prevent these students from actually eating less meat, and explores what can be done to make it easier for students to cut out meat from their diet.

Energy in Transition: A Historical Discourse Analysis of the Shift in Energy as an Object of Global Governance
Armen Agopian
Faculty advisor: Bentley Allan, PhD – Department of Political Science

This central aim of this thesis is attributing a cause for the shift in energy as an object primarily of economic governance to one of environmental governance. Much work has been dedicated to studying various discursive and theoretical framings of energy. Lacking, however, is a coherent theory of change between these framings. That is, when and why do certain frames appear, disappear, and reappear over time? Similarly, when and why do regimes of global governance change over time? This thesis will argue that the shift in energy as an object of economic governance to one of environmental governance coincides with and is catalyzed by the emergence of a coherent epistemic community in climate change. Specifically, the emergence of this epistemic community and its coordination and dissemination of expert scientific knowledge on climate change helped leverage international institutions into adopting energy into a regime of environmental governance. The main methodological approach of this project is a historical discourse analysis of key texts including the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook and G7/8 Communiques, which will serve to answer the foregoing questions.

Can the Green New Deal Beat History? A Comparative Analysis of Waxman-Markey and the Green New Deal
Alex Walinskas
Faculty advisor: Steve Teles, PhD – Department of Political Science

This analysis compares the political strategies of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Waxman-Markey) and the Green New Deal. Using semi-structured elite interviews, the research probes at whether the challenges to enacting federal climate policy have evolved and if the Green New Deal’s grassroots-based strategy is uniquely equipped to overcome those challenges. Historically, there has been no significant legislative process on climate change at the national level, making the study of the strategies of movements seeking that change imperative for understanding the lack of success. The new analysis provided by this research aims to inform both the strategies of major climate policy movements as well as the scholars and political actors who have stake in understanding the merits of different theories of change.

The Effect of Nitrogen Addition on Traits of Six Grassland Plant Species over Space and Time
Sophia Cortazzo
Faculty advisor: Meghan Avolio, PhD – Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

This project investigates the effect of nitrogen addition to the traits of six grassland plant species as part of a long term research project taking place at Konza Prairie Biological Station. The presentation will include the effect that nitrogen addition had on six different plant species over a six-week data collection period at three different experimental sites. This work has implications for global climate modeling, as plant traits are input into climate models. Understanding how nitrogen impacts these plant traits can help climate modelers best predict the outcomes of nitrogen addition to grassland areas. As nitrogen deposition is on the rise in grasslands in the Midwest United States, successfully predicting the effects of nitrogen addition has implications for grazing cattle.

Public Transit in Baltimore’s Food Environment
Bela Garces
Faculty advisor: Alessandro Angelini, PhD – Department of Anthropology

There has been extensive research done on Baltimore City’s food environment, thanks to the work of those at Johns Hopkins’s Center for a Livable Future and the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative. Their reports detail how an inadequate food environment creates Healthy Food Priority Areas in the city, and ways the address lack of food access for Baltimoreans. One recommendation offered is to address transportation gap in accessing healthy food, including making public transit more conducive to food shopping.

This project begins to look into how this can be done. It is exploratory research to answer the questions: How accessible is healthy food by public transit in Baltimore City? Who has the most and least access? How does the current public transit system alleviate or worsen food insecurity? These questions are answered using a series of maps made on ArcGIS Pro, which show that public transit system is largely inadequate in getting residents to healthy food in an appropriate amount of time. They also show that there are disparities in accessibility that follow the familiar spatial patterns for Baltimore. This project highlights the importance of a well-functioning public transit system is achieving food, climate, and economic justice within the city and offers recommendations for further research into how best to design public transit systems that meet the need to take residents to food.

Global Environmental Interventionism: A Political and Ecological History of the Amazonian Fires
Omar Lloyd
Faculty advisor: Daniel Deudney, PhD – Department of Political Science 

The analysis of the destruction, deforestation, and fires in the Amazon Rainforest presents to scholars a variety of issues. One can observe these events through the lens of a historical context; the fires are a product of the need and want of Brazilian authority to move into once barriered land, for the goal of economic and national expansion. As the fires raged their ways into our public eye in 2018 and 2019, scholars have for years laid out how the Amazon has been at severe risk of ecological damage and exploitation since the colonial era. Through a political lens, Brazil’s place in the global climate regime will be thoroughly analyzed; the notion of the Brazilian climate myth, the outing of indigenous peoples from the playing field, the perspective of Brazil from developed nations, and Brazil’s potential to be a leader in decarbonization and climate policy. Finally, the project will analyze past and current proposed solutions to Amazonian fires, critique them, and attempt to offer a new solution.

Perceptions and Implementation of Fieldwork and Outdoor Education in the EPS Department
Lia Brussock, Maddie Slack, Sofia Verheyen
Faculty advisor: Alexios Monopolis PhD – Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences

This project attempts to evaluate fieldwork and outdoor education by focusing on its implementation in the Earth and Planetary Science Department. A detailed literature review was first conducted to examine fieldwork and outdoor education in higher education, focusing on their benefits, areas for improvement, and the suggestions for implementation put forth by academics. A departmental survey was then conducted to determine the level of involvement in and perception of fieldwork and outdoor education by faculty, students, and alumni in the department. This data was analyzed and used to create suggestions for the department on how to effectively implement fieldwork and outdoor education in the curriculum and overcome barriers detected by the survey. This project also focuses on Camp Singewald, a property in western Maryland owned by the EPS Department and used as a basecamp for fieldwork. Through extensive background research and survey data collection, this project concludes with a series of products and proposals to increase the accessibility and utility of the camp, in addition to the recommendations to the department how best to conduct fieldwork and outdoor education.

The Economics of Maritime Applications of Hydrogen Fuel
Grace Chen
Faculty advisor: Lawrence Aronhime, MBA – Whiting School of Engineering

This presentation attempts to answer the question “Can we make shipping more sustainable?”. The hypothesis is unsurprisingly that yes, shipping can be made more sustainable. The presentation will take you a thought process of how we can begin to tackle such a vast problem. One far-reaching solution emerges: hydrogen fuel. Though it has many applications, hydrogen fuel is seen as one of the most exciting and probable alternative fuels for the future, but there has been a general lack of an economic analysis to answer whether switching shipping from hydrogen fuel to diesel fuel makes sense on a cost and return on investment basis. This capstone attempts to make financial sense of the limited data and information that is publicly available on hydrogen fuel (given that it is such an early stage technology with very few existing maritime applications at the moment). Ultimately, the capstone examines the market conditions in which hydrogen fuel would make economic sense in maritime applications.

Baltimore’s Brownfield Problem
Natalie Wu
Faculty advisor: John Mann, EdD – Department of Film and Media Studies

This short documentary is titled “Baltimore’s Brownfields Problem.” The documentary will investigate the pervasiveness of brownfields in the city and the socioeconomic impacts of brownfield remediation and redevelopment as they pertain to environmental justice. The documentary will feature interviews from key stakeholders that represent a spectrum of opinions and works in this subject area. Another goal of this project is to compile scattered information on brownfields into any easily-accessible source, which individuals with little to no knowledge of brownfields can access.

Back to Senior Capstone Experience