Students on a wooded trail near the Pleasantville campus


  • This project will compile all existing relevant information and data pertaining to the Pocantico River Watershed to create a watershed assessment that will characterize the current knowledge base of the watershed, identify gaps in information, and document concerns and issues that need attention.

    Dr. Michael Rubbo will work closely with the Pocantico River Watershed Alliance to help build the groups’ capacity- identifying existing data and gaps where data needs to be collected. Ultimately, the goal is to use the assessment to develop a watershed plan for the Pocantico River Watershed.

    In addition to a final assessment report, the data assembled will be presented on an ESRI Story Map as a tool for local municipalities, conservation organizations, watershed groups, community groups, and other stakeholders in the Pocantico River Watershed region to learn more about, and become invested in, the watershed.

    A large portion of the grant funds will be used to support both graduate and undergraduate students’ work on the project, including interviewing stakeholders, conducting stream assessments along the Pocantico River via Streamwalks, analyzing water samples for nutrients and bacteria, and collecting stream macroinvertebrate samples.

    Investigator: Michael Rubbo, PhD
    Funding source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

  • Pace is undertaking a habitat assessment study of the Pocantico River Watershed, using trained undergraduate and graduate students to collect data that will assist local communities in future watershed planning activities. The data from this study will ultimately be used to identify priority areas for conservation within the watershed and to direct management plans.

    Future planning could benefit significantly from greater background knowledge of the Pocantico River Watershed environment, including habitat, water quality, hydrology, and wildlife corridors and aquatic connectivity. Pace’s Westchester and White Plains campuses are in the watershed, and Pace students and faculty have studied the watershed for decades, providing most of the scientific research on the watershed to date.

    Pace students Angelica Arocho ‘22, Environmental Studies, and Morgan Kelly ‘18, MS in Environmental Science, spent the summer of 2018 visiting habitats throughout the watershed to field-verify their status and determine their condition. Over 2,000 acres have been assessed to date. Angelica and Morgan presented their research titled “Biodiversity in the Suburbs: The Pocantico River Watershed as a Hotspot for Natural Resources” at the 2019 Student and Faculty Research Days event. Their work included a habitat assessment and mammal survey of the watershed which was used to identify priority areas for conservation.

    Investigators: Michael Rubbo, PhD, and E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD

    Funding source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

  • The goal of this project is to understand the role of culverts in facilitating amphibian and reptile habitat connectivity in our region and to manage drainage during heavy rain.

    The principal investigators, along with Pace graduate students Michael Tierney ’18, MS in Environmental Science, Michaela Peterson ’18, MS in Environmental Science, Nadya Hall ’18, MA in Environmental Policy, and Norman Sanchez ’19, MS in Environmental Science, have assessed culverts to identify those that most greatly reduce road associated mortality and are most important for facilitating run-off. Investigators continue to develop an adaptive management plan to prioritize culverts in need of maintenance.

    Investigators: Matthew Aiello-Lammens, PhD, and John Cronin

    Funding source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

  • Focusing mainly on sections of the Bronx River Watershed and the Hudson River Watershed in New York, this interview-based research project (conducted in 2017) explores municipal concerns, priorities, and challenges related to regional environmental management.

    The project focuses broadly on barriers and incentives to defining and collaboratively working to solve problems posed by flooding, climate change, and development, and uses a political ecology framework to further discuss the uneven costs and benefits of environmental challenges that transcend political borders.

    Investigators: Michael Finewood, PhD, and Michael Rubbo, PhD

    Funding source: Water Resources Research Grant Program

  • Danny Deo ’19, Environmental Science, conducted field work in Southern Trinidad to discover the impact of agriculture on water quality. Specifically, Danny studied how agricultural runoff contributes to microbial and nutrient pollution, and impacts macroinvertebrate communities.

    Danny’s work included water and macroinvertebrate sampling in two river systems in Southern Trinidad, one that is heavily developed by agriculture (South Oropouche River) and the other with low levels of human land use (Moruga River).

    Investigators: Danny Deo '19 (student) and Monica Palta, PhD (faculty mentor)

    Funding source: Pace Undergraduate Student & Faculty Research Program 2018-2019

  • Assistant Professor Monica Palta, PhD, is carrying out an ecological study of Coney Island Creek, with a specific look at the extent and sources of nutrient pollution in the system, and whether filter feeders in the creek (mussels, oysters) are effectively removing this nutrient pollution.

    Investigators: Tatyana Graham ’21 (student) and Monica Palta, PhD (faculty mentor)
    Funding source: Pace Undergraduate Student & Faculty Research Program 2018-2019

  • Coney Island Creek is currently the site of an active combined sewer outfall, which results in raw sewage and stormwater bypassing treatment plants and overflowing directly into the creek during storms. Assistant Professor Monica Palta, PhD, is carrying out an ecological study of the creek, with a specific look at the extent and sources of nutrient pollution in the system, and whether filter feeders in the creek (mussels, oysters) are effectively removing this nutrient pollution. Assistant Professor Anne Toomey has been documenting the social-cultural uses and perceptions of the water quality of the creek.

    Various Pace students and alumni have been involved in this research, including Brielle Manzolillo ’17, Christina Thomas ‘19, Elaina Kovnat ‘20, and Tatyana Graham ‘21. Professors Palta and Toomey worked with the students to team-write a paper that combines the natural and social science data to tell a larger story of human-waterfront dynamics in New York City.

    Investigators: Anne Toomey, PhD (research carried out in coordination with the New York Urban Field Station and the Billion Oyster Project
    Funding source: Wilson Faculty Fellowship for 2018-2019 academic year


  • Working with faculty mentor E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD, Carly Sheinberg ’19, focused her summer research project on the state of food waste management in urban and suburban areas. The goal of the project was to identify barriers to properly manage food waste and to achieving zero-waste goals.

    Through interviews with community gardeners and volunteers, farmers, and a catering company, Carly is investigating whether a zero-waste goal by 2030 is an achievable reality for New York City.

    Investigators: Carly Sheinberg ’19 (student) and E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD (faculty mentor)
    Funding source: Pace Undergraduate Student & Faculty Research Program 2018-2019

Urban Sustainability  

  • For his Senior Honors thesis, Chase Ballas ‘18, Environmental Science, evaluated green spaces (public parks) located in neighborhoods that fell along an income gradient (low to high) in all five of New York City’s boroughs, to uncover any potential relationships between median household income and green space provision of benefits and harms to urban dwellers.

    Chase assessed the parks for their ability to provide park-goers with aesthetic, recreative, and provisional benefits, such as food from community gardens, water from drinking fountains. They were also evaluated for potential environmental harms, such as soil metals and invasive species.

    Investigators: Chase Ballas '18 (student) and Monica Palta, PhD (faculty mentor)

    Funding source: Pforzheimer Honors College Research Grant

  • As a result of this project, E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD published “Learning from Emancipation: The Port Royal Experiment and Transition Theory” in the Journal: Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. This information will also be included in her upcoming book, Against Vision: Getting to Sustainability through Equity. The book looks at ways that vision – the idea that there’s one path to sustainability – gets in the way of achieving a more sustainable world.

    Investigator: E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD

    Funding source: Pace Faculty Research Program

Wildlife and Ecology

  • To better understand perceptions toward coyotes, investigators conducted a comparative study of park users residing in two counties in the New York metropolitan area: Westchester - a suburban county where coyotes are already established, and the Bronx - an urban county where coyotes have only recently begun to arrive. While urban dwellers may appreciate wild animals in the abstract, this sentiment may not extend to one’s immediate environment.

    By 2050 more than 65% of humans are expected to live in urban and suburban areas. This shift has gained the attention of conservation scientists and managers with focus directed on conflict and coexistence between wildlife and urbanized populations. One species that is increasingly prominent in urban and suburban environments is the coyote (Canis latrans). Coyotes are extremely adaptable and able to live in diverse landscapes, such as urban areas. As coyotes move into these areas, encounters with humans become increasingly common. Municipalities have tried to create coyote coexistence and conflict management plans, as well as informational messaging to educate the public. However, these often fall short due to the fact that they are based only on assumptions about how people perceive wildlife, rather than based on robust social science data.

    Investigators: Alumni/Students: Brielle Manzolillo '17 (lead author), Tatyana Graham '21, Nadya Hall '18; Anne Toomey, PhD (faculty mentor)

  • Humans are becoming an increasingly urban species, pointing to the profound importance of understanding how urban ecosystems function. Phase IV of the Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER (CAP) continues to focus on the question: How do the ecosystem services provided by urban ecological infrastructure affect human outcomes and behavior, and how do human actions affect patterns of urban ecosystem structure and function and, ultimately, urban sustainability and resilience?

    A new theoretical focus is on urban infrastructure as a critical bridge between the system's biophysical and human/social components. Infrastructure is thus central to the conceptual framework that guides all CAP activities. CAP researchers explore new social-ecological frontiers of interdisciplinary urban ecology in residential landscapes, urban waterbodies, desert parks and preserves, the flora, fauna, and climate of a riparianized desert city, and urban design and governance.

    Investigators: Monica Palta, PhD, Senior Personnel, Dan Childers, Principal Investigator

    Funding source: National Science Foundation

Community Development

  • Clinical Associate Professor Michael Rubbo, PhD, is working with undergraduate students to map wetlands in the Town of Mount Pleasant, NY. This will support the town’s Natural Resource Inventory (NRI), a planning tool for local conservation.

  • Clinical Associate Professor Michael Rubbo, PhD, is working with undergraduate students to conduct biodiversity studies for the Town of Ridgefield, CT, as part of a practicum course. Students are working to set up camera traps to survey for carnivores and measuring changes to vernal pools in the region.

    Students are measuring the water quality in the area’s vernal pools which are essential breeding habitat for certain species of wildlife. They are analyzing the habitat’s health and conditions to see how these pools have changed based on data from a citizen science study conducted 10 years earlier. Vernal pool habitats are very sensitive and are easily disturbed by changes in water chemistry, habitat loss, human activity, pests, climate changes, and more.

Data and Technology

  • Effective policy responses to changes in biodiversity are only possible with adaptable analytic tools that leverage the influx of data from biodiversity observation systems. Such analytic tools must also be streamlined and readily mastered by researchers making scientific recommendations. This project focuses on the creation of software to assess biodiversity change indicators by building on the recently developed software, Wallace, as a new GEO BON in a Box tool.

    Wallace is an R-based application with a graphical user interface that supports species distribution modeling (SDM) in a reproducible, flexible and extensible platform to facilitate a wide range of ecological analyses. The research team is engaging conservation practitioners nationally and internationally as they work to develop tools for the conservation planning and protection of biodiversity everywhere.

    Co-Investigator: Matthew Aiello-Lammens, PhD (access full paper and complete list of co-investigators)
    Funding source: NASA

  • Matthew Aiello-Lammens, PhD, and Erika Crispo, PhD, have received a five-year award from the National Science Foundation for their project aimed to serve the national interest by building and supporting an engaged community of college instructors trained in integrating data science skills across introductory biology and environmental science curricula.

    Co-Investigators: Matthew Aiello-Lammens, PhD (Principal Investigator); Sarah Supp (Co-Principal Investigator), Erika Crispo (Co-Principal Investigator), Kelly O'Donnell (Co-Principal Investigator), Nathan Emery (Co-Principal Investigator)
    Funding source: National Science Foundation

  • Matthew Aiello-Lammens, PhD, along with colleagues from City University of New York and Yale University, are working to develop software tools for studying species distributions. Their grant will support the training of graduate and undergraduate students at Pace University with their initial focus set on species in danger of extinction.

    This project focuses on developing software tools for studying species distributions. These tools should lead to better estimates of species ranges, which are important to interests as diverse as conservation biology, the study of invasive species, and diseases passed to humans from insects and wildlife. The project will train graduate and undergraduate students at Pace University, City University of New York, and Yale University. Pace hosted the full research group for a three-day meeting and hack-a-thon, and the team continues to make strides in rendering these models and tools more accessible.

    Investigators: Robert Anderson (Principal Investigator), Matthew Aiello-Lammens (Co-Principal Investigator), Cory Merow (Co-Principal Investigator)
    Funding Source: National Science Foundation