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Emily Alexander ’19 Looks at Water Sustainability Practices in Utica


Emily Alexander '19
Emily Alexander '19

To enhance the sustainability of a community, Syracuse-based non-profit Greening USA crafted 12 Sustainability Traits, designed to support renewable practices for the benefit of the population’s environment, health and economy. After learning about these traits under Associate Professor of Government Peter Cannavò, Emily Alexander ’19 first conceived of her 2017 Levitt research proposal. “I started with the idea of incorporating Greening USA’s 12 Sustainability Traits into some research project. I then worked to focus my project on human health, which is my other research interest,” said Alexander, a geoscience concentrator.

Alexander spoke with her advisor Cannavò and representatives from Greening USA, and realized that assessing all 12 traits in a single summer was not feasible, so she narrowed her scope to just one: Water Related Infrastructure Systems. From this general category, Alexander further specified the project, choosing to analyze the water and infrastructure quality in nearby Utica, N.Y., and assessing its varied effects on the population.

By melding her research of this trait with her interest in public health and policy, Alexander hopes to study how adopting Greening USA’s water sustainability practices will affect human health in Utica, a place where the advanced age and neglect of much infrastructure may affect the quality of drinkable water.

about emily alexander '19

Major: Geosciences

Hometown: Chapel Hill, N.C.

High School: East Chapel Hill High School

read more student research stories

Though Alexander plans to focus on just one trait, she does not view her small sample size as at all insufficient: “I realize that I am only focusing on one trait, but since they are all interconnected, I believe focusing on becoming sustainable will not only improve the environmental situation but also health of people in Utica,” said Alexander.

To assess water quality in Utica, Alexander utilizes a rubric provided by Greening USA, designed to rate the current sustainability standing of a community. Thus far, using the pre-established rubric, Alexander has begun analyzing the water-related infrastructure in Oneida County and researching water quality and public health data in Utica.

At the end of the study, Alexander hopes to have compiled sufficient data which support her hypothesis that sustainability practices, when directly applied, can improve the quality of public health, and subsequently of life. “I want to have a direct impact in Utica and not just do research behind the scenes, but actually influence change in the community to focus on sustainability,” said Alexander.

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