Environment Matters

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Environment Matters

Three very different faculty projects on what happens with a change in environment

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Photo: iStock

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Dr. David Munns’s recent book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest to Control Climate in the Cold War, is the first history of phytotrons, huge climate-controlled labs that let plant scientists experiment with the growth and development of living organisms inside a controlled environment. In more than 30 countries after WWII, phytotrons held the promise of an end to global hunger and political upheaval. Today, they may play an important role in helping scientists understand climate change and the complexities of natural ecosystems. 

Adverse childhood experiences are a risk factor for juvenile offending. Dr. Kevin Wolff is interested in understanding juvenile offenders and reducing reoffending. In a recent study, he found that higher-quality treatments provided in long-term juvenile residential programs help to decrease the odds that a young offender will return to jail. Building on these findings, Wolff has investigated ways of individualizing interventions to provide the best possible treatment and prevent juvenile offender recidivism. He looked at the ways demographics and community characteristics—like residential instability or poverty—correlate with different combinations of negative childhood experiences. Wolff’s research will help to guide the creation of prevention strategies and treatment programs. 

Dr. Emily McDonald currently leads research for a nonprofit team at Airbnb partnering with nonprofits including the IRC, Red Cross and UNHCR to provide no-cost housing to displaced peoples around the world. As a cultural anthropologist embedded within a tech product team, she utilizes participant observation, in-home interviews and surveys to understand the needs and desires of recently resettled refugees and transform research insights into actionable, real-world tools. 

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