Blogs

In the fall semester 2019, I had the opportunity to work with the Green STAR School project, which is funded by the Haury Program and the UA green fund and led by Adriana Zuniga-Teran and Andrea Gerlak. The STAR team wanted undergraduate assistance to not only examine and review the effects of the implantation in the last couple years, but also wanted to further collaborate with STAR academic high school and the surrounding community.
Last April 9, 2019, the Governing Board of the Sunnyside Unified School District recognized the work of the team working on the project Tucson Verde para Todos at their offices located at 2238 E Ginter Rd., Tucson, Arizona. School District Superintendent, Steven Holmes, gave a certificate to Marsha Flores – the Principal at Star Academic High School, to Joaquin Murrieta – Cultural Ecologist at Watershed Management Group, to Andrea Gerlak – Associate Professor at the University of Arizona and leader of the project, and to Adriana Zuniga – Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Arizona. Mariana Rivera Torres, the University of Arizona Graduate Student who led the student engagement team for art and education, received the certificate on behalf of Gerlak and Zuniga.
Environmental justice issues involve the unequal distribution of vegetation and greenspace in general in cities. Lack of vegetation means higher temperatures, enhanced urban heat island effect, and higher risk of flooding – impacts that are likely to increase in intensity and frequency with climate change. These impacts directly affect transportation, where people walking or using public transportation are negatively affected.
Plans are underway to continue our engagement with Star Academic High School. Building from our earlier Tucson Verde para Todos project efforts, we recently received a $4,000 “Grassroots Seed Grant” from the University of Arizona’s (UA) College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA) to foster interdisciplinary collaboration across UA colleges.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the 2nd International Congress Water for the Future that was held in Mendoza, Argentina, on March 7-9, 2019 – my second visit to the city. It was great to be in Mendoza again and visit our Argentinean colleagues from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, or CONICET. This time, my visit coincided with the wine festival, or “vendimia,” which is a week full of parades, shows, and events related to grape harvesting and wine production - the main economic activity of the region.
By the time that we completed the implementation of the landscape design project at Star Academic High School, I felt like I had a home at the school. From the many mornings spent viewing the school’s and students’ morning routines, trying to excite the attention of rowdy high school students, and enjoying the welcoming spirit of everyone in the school, I gained a well-formed understanding of what it was like to work at or attend this school full time, and the type of community that the school creates.
When I first learned about the Star Barrio Verde Initiative from Prof. Andrea Gerlak and Prof. Adriana Zúñiga, I knew I wanted to get involved. I was inspired by their motivation and by the work they had being doing. Working with green infrastructure in a local High School in Tucson to promote equity and build resilience to climate extremes seemed aligned with my own interests and a natural transition from my work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. I had previously worked with public school teachers in a very different context, but how different could it be?
As a University of Arizona undergraduate student about to graduate from the Sustainable Built Environments degree program, I am very pleased to have participated in a project that translates theory into practice. Throughout this fall 2018, I worked as an intern at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy under the supervision of Dr. Adriana Zuniga on the Star Barrio Verde project.
Over the course of the past semester (fall 2018), I was fortunate to get the chance to intern with the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy in implementing green infrastructure at Star Academic High School, made possible through funding from the University’s Green Fund. The experience has proved to be invaluable, as I was able to witness and participate in a project from the incipient ground-breaking phases and see it all the way through to completion.
It is no secret that climate change may create risks that, without sufficient adaptation measures in place, endanger lives and damage our built infrastructure. In its geographic location, Tucson is experiencing an increase in urban temperatures as the city continues to develop. As development occurs, more streets are being paved and open natural landscape are being replaced with asphalt and non-impervious, heat conductive surfaces. The presence of vegetation helps to lower surface temperatures, as native plants capture a portion of the carbon in the air and minimize the negative impacts that heat islands have on the health of people.
Situated along the south side of Tucson, the STAR Academic High School (STAR), is one of four high schools in Sunny Unified School District. STAR is located in a relatively low-income neighborhood that is comprised of sparse vegetation and high impermeable surface cover. Green infrastructure has the potential to mitigate these impacts and further provide benefits for the overall community.
University of Arizona (UA) Master in Landscape Architecture students recently presented a landscape design for STAR Academic High School to a jury composed of school representatives, Rene Corrales (Star Academic High School), and members of the team Tucson Verde para Todos, including Andrea Gerlak (UA School of Geography & Development and Udall Center), Joaquin Murrieta (Watershed Management Group), Claudio Rodriguez (TYLO), and Adriana Zuniga (UA CAPLA and Udall Center). The UA students presented in two teams (for the east and west parts of the school campus) that worked to stitch together a master plan.
Landscape designers seek to create landscapes that entail sustainability and ecological and socioeconomic resiliency. However, in a rapidly urbanizing world, creating such spaces has become cumbersome. Economic and social complexities in addition to climate change have resulted in significant risk accumulation and uncertainty for several cities across different regions. Especially in the case urban development, neighborhoods with insufficient or inadequate infrastructure in the built environment, have a higher risk of impacts during catastrophic events.
The University of Arizona (UA) Green Fund recently approved $25,025 in funding for the project “Addressing environmental injustice around green infrastructure in Tucson, Arizona.”
As the world becomes urbanized and climate change is making weather and natural resource distribution more volatile, the need for urban resilience is crucial. The expansion of urban infrastructure requires changing natural land cover from vegetated and pervious to impervious (e.g., concrete and asphalt). But as storm weather events intensify, cities become more vulnerable to floods.
Green infrastructure (GI) is being recognized around the world as an effective strategy to reduce flooding and enhance resilience and water security in cities. Peru is interested in using this type of technology to adapt to climate change and provide greater water security for its citizens.
Many cities in the world have invested in grey infrastructure for stormwater management. Grey infrastructure usually includes storm drains, sewers, and combined sewer systems (CSS) – or systems that use a single pipeline network to transport stormwater runoff and wastewater to treatment plants. Approximately 722 cities in the U.S. depend on CSS that transport stormwater runoff and wastewater to treatment plants. In the UK, 70% of the stormwater is managed using CSS.
How physically active are you may depend, in part, on the design of your neighborhood. University of Arizona researcher Adriana Zuniga-Teran is a co-PI of the Haury funded project Engaging Communities for an Equitable, Connected, and Greener Tucson, at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. She and her coauthors examined the effects of four different neighborhood designs on physical activity and wellbeing, including (1) traditional development, (2) suburban development, (3) enclosed communities, and (4) cluster housing.
Green infrastructure (GI) – or spaces with permeable surfaces dominated by vegetation – has been shown to have numerous positive community benefits. These include: less noise and stress that affect mental health, reduced air pollution that affect respiratory diseases, and an enhanced thermal comfort that encourage physical activity and social interaction. Below, we discuss a recently-funded project in southern Arizona that looks at how green infrastructure can involve low-income communities and in so doing, enhance the quality of life of residents. In cities, one of the GI techniques that yields well-recognized benefits is stormwater management, which can reduce floods and enhance resilience. Where such techniques are employed, GI has a basin-like form and the surrounding areas need to have sufficient slope to direct stormwater to the GI, allowing its infiltration into the aquifers. This way, GI not only reduces floods and their subsequent damages to urban infrastructure, but it also replenishes aquifers enhancing water security. This is particularly the case in arid cities that depend on groundwater as their main water source.