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Research Projects

One of the primary goals of VIEE is to develop methods and practices that help institutions and individuals make informed energy and environmental choices. The Institute's focus is on integrated research on the environmental impacts of both energy supply and energy demand.

Ongoing Research Efforts


Bangladesh Project: This work focuses on groundwater resources in Bangladesh. The project is part of a multidisciplinary effort to understand migration patterns due to climate change and is sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Student Contact: Scott Worland


Carbon Labeling Project:  The carbon labeling project aims to build a model of consumer behavior to estimate the impact of labeling various goods. We use carbon footprints from Life Cycle Analysis and estimates of consumer price elasticities from the economics literature to predict how consumers will respond to new information on carbon footprints.

Post-doc Contacts:  Sharon Shewmake, Lanka Thabrew


D.O.C. Project: This research is focused on understanding how hydrology plays an essential role in controlling the biogeochemistry processes, especially Dissolved Organic Carbon (D.O.C.) at multiple scales. Current work is focused on adopting a phsically-based distributed hydrological model to simulate and understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of DOC in the White Clay Creek watershed. This project is a collaborative efforts among VIEE, Stroud Water Research Center and Penn State University.

Student Contact: Mei Yi


Electric Car Project: Electric vehicles have the potential to revolutionize personal automobile transportation. This study evaluates whether automakers should instead view electric vehicles as a “disruptive technology” (in terms described by Clayton Christensen) and seek a market niche for vehicles that are a clear departure from today’s models.

Contact: Jack Barkenbus

Locke Island Project:  This project aims to develop a quantitative description of the river mechanics of the Columbia River in the vicinity of Locke Island. It also focuses on developing a quantitative description of the hydrological conditions of Locke Island and the landslide zone with special attention to the groundwater-surface water interactions.

Student Contact: Leslie Duncan

Spillover Project: This project seeks to examine the existence of environmental spillover: does performance of one pro-environmental behavior increase or decrease the likelihood that a person will take a second pro-environmental action? We are using a mixed-methods approach to investigate  spillover effects among a diverse set of pro-environmental actions and support for pro-environmental policies as well as the psychological and situational conditions that give rise to positive vs. negative spillover effects.

Contact: Amanda Carrico


Sri Lanka Project:  The Sri Lanka project is studying how small rice farming communities in Sri Lanka respond to drought and other climatic changes. By drawing on expertise in both the physical and social sciences, the group is uniquely suited to address the challenging and complex questions found in the rice paddies of Sri Lanka. The results from this project will hopefully provide guidance when coping with a future of climatic change and food scarcity.

Student Contact: John Jacobi

Water-Energy-Food Nexus Project:  This project focuses on developing a comprehensive understanding of the complex tradeoffs and risks involved in water, energy, and food management. The portfolio of contextualized information will advance utility and tradeoff analyses through the creation of a stakeholder based decision-support framework.

Student Contact: Debra Perrone


Yard Project:  Although nitrogen fertilizer application in agriculture has been shown to produce soil emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas with global warming potential ~300, such emissions from urban and suburban lawns are not well understood. This is particularly troubling since the Center for Watershed Protection showed that a majority of homeowners fertilize their lawns. This research seeks to understand how the combined knowledge of emissions and behavioral characteristics can be used to effect reductions of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use in the Richland Creek watershed in Nashville. The project aims to assist environmental activist groups, homeowners associations, and other organizations to help homeowners make more environmentally friendly lawn care decisions. Watch a video, featuring George Hornberger, on the Gases and Grasses Project.

Student Contacts:  Josh Bazuin, John Crane

Recently Completed Projects


Green Jobs Project: This project focused on efforts to combine state and local sustainability policies (such as renewable electricity standards) with economic development policies to create green jobs. The first phase of the project was a report on state and local government policies in the United States. The second phase of the project, Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy, is a book forthcoming from MIT Press on the politics of green-energy policies in the United States in the context of global industrial competition.


Ingram Project:  Vanderbilt conducted a hybrid life cycle assessment to provide a benchmark environmental footprint for Ingram Marine Group. The first phase of this project included a hotspot analysis and the second phase took a "deeper dive" into selected hotspots in order to provide a more detailed baseline. The group is currently using the outputs from the life cycle assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of sustainability strategies and build a framework that facilitates decision making in the context of sustainability.

Student Contacts: Sandy EwingLanka Thabrew

Capstone Class for PhD's


Spring break in Bangladesh! Every spring semester PhD students in Enivironmental Engineering and Environmental Sciences have the opportunity to participate in a capstone course. This past March, during Vanderbilt's Spring Break, a group of ~15 students and professors traveled to Bangladesh to study water and social justice.