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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: Chelsea Peters


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

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: Alexander Maki


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.

Contact: Joshua Bazuin

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. Analyses are exploring interactions in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States, and Sri Lanka.


Contact: Thushara Gunda




Water Conservation Project:  This multidisciplinary project offers a systematic analysis of the political, demographic, economic, hydrologic, and climatological factors that affect the development of water conservation policies in American cities. We are developing an innovative “translational hydrology” model that explores the complex transition between the hydrological sciences and water policy. This model will provide metropolitan decision-makers with new insights into the conditions that enable water conservation proposals to advance toward policy adoption and implementation.

Student Contact: Scott Worland

  Conditions Favoring Bipartisanship in State-Level Energy Policy Project:  There are many reasons why countries across the world have developed policies to diversify energy sources and increase energy efficiency, among them the vulnerability of supplies, changes in price ratios among energy sources, and environmental issues. In Europe and parts of Asia, there is a broad political consensus in favor of diversifying energy sources, but political consensus has proven more elusive in the U.S. Although bipartisan initiatives for energy legislation are very limited in the federal government, at the state government level there are ongoing examples of bipartisanship.

Student Contact:  Christopher Wold


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.

Nashville Yard Project

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 Gasses and Grasses Project.


Contact:  Josh Bazuin


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.




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.






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