Faculty Fellows Research: The Impact of Green Infrastructure

Through SyracuseCoE, my students gain the ability to interact with others who are doing interdisciplinary water research at both the faculty and student level. Christa Kelleher

Photo of Christa KelleherChrista Kelleher

Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences; Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University

See a list of Professor Kelleher’s published research

Project
Assessing the impact of passive green space on water infiltration, ground temperature, and air temperature.

Backstory
Like many older cities, Syracuse has a combined sewer system that includes both sanitary waste and surface runoff. Rain and snowmelt can exceed the capacity of the system and cause combined sewer overflow (CSO), rising urban stream temperatures and harming aquatic ecosystems. Green infrastructure throughout the city attempts to improve water infiltration and reduce overflows. In addition to green infrastructure, the city’s many vacant lots can be considered a form of passive green infrastructure.

Nuts and Bolts
Kelleher and her students are assessing the performance of green infrastructure installations and vacant lots in Syracuse. They are monitoring soil temperature, air temperature, and water infiltration on five vacant lots slated to be repurposed with green infrastructure into urban rain gardens. “These conversions are designed to impact a single CSO outlet,” Kelleher explains. “The idea is that if they co-locate these sites, maybe it will impact the amount of storm water running off.” Baseline information gathered before installation will be used to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the rain gardens. In addition, as a source of comparison, they are also collecting data from rural parks and from established green spaces within the Syracuse urban core.

And Another Thing
One of the sites being studied is SyracuseCoE headquarters. Graduate student Crystal Burgess installed sensors on the SyracuseCoE green roof, on a large planting bed adjacent to the parking lot, and in a mostly shaded area near the building entrance. “This allows us to gather a range of temperature profiles that we would see in an urban area and also to factor in how much factors such as buildings and vegetation play in decreasing soil temperature,” Burgess says. Summer intern Zoe Curewitz, a student at Nottingham High School in Syracuse, also contributed to the project by helping to install sensors across the Syracuse University campus.

SyracuseCoE Impact
Kelleher previously received a $10,000 competitive award from the Faculty Fellow Program to *study longitudinal patterns of stream temperature and levels of storm flow along Onondaga Creek using unmanned aerial vehicles. “All of this work concerns the movement of heat in urban systems,” she says. In addition to funding, “SyracuseCoE has been instrumental in helping me connect with other folks at the University and beyond that to the broader community,” she says. “Through SyracuseCoE, my students gain the ability to interact with others who are doing interdisciplinary water research at both the faculty and student level.”