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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

New environmental studies center to be built at URI

Congress passes $1 million in Omnibus
Appropriations Bill for preliminary costs

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 18, 2000 -- The University of Rhode Island, a nationally recognized leader in environmental sciences, has received a $1 million federal grant toward a new $9 million environmental studies center and sustainable communities initiative on its Kingston Campus, it was announced today by URI President Robert L. Carothers and Congressman Bob Weygand, D-RI, co-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus on Livable Communities Task Force.

Congress appropriated $1 million toward the center’s preliminary architectural and engineering costs in November 1999, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Weygand worked with Congressional leaders to secure the first installment of federal funds to begin the design and construction of a facility that will serve as a national environmental learning center.

"This center will help us bring together a strong community of researchers and students engaged in the important issues of building and sustaining communities, particularly those located in fragile coastal environments," said URI President Robert L. Carothers. "It is a ‘niche’ research area upon which URI has been building for two decades, and one that is having a significant impact on planning, design, and policy issues locally, nationally, and globally.

"Congressman Weygand, a graduate of the University's civil and environmental engineering program, has worked on this project for the past two years. We are very grateful for his support and leadership," added Carothers.

"As a graduate, I know firsthand the quality and prestigious reputation of the University’s environmental programs," said Weygand. "The new facility will allow faculty and their students to address the issues around planning and development of "livable, sustainable communities" in a cohesive, coordinated, and inter-disciplinary way.

"The result will be that towns and cities throughout the state and beyond, frequently the beneficiary of URI community planning studies and applied research, will be even better served," said Weygand. "Internationally, there is an urgent need to use the principles of sustainability in a global context to address environmental, economic, and socio-political challenges," he added.

According to Carothers, federal funding for the entire project is expected in three consecutive federal budget cycles, the same process that was followed in securing federal funds for the Coastal Institute buildings on the Kingston and Narragansett Bay campuses.
The sustainable communities initiative is a federal effort aimed at integrating community planning with economic development, environmental management, and social equity. It is a concept that looks past the current needs of a community to focus on the future.

The new building will provide the space needed for the University to bring together its recently integrated departments of Community Planning and Area Development and Landscape Architecture, each with a strong history of reaching out to Rhode Island communities. (Now called the Department of Community Planning and Landscape Architecture). The Center will also combine some of the teaching elements of URI’s programs in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, and the University’s Transportation Center, a federally funded $12 million program now in its second year of operation.

Plans call for a 38,000 square-foot building that will house classrooms, studios, display halls, state-of-the-art computer and video conferencing labs, and exhibition spaces for instructional, research and outreach activities for about 300 undergraduate students, 40 graduate students and 20 faculty members.

The new center will face the nearly complete URI Coastal Resources Institute and replace a blue metal-clad building that was constructed for temporary use in the early 1970s. The building will also be located within the area identified by the master planning consultants as a marine and environmental district or "neighborhood," creating a complex dedicated to environmental studies.

"Currently, professors, students, and projects are scattered across the campus," said Dr. William Wright, URI Interim Dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. "The Center will place people together and promote the exchange of ideas in a holistic way, " he said.

"The new facility won’t just be another building," added Wright. "Rather it will be part of a larger initiative in environmental studies. Researchers working in URI’s Coastal Institute will focus on developing environmental policy, for example, while across the path, the new center will apply that research to Rhode Island communities, the region and beyond."
Teams of faculty and students, centrally located in this facility, will look at land use and growth management, the natural environment, wetlands and coastal management, alternative modes of transportation, urban sprawl, housing, open space, resource protection and community empowerment.

University of Rhode Island
Sustainable Communities Initiative: Teaching, Research and Outreach

Community Planning
URI’s accredited master of community planning master’s degree program was established in 1963. The degree offers four areas of specializations; environmental and land use planning, urban design and physical planning, housing and community development and social policy planning.

More than 30 of Rhode Island’s towns and cities have been subjects of about 80 community planning class projects, which range from a revitalization study of Cranston St. in Providence to a vision plan for the village of Chepachet in Glocester.
Rhode Island towns and cities have benefited from more than 100 individual student thesis/research projects as well as numerous studies prepared by the planning faculty.
The CPAD program has 376 alumni, the majority of whom work in the public sector as planners either on the local, state, regional, or federal level.

Landscape Architecture
URI’s professionally-related landscape architecture program is one of 50 accredited programs nationwide. The undergraduate program was established in 1988 and currently has 239 alumni.

The program prepares students in the planning, design, preservation and restoration of the landscape by applying both art and science to achieve the best use of our land, water, and air resources.

The program has focused on more than 32 projects, which range from the neighborhood revitalization study of the Woodlawn section of Pawtucket to a site development study of the Kingston railroad station.

In addition to a degree, landscape architects must be licensed and have two years work experience under a registered landscape architect. "The program focuses on land use and site planning, not yard decorating," said Professor Richard Hanson, director of the program.

URI Transportation Center
The URI Transportation Center was established in October 1998 with a grant of nearly $12 million over six years from the U.S. Department of Transportation. An additional $12 million in matching funds will come from agency and industrial partners.

The $209 billion Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in June 1998, established 23 new university transportation centers in addition to the 10 existing regional centers. URI was one of only six schools nationwide to receive the maximum funding level of $2 million per year.

The three main focus areas of the Center are: technology transfer and outreach; research; transportation education and training. In the area of research the Center is focusing on transportation infrastructure -- including intermodel transportation and materials, such as asphalt, concrete, soils, geosynthetics, composites and paint; transportation systems--including intelligent transportation systems, management, strategic planning, operation, policy and safety; and transportation education and training, including assisting in developing a new associate’s degree at the Community College of Rhode Island, which will be a feeder to URI’s College of Engineering, specifically for civil and environmental engineering, and developing with URI’s College of Business Administration a new master of science degree in transportation management.

Geographic Information Systems
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is a technology used to enter, edit, analyze and display map information. GIS is to maps what your word processor is to text or your spreadsheet is to row/column data.

GIS technology is a critically important technology for environmental science and landscape planning and design. Rhode Island was one of the pioneering states in bringing GIS tools into the environmental decision-making process. Its GIS program (RIGIS, the Rhode Island Geographic Information System) started 15 years ago as a joint effort between DEM and the University of Rhode Island. Through the Department of Natural Resources Science, the University offers a full suite of GIS classes to graduate and undergraduate students of all majors. In addition, the Cooperative Extension Program offers GIS classes through the Feinstein College of Continuing Education.

The Environmental Data Center maintains a web system that provides access to the RIGIS database, aerial photography of RI, a digital atlas, and other important spatial data for the state. The Rhode Island GIS database is the most detailed and comprehensive of any state in the country and is the information cornerstone of environmental planning and economic development activities in the State.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing science and technology are among the most rapidly developed scientific disciplines in the last two decades. Remote sensing is the measurement or acquisition of data about an object or scene by a satellite or other instrument above or far from the object. Aerial photography, satellite imagery, and radar are the examples. Remote sensing has significantly changed the style and technical content of earth science research. Students in environment and natural resources science majors need the education and training in this fastest growing discipline.

The University of Rhode Island has a long history of scientific research using remote sensing in ocean studies. In 1999, a new faculty member (Dr. Y.Q. Wang) was hired and a new program of terrestrial remote sensing was added in the Department of Natural Resources Science (NRS). Remote sensing classes in both undergraduate and graduate levels are offered by the NRS to the students across the campuses.

Tremendous amounts of opportunities are available among the government and private funding agencies and in work places. The faculty members in NRS and URI are very active in remote sensing research.

One of the main research focuses is to develop modeling mechanisms to bridge the driving forces (both socioeconomic and natural factors) and the consequences of land cover changes so that the impacts of human-induced land-cover/landscape changes on the ecosystems can be more effectively modeled.

For Information: Linda Acciardo, URI (401) 874-2116, Jan Sawyer, URI, (401) 874-2116, Mike Guilfoyle, Weygand, (401) 486-6007

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