Ufuoma Ovienmhada Wins NASA Grant for Environmental Justice Research




Graduate student Ufuoma Ovienmhada, with Prof. Danielle Wood, won a NASA grant for the project "Applying the EVDT Integrated Modeling Framework for Environmental Justice Applications," which will be funded by NASA's "Earth Science Applications: Equity and Environmental Justice" through NASA's Applied Sciences Program. A description of the project is listed below and you can see all funded projects from other teams here.

Project Overview

In recent years, researchers and journalists have elevated a pattern of prison landscapes being exposed to environmental hazards such as air pollution, poor water quality, proximity to hazardous waste facilities, and inadequate mitigation in the face of extreme weather conditions—a pattern frequently referred to as “prison ecology.” Community organizers, lawyers and other environmental justice activists have needs for empirical evidence of the environmental injustices occurring in and around prison landscapes in order to advocate for the rights of incarcerated peoples to live in conditions that are free of life-threatening conditions. 

Geospatial data combined with sociodemographic information about prison populations can elucidate spatial patterns of vulnerability to environmental hazards and support decision-making workflows to advance equity and environmental justice (EEJ) in these underserved landscapes of primarily low-income people of color. To this end, this project pursues an objective to co-design and prototype an operational geographic information system that responds to data needs in decision-making workflows for prison ecology activist organizations. This objective is part of an ongoing partnership with community activists organizing resistance at the intersection of incarceration and the environment.

The outcomes of this project will enhance the capability of prison environmental justice activists to apply satellite-based remote sensing data to support community level management to advance EEJ for underserved populations in prison landscapes. In the government domain, the research will consider how remote sensing could improve screening tools or legal processes to prevent or remedy prison ecology issues. In the public domain, the research will consider how remote sensing could inform strategy or media campaigns to support real-time grassroots organizing for just outcomes.

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