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Student Spotlight

Alumna Profile: Cynthia H. Carlson, P.E.

Cyndy Carlson

Degree: Earth and Environmental Science


Dissertation Title: Efficiency of the Built Environment: Interdependencies in Transportation, Development Form and Public Health

Advisor: Dr. Kevin Gardner, P.E.

Description of Research

Infrastructure can be seen as the integrating backbone of a community rather than simply as a background for other activities.  Transportation infrastructure can provide a means to get from point A to point B, but also can provide occasion for chance encounters between neighbors and strangers, strengthening social capital and improving how residents feel about their community.  The built environment is simply buildings placed within a matrix of blocks and roads, but it can provide places for people to gather, walk, exercise, interact, and grow.  Thinking about infrastructure simply as a means to an end, it remains as such.  But thought about in a new way, infrastructure has the potential to improve individual and community lives in fundamental and profound ways, while at the same time considering the economic, environmental, and social costs to the community.  This broader view of infrastructure and the form of communities drives my interest in the proposed research. 

In short, the research that I propose would:

  1. develop an understanding of the metrics that comprise sustainability on a municipal or neighborhood scale, focusing on the themes of transportation and the built environment,
  2. develop goals that may be adjusted for a particular region so that local planners will be able to use the metrics, and
  3. develop a GIS-based decision support tool that assists local planning professionals in using the metrics to approach the goal of sustainable resource management.

The proposed project involves evaluating the efficacy of sustainability metrics for transportation and the built environment, investigating existing transportation and built environment schemes in several case study communities, and verifying recommended metrics through analysis of detailed data for alternative case study communities.  These infrastructures will provide a good model for investigating sustainability metrics of other infrastructures (drinking water, waste water, energy production) in future work.  The selected transportation and built environment metrics will be embedded in a GIS-based tool that regional and local planners can use to analyze qualitative and quantitative metrics for their own community, and to educate residents and public officials on potential impacts of various scenarios. 

Previous Awards and Activities

Prior to arriving at UNH, I worked for 10 years as a water resources engineer.  I managed and implemented environmental and water resources projects locally in New England, as well as abroad in the Middle East and the Far East.  During that time I was honored to receive an “Individual Environmental Merit Award” from EPA New England ( and “New Hampshire Young Engineer of the Year” from the New Hampshire Joint Professional Engineer Societies (   While at UNH, I hope to add a broader knowledge of community planning and natural resources to my water resources engineering background. 

Selected Presentations and Publications

Michaelis,K., P.McGovern, and C.Carlson.  “Managing Nutrients in America’s Hometown – Plymouth, Massachusetts.”  Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) 2007, San Diego, CA.  October 2007.  [Paper]

Carlson, C., J.Crippen, and S.Saliba. “Involving Municipalities in Wastewater Service Delivery in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.”  Empowers Regional Symposium: End-User’s Ownership and Involvement in Integrated Water Resource Management. Cairo, Egypt.  November 2005. [Presentation, Paper]

Saliba, S., C. Carlson and J.Crippen.  “Small Village Wastewater Treatment Systems.” United States Embassy Annual Conference, Beirut Lebanon.  November 2005.  [Poster]

Carlson, C.  “Working Together to Achieve More - Manchester’s Supplemental Environmental Projects Program.” New Hampshire Lakes Association – Annual Lakes Congress, Manchester, New Hampshire. June 2002. [Presentation]

Carlson, C. “Overview of EPA Phase II Stormwater Regulations”. Massachusetts Water Pollution Control Association (MWPCA) Quarterly Meeting, Westford, Massachusetts.  March 2002. [Presentation]

Carlson, C. and P.Reidy. “Correlation between Rainfall and Tides in Boston Harbor.” Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) 1999, New Orleans, Louisiana.  October 1999.  [Presentation, Paper]

Carlson, C. “Oceanic Convection in the Presence of Rotation.” Student Research Conference, University of Lowell (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell), Lowell, Massachusetts.  May 1996.  [Presentation, Paper]

Carlson, C. “A Single Plume Model of Open-Ocean Rotating Convection.” Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.  April 1996. [Master’s Thesis]

Carlson, C. “Laboratory Measurement of Hydraulic Conductivity of Compacted Connecticut Valley Varved Clay from Deerfield, MA: Evaluation of Suitability for Landfill Cover.” University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.  June 1993.  [Undergraduate Honors Thesis]

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