S-C6 The Nexus in Cities: Measuring Impact and Exploring Solutions

More than two thirds of the world’s people will be living in cities by the year 2050, requiring basic amenities of Food, Energy and Water (FEW). At the global scale, FEW flows are noted to have large impacts on energy & GHG emissions, water sustainability and public health. But little is known about how urban residents, city planners and policymakers can shape the sustainability of FEW demand and supply to cities, which requires a trans-boundary urban systems perspective. This session will present: (a) Emerging analytic tools to assess environmental sustainability and health impacts of the FEW nexus from an urban systems view; (b) Field experiences of urban planners, researchers and practitioners, to identify solutions offered by cities to enhance sustainability at the FEW nexus.


  • Anu Ramaswami, Charles M. Denny Chair and Professor of Science Technology & Environmental Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Patricia Culligan, Professor, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University


  • Dana Boyer, PhD Candidate and Research Assistant, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Oliver Gao, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
  • Debbie Goettel, Mayor, City of Richfield, Minnesota
  • Joshua Newell, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan
  • Timothy Smith, Professor of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering and Sustainable Systems Management and Director, NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise at the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota

Dr. Anu Ramaswami is Charles M. Denny Chair Professor of Science Technology & Environmental Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Her work is interdisciplinary, spanning areas of sustainable infrastructure, urban systems, environmental engineering, industrial ecology, public health & public affairs. She is lead PI on two NSF projects related to sustainability, Partnership in International Research and Education: “Developing Low-Carbon Cities in the USA, China & India through Inter-Disciplinary Integration Across Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences & Public Health” and Sustainability Research Network: “Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities.” Both are related to exploring sustainability at the Food-Energy-Water nexus. (303-523-8130; anu@umn.edu)

Patricia Culligan is a leader in the field of water resources and urban sustainability. Culligan has worked extensively with The Earth Institute’s Urban Design Lab at Columbia University to explore novel, interdisciplinary solutions to the modern day challenges of urbanization, with a particular emphasis on the City of New York. Culligan is the director of a joint interdisciplinary Ph.D. program between Columbia Engineering and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation that focuses on designs for future cities, including digital city scenarios. Her research group is active in investigating the opportunities for green infrastructure, social networks, and advanced measurement and sensing technologies to improve urban water, energy, and environmental management. (212-854-3154; pjc2104@columbia.edu)

Dana Boyer is pursuing a PhD in the area of Sustainable Cities at the University of Minnesota. Her research studies urban food systems in India and the United States and the systems’ reliance on water and energy resources. The research works to assess both environmental resource impact of, and risk to, the urban food supply. The work also assesses how urban food system design interventions can mitigate potential supply risk and decrease water and energy resource intensity of food use. Before Minnesota, she earned a Master’s in Engineering from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut.

Oliver Gao is an Associate Professor in the graduate fields of (1) Civil and Environmental Engineering (Transportation Systems Engineering); (2) Systems Engineering; (3) the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs (CIPA); and (4) Air Quality in Earth and Atmospheric Science at Cornell University. His research focuses on transportation systems, environment (especially air quality and climate change), energy, and sustainable development. He also studies sustainable food systems, quantifying and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from food supply chains. Before joining Cornell, Gao was a quant in the mathematical and econometrical modeling division at the Rohatyn Group, LLG, a Wall Street hedge fund specializing in emerging markets. (607-254-8334; HG55@cornell.edu)

Joshua Newell is a broadly trained human-environment geographer, whose research focuses on questions related to urban sustainability, resource consumption, and environmental and social justice. Newell is the Principal Investigator of an NSF-funded workshop grant entitled “Scaling-up Urban Agriculture to Mitigate Food-Energy-Water Impacts.” (jpnewell@umich.edu)

Timothy Smith’s work focuses on policy and market adoption of technologies that enhance environmental performance, public and private governance of sustainability, and sustainability systems modeling in decision-making. Work directly related to the food-energy-water nexus includes the linking of econometric and bio-physical models of food value chains. Specifically, Smith’s current work assesses environmental and economic impacts of spatially explicit grain, animal, and food waste flows across production-consumption systems. (612-624-6755; timsmith@umn.edu)

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