Fordham Urban Sustainability and Ecosystems--FUSE is an initiative at Fordham University that spans 40 years and multiple generations of students. In the 1970′s, a group of undergraduate students led by John Fontanetta formed FUSES--Fordham Urban Solar EcoSystem. Their purpose was to build a cheap, highly efficient greenhouse that could be used for aqua- and agri-culture year-round.
Today, although statements like "green revolution", "sustainability", and "climate change" have become political buzz words, much research still needs to be done in urban ecology and sustainability in order to make empirically sound recommendations to policy makers. Thus, a reborn FUSE serves as an avenue for students at Fordham University to make contributions to the scientific literature in the areas of urban ecology and sustainability.
To better understand how urbanization affects biological communities and ecosystem processes, an urban-to-rural transect was established. The gradient includes multiple city, suburban, and rural sites, with a total of 10 sites including Central Park in Manhattan and The Louis Calder Center, Fordham University's 113-acre biological field station in Westchester County.
Impervious surfaces dominate urban environments thereby decreasing the amount of green space and disrupting the land's ability to act as a healthy ecosystem. Green roofs can play a role in replacing some of that lost habitat space as well as provide other ecosystem services. Currently, projects are underway that focus on the value of green roofs as migrating bird stopover and breeding bird habitat, the variability of insect and bird diversity on green roofs of various types and ages, and on the patterns of plant and insect succession on green roofs over time.
Avian Urban Ecology
Night migration of birds and bats through New York City.
Understanding how birds assess and utilize increasingly large, brightly lit, and noisy cities as they travel through urban-rural corridors and encounter tall buildings, towers, and aircraft is essential to their conservation. However, little is known about how birds and bats evaluate and navigate the resources available in and obstacles presented by urban areas during migration, which generally occurs at night and is confounded by ubiquitous, yet highly variable, light and noise pollution. Projects use specialized microphones and digital recorders to record the calls birds make as they migrate at night in conjunction with Merlin avian radar to examine how light and noise affect birds as they migrate through urban landscapes.
Stress in urban migratory stopover sites.
Recent studies show that migrating birds and bats that stopover in urban parks are able to acquire substantial fat reserves. Projects are currently supplementing those data by evaluating whether these urban stopover sites are also more stressful than rural stopover sites through quantification of stress hormone levels, migration patterns using night flight calls, and variability in foraging patterns.
Vector Urban Ecology
Work in the Vector Ecology Lab at The Louis Calder Center focuses on interactions among vectors (ticks and mosquitoes), the pathogens they carry, and the vertebrates they feed on, in the context of an environment that is both urbanized and dynamic. The steady rise in human Lyme disease cases in the Northeastern U.S. over the last few decades is related to landscape changes caused by suburbanization. Although the net amount of forest has not changed in the region significantly over the past two decades, continued building has created a higher number of forest patches interspersed with residential development. The proximity of humans, wildlife, and vectors in habitats that are suitable for all three groups virtually ensures exposure of humans to the disease agents that these vectors transmit.
The goal of our work is to determine what factors regulate vector abundance over time, emphasizing long-term studies that provide a foundation for studying population and community structure. An urban-to-rural gradient is used to study how human presence influences the life cycles of various vector species. In addition, we ask how invasive vector species adapt to life in urban-suburban environments, especially given the potential for emerging diseases to gain a foothold and spread in our region. Each of our projects, while ecological in nature, has implications for public health.