Category Archives: Cool research

Addressing Socioeconomic Status as a Barrier to an Equitable Education

A common fallacy which is perpetuated in Dominant American Culture is that due to a free public school system, all students have access to an equitable education. However, absolute mobility–the fraction of children who earn more than their parents–has sharply declined. Statistics from the 1940s indicate that absolute mobility was recorded at nearly 90%, compared to 50% in the 1980s.

Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss from the Economic Policy Institute have expanded on this phenomenon in their paper “Education Inequalities at the School Starting Gate” which was written September 27, 2017.

Employing data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on kindergarten classes from 1989-1999 and 2010-2011, which measured gaps in skills by social class. These gaps existed in both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and was measured against 12 case studies of communities that created comprehensive educational strategies for low-income children.

Utilizing socioeconomic status (SES) as a metric in their study, they found that paternal activities, parental expectations, and pre-K participation reduced the gaps between high-SES and low-SES students, but do not necessarily eliminate them. This indicated that family characteristics and investments, while contributing to student success and the SES gap, do not definitively explain why the gap continues to grow. Garcia and Weiss also state, that while parental participation in pre-K programs and time spent with younger students “cushioned” negative effects resulting from low-SES, they did not compensate for achievement gaps completely.

Garcia and Weiss conclude that policy-makers have neglected to address inequality in education, and that greater investments in early childhood development and education with comprehensive support for children throughout their academic careers would significantly address achievement gaps for disadvantaged children.

This study ardently supports early childhood education and engagement. Public consciousness of educational inequality has increased in recent years, and is evidenced through initiatives for universal pre-school, Governor Newsom’s endorsement of the First Five Program, and the shift from No Child Left Behind to Common Core. However, while these initiatives place an emphasis on early childhood education as a mechanism to critically advance education gaps from an international perspective, this paper specifically emphasized the importance of early childhood education for disadvantaged communities in addressing SES gaps.


The Effectiveness of Art Therapy Interventions in Reducing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms in Pediatric Trauma Patients

The Effectiveness of Art Therapy Interventions in Reducing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms in Pediatric Trauma Patients, examines the efficiency of art therapy interventions. The findings are based from an outcome-based art therapy research project at a large urban hospital trauma center. Most of the patients were in in the hospital for mild to moderate injuries.  The patients in the sample were ages seven to seventeen, with the average age of 10, 70% of the patients were males.

The goal of the art therapy program, Chapman Art Therapy Treatment Intervention (CATTI), was to reduce PTSD symptoms for pediatric trauma patients at San Francisco General Hospital, determine the incidence rate of PTSD in pediatric trauma patients following an acute traumatic injury, determine the outcome of a specific art therapy treatment intervention in reducing PTSD symptoms in a population of hospitalized children,determine the outcome of the intervention at 1-week, 1-month and 6-month follow-up evaluations,examine the ability of parents or caregivers to assess the child’s level of stress, and examine the ability of nursing staff to assess the child’s level of stress. In order to measure the effectiveness of the program several indexes were evaluated including the Post Traumatic Stress Index for adolescents and parents, as well as the PTSD Scale, and a nursing checklist. The CATTI involved one-on-one kinesthetic activity at the child’s bedside, which involved creating a narrative event by drawing the traumatic event in order to express trauma and retell the story using drawing. The study does not indicate a significant difference in reduction of PTSD symptoms between the experiment and control group. The study did show some reduction in acute stress.

Linda Chapman MA, ATR-BC , Diane Morabito RN, MPH , Chris Ladakakos PhD , Herbert Schreier MD & M. Margaret Knudson MD (2001) The Effectiveness of Art Therapy Interventions in Reducing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms in Pediatric Trauma Patients, Art Therapy, 18:2, 100-104, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2001.10129750

Community Driven Development Assessment

Published by the Asian Development Bank, the report, The KALAHI-CIDSS Project in the Philippines: Sharing Knowledge on Community Driven Development documents both the improvement of service delivery and the governance in beneficiary communities as a result of community driven development practices. The assessment was conducted in three municipalities and nine villages in these municipalities. The assessment focuses on the impact of community participation, subproject utility, sustainability, accountability and transparency, and institutional impacts. The data is derived from a survey of 180 residents in 6 villages and focus group discussions with local government officials, community volunteers, and KALAHI-CIDSS (Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services) staff (xii).

In terms of community participation, the assessment concluded that the municipal inter-barangay forum is an effective method for subproject selection. Women are involved in the implementation step. Despite barriers poor households face,  poorest community members are strongly involved and are very articulate during the village assemblies. Successful adjustments were made in order to meet the norms of indigenous tribes. The key social actors in the subproject selection consisted of: village captains, village officials, mayors, community residents, and community volunteers. Competition among villages has both positive and negative consequences. Competition both increases participation and frustration for subprojects that are not chosen.

The utility and sustainability of projects are beneficial in terms of transportation and access to goods and services. Reasons on how subprojects could increase household incomes for improving the water system, road, and school are provided (27). Operation and maintenance reports provide an area for improvement.

Accountability and transparency at the village level show very positive results with community residents feeling the there is relatively free corruption because complaints are resolved locally. Corruption can be reduced through the high level of community driven development.

The institutional impact at the village level uncovers that dependence on external resources will remain. Limitations include turnover of local chief executives. Major challenges include bureaucratic capture and scaling up due to longer-term funding and lack of bottom-up planning.

The report also covers the main principles and ethical framework of KALAHI-CIDSS (2) as well as the eligibility screening tools to pick municipalities for implementation of community driven development (9) and framework for the assessment (14). Overall, the report concludes that community driven development creates an effective platform for integrating and coordinating key components of an effective poverty reduction strategy (42). I found this report to be very detailed and analytical.
Gonzalez, R. (2012).The KALAHI-CIDSS Project in the Philippines: Sharing Knowledge on Community-Driven Development. Asian Development Bank.Retrieved from

Review of Community-Based and – Driven Development

This review provides insight on community-based development (CBD) and community-driven development (CDD). The review is based on economic techniques and anthropological methods.

CBD is  a term for projects that actively include beneficiaries in their design and management. CDD refers to CBD in which the communities have direct control over key project decisions. The article begins by summarizing the conceptual foundations and characteristics of projects that best thrive in CBD and CDD. CDD seeks to enhance sustainability, make development more inclusive, empower people, build social capital, and strengthen governance.

The first section covers a brief history of participatory development and development assistance. Next, participation, community, and social capital are discussed. Limitations of participation include financial losses and time commitments due to required adequate participation. In addition exposure to knowledge will not necessarily transform group attitudes. Participatory events are often very political in which outside agendas can be reflected. Furthermore, a community can be challenging to define due to complicated ethnic and religious identities.

The impact of CDD initiatives is discussed. In terms of targeting, the outside center can often identify poor communities, but does less well with identifying the poor within communities. Community involvement does not always improve public service delivery. Community-managed projects are better maintained than projects managed by the local government.

Economic and social heterogeneity and risk capture by elites are examined. Collective action can be challenging in a large homogeneous group in which the individual can make no significance in the level of provision of the good. Inequality of interest is more common in larger groups. Higher levels of village inequality reduce the probability of participation in any group.

The role of external agents and the state is addressed. Community initiatives are typically created by a central authority. Sometimes field staff can be driven by incentives which are not in line with the project needs. Accountability and state facilitation is key in participation. CBD and CDD can be challenging to scale up because creating a project requires a long-term vision and dedicated leaders. Projects can be scaled up by carefully selecting pilots in selected communities. The process should be gradual and it should be noted that initial evaluations might be unfavorable. Evaluations should be administered throughout the project.

I thought that this review did a good job at summarizing key findings and strengths and limitations from CBD and CDD projects. During my trip to the Philippines with Dr.Coles I will keep these findings in mind as well as questions including: at what point does the shift go from community based development to community driven development? I will look to see if I can find patterns that support or go against findings from this article.
Ghazala, M. and  Vijayendra,R. (2004).Community-Based and – Driven Development: A Critical Review. The World Bank Research Observer, 19, (1), 1-39. Retrieved from

Marine Mammals as Sentinel Species for Oceans and Human Health

Bossart, G.D. 2006. Marine Mammals as Sentinel Species for Oceans and Human Health. Oceanography, Volume 19, Number 2, a quarterly journal of The Oceanography Society.

This article discusses the importance of marine mammals as a sentinel for human health and ocean health. Marine mammals are beneficial at helping to identify changes in the environment due to long life spans, feed at high trophic level, and extensive fat storage that help with anthropogenic toxin analysis. Marine mammals are also beneficial in the way that humans find that they can connect with them due to their charisma. The relationship between threats to marine mammals and consumption, population growth and behavioral patterns of humans are directly correlated.

The research question that is being asked is what are the diseases and threats that marine mammal sentinel’s are warning us about? In this paper they discuss the sentinel species as being the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), West Indian Manatee(Trichechus manatus latirpstris), California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus), and the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis).

Some of the different kinds of human health threats that have been determined by analyzing marine mammal biopsies and blood samples are infectious diseases, pollutants and harmful algal blooms.

California Sea Lions that have been founded stranded have had necropsies done and found that around 20% have urogenital cancer which is caused by herpes virus and contaminants due to PCBs and DDTs. The occurrence of these contaminants is unnerving due to the fact that Sea Lions feed and live in highly human populated areas up and down the coast. An analysis was done on a population of Sea Otter’s and found that 38% on the California coast have toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. These protozoans can survive and life in foods that are not only eaten by Sea Otters but by humans as well. Heavy metal pollution can be analyzed in the fatty tissues of animals such as Polar bears, Bowhead Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. Pathologic analysis was conducted on Dolphins and manatees and was found that the emergence and resurgence of diseases can be caused by environmental distress.

Harmful Algal Blooms have been observed to significantly impact high numbers of sea lions, manatees and dolphins. There are numerous types of toxins that cause the poisoning of shellfish, which in turn are eaten by marine mammals and then are found washed up and beached due to neurotoxins.

Statistical analysis was not used in this article because genetic testing was primarily used also because it was a case study and not an overall scientific article.

Potential vessel collisions with Southern Hemisphere humpback whales wintering off Pacific Panama

Guzman, H. Gomez, C. Guevara, C. Kleivane, L. Potential vessel collisions with Southern Hemisphere humpback whales wintering off Pacific Panama. Marine Mammal Science. Volume 29, Issue 4 629- 642, October 2013.

Vessel and Whale collisions are a common occurrence throughout the world’s oceans. There are many reports of baleen whales being hit or struck by vessels. This has increased more and more due to globalization as well as the immense amount of shipping that happens in all oceans. In Central America, both the northern and the southern hemisphere Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate to the Pacific Panama, warm waters for the winter to mate.

This study was to evaluate the potential for collisions between vessels and humpback whales wintering off Pacific Panama by following movements of 15 individual whales using tagging with satellite transmitters and comparing the data to commercial vessel track data using the global Automatic Identification System (AIS). The type of data needed to answer this question was individual tracks of whales and vessels in the same region. Real time satellite transmitters and tags were used. The tags were speared into the area 2-5inches away from the back of the dorsal fin. The AIS data that was used provided ship to ship and ship to shore information including name and type of vessel, position, hour, dimensions, speed, heading etc.

Data processing and analysis was primarily taking the AIS data and using ArcGIS 10.0 to display the interactions of whales and vessels by defining time or day. Whale transmissions were processed using Satellite Tracking and Analysis Tool (STAT), which helped filter and edit locations and organize data into different categories of interest (bathymetry, transmission quality, speed and distances).

The use of tagging on animals is always a tricky one because in order to place a tag there is much human disturbance and a concern that the tagging itself will harm the individual whale. However, the information that is able to be collected is so important to the understanding of whales and the way that they live their lives. The use of a tag for spatial data is a fantastic idea and so is using the AIS system that is already in place and collecting all that data anyways. I think that the data collection processes were sufficient and it is always fun to see ArcGIS being used in a paper and Redlands being cited. The overlaying of the tracks of the vessels and the whales by time is very useful and would help give a great picture about the importance of reduced speeds and increased awareness that is needed in these waters all the time but especially in breeding season.

Spatial and Social connectivity of fish- eating “Resident” killer whales in the northern North Pacific

In Holly Fearnbach et al.’s article “Spatial and social connectivity of fish- eating “Resident” killer whales (Orincus orca) in the Northern North Pacific” published in Marine Biology Journal; February 2014, Vol. 161 Issue 2, p. 459- 472. The article’s topic covers the distribution of “Resident” Orca whales in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. This area of the world has some of the most productive long line fishing and ground fish fisheries as well as a large number of resident and transient Orcas that migrate through. The relationship between the fishing industry and the increase population of resident Orcas in this Gulf had not been studied before until this long-term data analysis.

The question that was being asked was where are individual and pods of Resident Orcas being seen in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea and what is the behavioral and social makeup of the group? Seasonal boat observations and photo identification collected for 10 years of spatial movements of orcas helped to create the Bayesian analysis that was performed on pair-wise associations and cluster identification.  Over 3,058 Orca photo- identifications were taken from 331 encounters, which ended up identifying 532 individuals. Due to this article and the question being based off of field research and on marine mammals not on humans, yes expert knowledge was used but so was just hands on field data collection.

This research has an interesting aspect to it in that it is long-term data collection in order to create behavioral family analysis and the Bayesian analysis. The use of the Bayesian statistics was possible due to the large amount of data and due to the degrees of belief that were involved in the knowledge of individual Orcas social encounters. Understanding the clusters and spatial movements of the Orcas could benefit the distribution and possible need to move fishing boats and lines away from migratory patterns of the Orcas. My evaluation is that this knowledge is crucial to limiting the unnecessary human interactions between fisherman and Orcas. This limitation is important in order to ensure Orca safety and decrease entanglement, which is bad for fisherman and the whales.

Jounal Exercise #1 (Volunteer Pollution Cleanup Project in Mexico)

The article, Voluntary Environmental Regulation in Developing Countries: Mexico’s Clean Industry Program, by Blackman, Lahiri, Planter, and Pina was about the voluntary pollution-control programs in developing countries. To figure this out they used the program in Mexico, their Clean Industry Program, as a case study to figure out if voluntary clean-up programs were effective in developing countries.

Basically the researchers wanted to know if the plants in Mexico that were fined for being polluters were the ones that went into this voluntary Clean Industry Program. They also wanted to know if it made any difference to go into this program. In other words, they wanted to know if the polluters that went through this got fined less (and thus polluted less) later after they got out of the program.

To figure out how the voluntary program in Mexico worked, the researchers basically asked two questions. The first was, do the companies that go through Mexico’s Clean Industry Program pollute less afterwards? Then they wanted to know, does Mexico’s Clean Industry Program attracted those who were fined in the past? In order to find out these questions they needed economic data about the companies that went into the program (to find out if they were fined before and after) and they needed a list of what companies went into the program. These they got through public and private records from the Mexican Ministry of Economics and the Federal Environmental Attorney General’s office.

This research question concluded what have been pretty conclusive with other research questions of this kind, that voluntary environmental programs in developing countries do not seem to work very well. The research was pretty simple and straightforward. They did have to get rid of a lot of data and just trimmed it down to data that was relevant and that they could handle, but it seems like it was a sound analysis. It seems as though there is not enough incentive for companies to keep cleaning up their act after they go through the program.

They did find that there was a correlation between companies that were fined and the participation in the program, but the program did not improve the environmental performance of the company in the long run. This is almost puzzling because it shows that maybe the company does want to clean up, at least in order to not get fined, but does not keep it up in the end, maybe because it costs too much or because of lack of other incentives.

This article analyzed what companies go into voluntary environmental programs as well as how they fared when they got out of the program. It used Mexico’s Clean Industry Program as a case study and found that the more fined organizations go into the programs, but they do not get any better when they go out. Thus, voluntary programs do not work very well in the developing world.