Xinyu Liu and Varsha Gopalakrishnan, PhD students in Prof. Bhavik Bakshi’s group at The Ohio State University work on integrating the role of ecosystem services into engineering design and decision making. Their work is motivated by the thinking that all engineered products and processes can be economically viable while respecting ecological limits. They use concepts from the fields such as Process Systems Engineering, Life Cycle Assessment, and Ecological Modeling to expand the boundary of traditional engineering methods to include ecosystems and to design systems that operate within nature’s carrying capacity. Ultimately, this research work aims to develop synergies between technological and ecological systems to meet human needs while ensuring sustainability and resilience.
The scale of problems they address varies spatially and temporally, across individual equipment to the life cycle and across technologies and ecosystems. Some of the problems they have focused on include designing integrated networks of technological and ecological systems for industrial plants, developing a theoretical framework to account for ecosystem services in life cycle assessment and life cycle evaluation of several emerging technologies.
As a part of the SRN project, Xinyu and Varsha are interested in understanding the ecosystem services and disservices from different forms of urban farming across multiple cities in the world. Farming activities are associated with a bundle of ecosystem services, such as food provisioning, carbon sequestration and water quality regulation. Considering multiple services simultaneously will prevent the impact shifting to other services, thus enabling more informative decision making. They are interested in analyzing multiple scenarios to understand the benefits of investing in green infrastructure like community gardens and urban farms. This work contributes to the integrated SRN framework by providing quantitative indicators to assess environmental sustainability and linking it to human well-being and livability.