We assemble diverse, interdisciplinary teams of faculty, external experts and students to collaborate on the world’s greatest environmental and sustainability challenges and turn research into action for the common good. Our research isn’t restricted to the lab: we are transforming Georgetown’s campus into a living laboratory where we develop urgently-needed, scalable solutions to green the campus and broader community—and shape the future of our planet.

The Vision

The Earth Commons will consist of thematic “Commons” with dedicated faculty and staff and convene internal and external researchers, academics, experts, practitioners and students to understand and address each theme. The Commons will include Climate & Energy; Food & Water Security; Environmental Justice; Biodiversity Conservation; Environmental Health; University Sustainability; and the Environmental Innovation Lab, a campus think tank.

All, Scholarship

Understanding changes in reducing pesticide use by farmers: Contribution of the behavioural sciences

Agricultural land is a socio-ecological system in which environmental, economic, agronomic and social components are closely linked and interact in a non-linear and complex way. As such, it has become evident that pesticide reduction can only be achieved by jointly considering these different elements of the socio-ecosystem. In this article, we first discuss the behavioural factors involved in changing agricultural practices with a focus on pesticide practices. We then attempt to assess the respective influence of these factors on farming practices. Finally, we analyze how these behavioural factors could be used to induce concrete changes towards the adoption of environmentally friendly practices and question their consideration in future research.

January 23, 2024

All, Scholarship

Environmental and geographical factors influence the occurrence and abundance of the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, in Hawai‘i

Hawaiian honeycreepers, a group of endemic Hawaiian forest birds, are being threatened by avian malaria, a non-native disease that is driving honeycreepers populations to extinction. Avian malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium relictum, which is transmitted by the invasive mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus. Environmental and geographical factors play an important role in shaping mosquito-borne disease transmission dynamics through their influence on the distribution and abundance of mosquitoes. We assessed the effects of environmental (temperature, precipitation), geographic (site, elevation, distance to anthropogenic features), and trap type (CDC light trap, CDC gravid trap) factors on mosquito occurrence and abundance.

January 23, 2024

All, Scholarship

Animal evolution at the ocean’s water-air interface

Innovation is a key to evolutionary success and entrance into novel ecosystems.1 Species that float freely at the ocean’s surface, termed obligate neuston (also called pleuston, here referred to simply as neuston), include highly specialized taxa from distinct evolutionary lineages that evolved floating morphologies.2 In 1958, Soviet scientist, A.I. Savilov,3 stated that floating animal species are derived from benthic ancestors, rather than species from the adjacent pelagic zone, and that floating morphologies are homologous to benthic attachment structures. To test Savilov’s hypothesis, we constructed molecular phylogenies and ancestral states for all major floating groups for which molecular data were available.

January 23, 2024

Research Programs

Below is a list of research programs related to the work of the Earth Commons. Check back on this page for a more comprehensive list of research programs exploring environmental and sustainability issues across Georgetown Schools.

Marra Lab

Director Peter Marra’s research uses birds to help us define and understand broad environmental issues, tackling contemporary conservation challenges by addressing fundamental knowledge gaps at the intersection of ornithology, ecology and conservation biology. The Marra Lab in Georgetown’s Department of Biology investigates migratory connectivity, full annual cycle ecology, urban ecology & applied conservation, Kirtland’s Warbler conservation & management, and identifies the smoking guns in bird declines.

Research Projects

Migratory Connectivity

Advancing the conservation and understanding of animals throughout their full life cycle by promoting the science of migratory connectivity.

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Atlas of Migratory Connectivity

Through the Migratory Connectivity Project, led by Georgetown University and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and together with the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we are working on an important and exciting two volume book entitled “Discovering Unknown Migrations: The Atlas of Migratory Connectivity for the Birds of North America.” 

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