2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


BOWER, Peter M., Environmental Science, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027 and LIDDICOAT, Joseph C., Environmental Science, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, jliddico@barnard.edu

Brownfields are former industrial sites that have recreational, residential, and commercial real estate value in urban areas if there is not lasting pollution to groundwater from previous use of the property. To train undergraduate college and university students and employees in local, state, and the federal government in environmental forensics, Barnard College in collaboration with Columbia University, developed Brownfield Action, which is a network-based, interactive, digital space and simulation in which participants explore and solve hydrology problems that are associated with brownfields. The instruction (embedded and to be discovered in the simulation) is one of groundwater contamination complete with underground contamination plumes in a fictitious town with buildings, roads, wells, water tower, homes, and businesses as well as a municipal government with relevant historical documents. Participants work collaboratively in teams of two, sign a contract with a development corporation to conduct a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), receive a budget, and compete with other teams to fulfill the contract while maximizing profit. To reach a valid conclusion in the form of a professional-level ESA and 3-D maps of the physical site, teams construct a detailed narrative from diverse forms of information, including socio-historical and a scientific dataset comprised of over 2,000,000 data points. Brownfield Action forces the participants to act on their perceptions of the interlocking realms of knowledge, theory and practical experience, providing an opportunity for them to gain practice at tackling the complexity and ambiguity of a large-scale, relevant investigation of groundwater contamination.