June 2015, Volume 19, Number 3

Features

 

Leap Frogging Into Transportation Logistics

Biologist Dr. Larry Frolich, a professor of natural sciences at Wolfson Campus, is taking some time away from studying exotic frogs in the high Andes to apply his scientific talents to the human arena. One of his projects, called “Ibarra Verde,” seeks to green the Ecuadoran city of Ibarra where Frolich spends his free time between semesters.

The initiative, a collaborative effort of the Universidad Técnica del Norte and the local government, will improve Ibarra’s transport strategies using data and advanced technological tools and analysis. The project is a first of its kind for a medium-size urban area like Ibarra.

Untangling the Jumble

“We are working to analyze people’s transport needs to make the entire system more efficient and user-friendly,” Frolich said. Ibarra currently has a hodgepodge of private contractors and bus operators that provide transportation services to the city.

“We will use online mapping tools and other innovations to review traffic patterns,” Frolich explained. “This helps operators meet demand and go where the people are, while also ensuring increased safety.”

The objectivity and problem-solving talents Frolich developed studying furtive amphibians are important tools he brings to the Ibarra Verde endeavor, but a subtle facet of his scientific focus speaks to quality-of-life issues. His work with urban human ecology is an attempt to improve aspects of living by looking at factors such as stress in addition to city planning strategies, including traffic-flow logistics.

“This is where we can learn from the Ecuadorans, who typically handle certain types of stressors better than we do and who also find ways to do more with fewer resources,” Frolich said.

Implications Outside Ibarra

There are mutual benefits of the program for those living in South Florida who may never travel to Ibarra.

“This is a two-way street,” Frolich said. “It’s not just the global North coming in with our ideas. In these projects, we learn a lot from the global South to bring back to Miami, and we get a different perspective.”

His findings are the catalyst for a second project he is taking on with colleagues at the Earth Ethics Institute at MDC who will study consumption and how it impacts both international and personal realms.

“We would like people to think about how much is enough,” Frolich said. “How much connectivity, how much house, how much digital life? Those things shape your own life as much as they affect the environment as a whole.”

To learn more about the research and project, see ibarraverde.com.


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