Poster Presentation: Organizing Urban Transects For A Sustainable Transformation Of Economic Partners

The session “Organizing Urban Transects for a Sustainable Transformation of Economic Partnerships (OUTSTEP) – The Lower Great Lakes” will feature organizers, speakers and evaluators presenting the ideas and concepts, the interdisciplinary team building process, and the community stakeholder involvement and evaluation. Testimony from participating governmental, non-governmental, private stakeholders a well as tribal “right holders” will be presented.

Urban areas, and their rural watersheds, in the Lower Great Lakes (LGL) Region face present and future LGL-wide sustainability and resilience challenges. For instance, it is forecasted that the LGL Region – even though potentially afflicted by more frequent intense weather - will not be as severely impacted by climate change as other parts of the US. Urban areas in the LGL region, intersected by rural areas, may become a corridor of relative climatic stability compared to other regions in the United States, which might lead to in-migration.

Meeting the LGL-wide sustainability and resilience challenges requires interdisciplinary research and testing of alternatives. Consequently, researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) convened a workshop for academic researchers, sustainability and resilience officers, community stakeholders and student representatives in the LGL Region. The three-day OUTSTEP workshop - Organizing Urban Transects for a Sustainable Transformation of Economic Partnerships (OUTSTEP) funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation - evaluated the assets, opportunities and barriers available to create a holistically connected urban and rural LGL Region that is an equitable climate refuge.

The OUTSTEP workshop leveraged the seven dimensions of the PEOPLES Resilience Framework and the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) as well as existing community stakeholder initiatives such as the Buffalo Partnership for the Public Good (PPG), the Erie County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and UB Sustainability for the workshop’s guiding principles. While the 17 UN SDGs provided the sustainability challenge and disciplinary context, the PEOPLES Resilience Framework (Renschler et al., 2010) provided the conference’s main organizing principle. A session will be devoted to each of the seven dimensions of systems’ functionality in landscapes: 1) Population and Demographics, 2) Ecosystem services, 3) Organized Governmental Services, 4) Physical Infrastructure and Lifelines, 5) Lifestyle and Community Competence, 6) Economic Services, and 7) Socio-cultural Services.

We propose to better integrate quantitative measures for resilience and sustainable development to account for the complexities of both across multi-cultural and multi-national boundaries (Renschler, 2013). The so- called 'PEOPLES Resilience Framework' was successfully used to create partnerships and communicate pre- and post-disaster recovery of extreme events. PEOPLES can be combined with environmental, infrastructure, economic or any other quantitative model to assess future scenarios. The Geospatial Interface of the Water Erosion Prediction Project (GeoWEPP, Renschler, 2003) is a state-of-the-art, quantitative, scenario-based watershed assessment model used by researchers and practitioners around the world. GeoWEPP and other quantitative, process-based models can support decision-makers to assess the functionality and response to changes in climate and land use.

The example of the Cattaraugus Creek Watershed Strategy (Boyer et al., 2013) with the Seneca Nation of Indians and other stakeholders in Western New York, USA, illustrates how one can create win- win partnerships based on qualitative and quantitative measures among all stakeholders. This proposed integrated watershed management approach creates long-term partnerships, particularly those in communities exposed to the need for sustainable natural resources development and reduction of risks of natural and man-made hazards. Once future climate scenarios and policy agendas of natural resources use and risk management are defined, stakeholders can utilize the modeling tools to collaboratively assess the functionality in future and near real-time scenarios to visualize and to convert the systems’ functionality to a regional and global, interdisciplinary language of measuring resilience with numbers, statistics and projections.

Examples to illustrate that the novel OUTSTEP approach generated systematic pathways to converge on research topics by raising awareness of challenges and community needs, the effectiveness of science and policy communication, creating the common ground necessary to formulate research projects at multiple scales. The presented OUTSTEP approach to create a research and community outreach network enables team building for researchers and community stakeholders through collaborative design of research projects with output targeted to support practitioners and policy makers in their decision making process.

Boyer, B., Carpenter, B., Renschler, C.S. and Vallone Kellam, R. (2013). Cattaraugus Creek Watershed Resource Guide and Proposed Watershed Planning Strategy. URL: (Dec 30 2013)
Renschler, C. S. (2003). Designing geo-spatial interfaces to scale process models: The GeoWEPP approach. Hydrological Processes, 17, 1005–1017
Renschler, C. S. (2013) The PEOPLES Resilience Framework – An Integrated Quantitative Measure and Modeling of Sustainable Development and Disaster Risk Reduction. United Nations (UN) Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015. UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Geneva, Switzerland. 10 p. ISBN 978-92-1-132042-8.
Renschler, C. S., Fraizer* A. E., Arendt, L. A., Cimellaro, G. P., Reinhorn, A. M., & Bruneau, M. (2010). A Framework for Defining and Measuring Resilience at the Community Scale: The PEOPLES Resilience Framework. U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Office of Applied Economics Engineering Laboratory NIST GCR 10-930. Gaithersburg, MD. 73 p. (ISSN 1520-295X).


  • Chris Renschler, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director - LESAM - Landscape-based Environmental System Analysis & Modeling Lab, University at Buffalo (UB)