Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2014


John Van Buren


Over three million people call Long Island their home. With access to beautiful landscapes, world-renowned beaches, and proximity to New York City, it is no wonder that so many proudly call this geographic stretch of glacial till their home. However, throughout the years our actions do not necessarily reflect this affection we have to our home. Years of sprawl and human infestation across the island have resulted in widespread environmental degradation. Specifically, the water we drink and the beaches we enjoy have become endangered. I plan on studying the urban ecology of how intensified population growth led to the eutrophication of the estuaries of the south shore as well how it has impacted our sole source aquifer. The natural history of Long Island sets the scene for discussing how these environmental problems arose from colonial outpost to modern day suburb. These water issues are inextricably linked to the loss of the maritime economy that followed. Long Island is surrounded by three main water bodies – the Long Island Sound to the north, the Peconic Estuary to the East, and the South Shore Estuary Reserve to the south. For the purpose of keeping the scope of this thesis concise, I focus on the latter water body. We can utilize overarching ecological design principles in tandem with policy solutions to better live in the place where we live, as well as crucially needed water policies to solve Long Island’s groundwater problem, applying federal and state legislation. My solutions address renewable energy use for the Island by looking at the proposed Long Island Off-Shore Wind Farm. These issues of sustainability are important to address if we want a secure future on this island that we call home. In this thesis, I strive to examine the effects of three million people living on an island with finite resources and how together and through exciting and innovative new designs we can create a more sustainable way of island life.