Green Infrastructure Model

Research Assistant to Dr. Stuart Gaffin at Columbia University

Student in Physical Science Research II & III at the Bronx High School of Science

New York, NY & Bronx, NY

October 2015-August 2018

Green infrastructure is vegetation that traps stormwater and cools its surroundings through evapotranspiration. During my work with Dr. Stuart Gaffin on thermal imaging and green infrastructure, I noticed that green infrastructure sites, such as bioswales and stormwater greenstreets, in New York City were clustered in certain areas, especially in those that  I knew to have low heat vulnerability. Based on this observation, I independently created a model to evaluate the effectiveness of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s green infrastructure program. I first created a heat vulnerability index (HVI) by looking at risk factors (age and poverty index) for all of New York City’s 188 Census neighborhoods, a much more accurate model than that of the existing case studies using United Health Fund (UHF) neighborhoods. This allowed me to find the ideal distribution of green infrastructure sites to target the areas with the highest heat vulnerability. I determined the number of green infrastructure sites already in each neighborhood to calculate a control HVI. By comparing the actual and control HVI values for each neighborhood, I calculated the effectiveness of the program. Finally, I performed a multicriteria decision analysis in QGIS using Python algorithms to rank the neighborhoods for future green infrastructure construction.



Looking back, there are many aspects of this project that could have been improved, such as the number of factors considered and the GIS techniques used. However, this remains one of my proudest projects because through it, I taught myself the basics of GIS, a tool crucial to my planning studies, and I was exposed to my current field of interest: using research to create tangible solutions that address the issues, especially climate-related problems, that affect people's daily lives.  


Through this project, I was able to travel to present my research and meet other students passionate about research from across the country. One of my favorite experiences was the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. After presenting in New York, I was selected to present at the national symposium in Maryland. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my work with a new audience and learning from the wide range of research from other students.

The New York Metro and Long Island delegations at the National JSHS awards ceremony

The New York Metro and Long Island delegations outside the White House during our trip to Washington, D.C.

© Natasha Stamler 2020