This summer, as part of the Data Refuge Project, I set out to develop a podcast with Jamie Gobreski on environmental data in Southeast Philadelphia, with a focus on the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex. Our aim was to co-produce one of a later series of ten podcasts. Accompanying this audio, I wanted to have a short essay explaining the data story of the refinery. To make data more personal I wanted to personify the lack of data in a quirky fashion. I did this by creating a ‘Missing Data Report’ in the format of Missing Person’s Report.
My research considered the precarious location of the refinery. It is the largest refining complex on the Eastern seaboard, located in a city of over 1.5 million people, and has a history of contravening regulations such as the Clean Air Act. Another concern about the location of the refineries is that they are situated near the confluence of two tidal rivers: The lower Schuylkill and the Delaware. I analyzed storm-surge data and sea-level rise simulations to understand the threat climate change could have on the refinery.
This research fellowship has taught me the benefits of experiential learning. The research included a two week ‘on-water intensive’ in which we participated in hands-on research and developed important relationships with faculty from Penn and Drexel and community members. I now have a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between the city of Philadelphia and water. Scientific documents, conversations and lectures have solidified my interest in climate data. This research experience allowed me to use my major in Environmental Management and Sustainability in combination with my minors in Urban Studies and Fine Arts to develop a podcast addressing urban environmental problems in a creative way.