A Low-Power Low-Cost Microbial Genetic Analyzer For Discovery and Monitoring of Ocean Microbes

Project: Research project


Place and local milieu have always been important considerations in the study of human behavior. However, place is typically measured with secondary data in aggregate form, largely ignoring critical, hyper-local information on neighborhood ecological conditions that may contribute to larger social and public health processes. Hyper-local information, which is rarely available via traditional neighborhood audits or secondary data, should include neighborhood aesthetics (e.g., architecture, trees, public art), physical disorder (e.g., litter, unkempt lots, building decay), social disorder (e.g., loitering, panhandling), pedestrian safety (e.g., lighting), and related street characteristics. When studies lack this information, the ability to connect and interpret the underlying effects of place on social problems is severely compromised. This study proposes a novel strategy to both collect and compare hyper-local information from an ecological perspective by focusing on physical and social disorder that occurs at a micro-level. Disorder is widely viewed as one of the most important concepts of the 20th century, considering its wide-reaching impacts on crime, health, neighborhood and individual outcomes. However, measuring disorder is particularly challenging because it is a multidimensional construct that varies by time, location, scale and gradient. To meet these measurement challenges, we propose using four different neighborhood audit techniques, including 1) classic systematic social observation, 2) windshield tours, 3) omnidirectional imagery, and 4) unmanned aerial systems (UAS). To the best of our knowledge, this would be the first application of UAS to measure disorder in the socio-economic planning and health sciences, and it is likely to improve upon alternative methods by capturing a more diverse, spatially and temporally informed characterization of neighborhood disorder and its effects on social problems. This includes building a corpus of knowledge on semi-public spaces such as alleyways, where physical access and assessments are difficult using traditional audit techniques. Further, we will use the developed methods and information to explore a critically important health issue for women, domestic violence, and its potential connections to place and disorder. Intellectual Merit The intellectual merit of this study is rooted in developing an accurate, cost efficient and safe aerial sensing platform for measuring the ecological structure of neighborhoods and collecting hyper-local information on place, including elements of social and physical disorder. In addition, it is anticipated that this platform will provide access to, and measurement of, places that were previously unattainable or off limits to researchers because of environmental and social barriers, drastically improving our understanding of the many nuanced ways in which neighborhoods can impact neighborhood and individual outcomes. Finally, with a substantive focus on linking disorder to domestic violence, this study will contribute to one of the most pressing womens health issues in the U.S. Broader Impacts Our interdisciplinary team members have productive track records in the fields of disorder, neighborhood change, crime, violence, public health and GIScience. The advanced analytics and UAS sensing platform framework detailed in this research will be widely applicable to the social, economic, health and natural sciences. We will generate innovative, cross-cutting applications and methodologies by pioneering new techniques for measuring disorder that capture ecological detail not generally available via existing methods. In doing so, this research will not only help public decision makers, health and law enforcement agencies in Phoenix to identify vulnerable populations and places that stigmatized by neighborhood disorder, but also to help prioritize locales for intervention. Further, the developed methods may serve as a blueprint for developing intervention strategies for other communities throughout the U.S. that are struggling with disorder and its deleterious social effects. Finally, in addition to providing STEM training to diverse and underrepresented students at both ASU and Drexel, published research, teaching efforts and participation in major international conferences, as well as forums and sponsored activities hosted by ASU will enable effective dissemination of project results to a wide audience, including students, policymakers at all levels and stakeholders throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Effective start/end date7/15/176/30/20


  • NSF: Directorate for Geosciences (GEO): $976,210.00


health science
Social Problems
domestic violence
building lot
public health
economic planning
social opportunity
teaching research
intervention strategy
natural sciences
micro level
public space
law enforcement
social effects