Scientists & Staff
Michelle Kondo, Ph.D., is a scientist with the USDA-Forest Service, Philadelphia Field Station. She completed doctoral training in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington, and postdoctoral training in environmental health and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kondo's general research interests include:
- Environmental strategies for violence, injury and disease prevention
- Environmental health and environmental justice
- Geospatial and community-based research methods
Her research addresses the following broad questions: What are the health consequences of environmental disparities? By which physiological and psychosocial mechanisms do environments affect health? And, what impact can place-based and nature-based initiatives have on preventing and reducing violence, injuries, and disease? She is also interested in evaluating the influence of community participation in place-based initiatives on health outcomes. Some of her major projects include:
Changes in public health and safety associated with greening of vacant land and other greening and blight-reduction initiatives
Post-industrial cities throughout the Eastern US are developing innovative programs to reuse vacant lots. Cities are increasingly combining goals of vacant land stabilization with sustainability and public health and safety initiatives; vacant lots present opportunities to promote economic development, improve health and safety, and provide ecosystem services such as stormwater management. Dr. Kondo's research employs quasi-experimental and experimental methods in evaluating impacts of vacant lot reuse and other greening programs such as green stormwater infrastructure on health and safety.
Viability of Prescriptions for Nature Programs
Partnerships between doctors, hospitals, non-profit groups and land managers are developing across the US to initiate "Parks Rx" or "Nature Rx" programs which incorporate support for families in spending more time outdoors in to the medical system. This project evaluates effectiveness of Nature Rx programs in implementation and in increasing patient use of outdoor spaces.
Dr. Kondo's past research has investigated patterns of air pollution in goods-movement communities; air pollution-related stress and risk perception; and methods of community engagement in research and planning.
Why This Research is Important
Media Interviews and Spotlights
Science Magazine (February 26, 2018) "This city fights crime with gardening"
Philadelphia Inquirer (February 26, 2018). "Gun violence can be reduced by clearing vacant lots, study finds"
Planet Philadelphia (September 15, 2017) "Interview with Michelle Kondo of the US Forest Service about NaturePHL"
The Conversation (August 18, 2017). "Is it OK to drink cloudy tap water?"
Alliance for Community Trees (August 18, 2017). "Can Trees Help Decrease Violence?"
Philadelphia Inquirer (July 5, 2017). "Philly doctors are now prescribing park visits to city kids"
WCPN Ideastream (Cleveland; September 27, 2016) "Increasing Tree Equity -- One Cleveland Neighborhood at a Time"
WCPN Ideastream (Cleveland; August 29, 2016) "Green vs. Grey: How Can Trees Help Outdated Sewer Systems?"
ABC Radio (Australia; July 23, 2016) "Planting trees for crime reduction"
The Conversation (Australia; July 11, 2016) "Greening cities makes for safer neighbourhoods"
The Atlantic / Citilab (April 13, 2016) "Another Reason to Love Urban Green Space: It Fights Crime. A new body of evidence suggests that adding greenery in vacant or gray settings reduces criminal activity nearby"
AC Trees News (April 13, 2016). "Greening Up: Another Tool To Fight Crime?
The Marshall Project (December 9, 2015) "Could Trees Help Stop Crime? Researchers think turning more vacant lots green might work"
- Water Environment Federation: Stormwater Report (March 24, 2015) "Reduced Narcotics Possession Found Near Philadelphia Green Infrastructure"
- Philadelphia Inquirer (March 1, 2015). "GreenSpace: Phila. storm-water plan seen to have wider positives"
- WHYY News: The Pulse (September 25, 2014). "Does urban greening boost public health?"
- University of Washington, Ph.D. Urban Design and Planning, 2008
- University of Washington, M.U.P. Urban Design and Planning, 2001
- Carnegie Mellon University, B.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering, 1999
- Visiting Scholar, Barcelona Institute of Global Health 2018 - Current
- Adjunct Lecturer, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University 2017 - Current
- Adjunct Scholar, Center for Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania 2014 - Current
- Associate Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Center for Public Health Initiatives 2010 - Current
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology 2013 - 2014
- GPS/GIS Instructor, University of Pennsylvania, Guatemala Health Initiative 2012 - 2013
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice 2010 - 2013
- Visiting Assistant Professor, Seattle University, Institute of Public Service 2009 - 2010
- Fellow, University of Washington, NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) in Urban Ecology 2003 - 2005
- Environmental Consultant, Environmental Science Associates, Water and Wastewater Division, San Francisco, CA. 2001 - 2003
Publications & Products
- Branas, Charles C.; South, Eugenia; Kondo, Michelle C.; Hohl, Bernadette C.; Bourgois, Philippe; Wiebe, Douglas J.; MacDonald, John M. 2018. Citywide cluster randomized trial to restore blighted vacant land and its effects on violence, crime, and fear. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 201718503. 6 p.
- Heckert, Megan; Kondo, Michelle. 2018. Can "Cleaned and Greened" Lots Take on the Role of Public Greenspace?. Journal of Planning Education and Research
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Andreyeva, Elena; South, Eugenia C.; MacDonald, John M.; Branas, Charles C. 2018. Neighborhood Interventions to Reduce Violence. Annual Review of Public Health
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Jacoby, Sara F.; South, Eugenia C. 2018. Does spending time outdoors reduce stress? A review of real-time stress response to outdoor environments. Health & Place
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Morrison, Christopher ; Jacoby, Sara F.; Elliott, Liana ; Poche, Albert ; Theall, Katherine P.; Branas, Charles C. 2018. Blight Abatement of Vacant Land and Crime in New Orleans. Public Health Reports
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Morrison, Christopher; Guerra, Erick; Kaufman, Elinore J.; Wiebe, Douglas J. 2018. Where do bike lanes work best? A Bayesian spatial model of bicycle lanes and bicycle crashes. Safety Science. 103: 225-233.
- Kondo, Michelle; Fluehr, Jaime; McKeon, Thomas; Branas, Charles. 2018. Urban Green Space and Its Impact on Human Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 15(3): 445. 28 p.
- South, Eugenia C.; Hohl, Bernadette C.; Kondo, Michelle C.; MacDonald, John M.; Branas, Charles C. 2018. Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults. JAMA Network Open
- De Roos, Anneclaire J.; Gurian, Patrick L.; Robinson, Lucy F.; Rai, Arjita; Zakeri, Issa; Kondo, Michelle C. 2017. Review of epidemiological studies of drinking-water turbidity in relation to acute gastrointestinal illness. Environmental Health Perspectives. 125: 8.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Han, SeungHoon; Donovan, Geoffrey H.; MacDonald, John M. 2017. The association between urban trees and crime: Evidence from the spread of the emerald ash borer in Cincinnati. Landscape and Urban Planning. 157: 193-199.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; South, Eugenia C.; Branas, Charles C.; Richmond, Therese S.; Wiebe, Douglas J. 2017. The association between urban tree cover and gun assault: A case-control and case-crossover study. American Journal of Epidemiology
- Locke, Dexter H.; Han, SeungHoon; Kondo, Michelle C.; Murphy-Dunning, Colleen; Cox, Mary. 2017. Did community greening reduce crime? Evidence from New Haven, CT, 1996-2007. Landscape and Urban Planning. 161: 72-79.
- Branas, Charles C.; Kondo, Michelle C.; Murphy, Sean M.; South, Eugenia C.; Polsky, Daniel; MacDonald, John M. 2016. Urban blight remediation as a cost-beneficial solution to firearm violence. American Journal of Public Health. e1-e7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303434
- Gernes, Rebecca; Hertzberg, Richard; MacDonell, Margaret; Rice, Glenn; Wright, J. Michael; Beresin, Glennon; Miller, Travis; Africa, Julia; Donovan, Geoffrey; Hipp, J. Aaron; Hystad, Perry; Jackson, Laura; Kondo, Michelle; Mitchell, Richard; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark; Ryan, Patrick; Sullivan, William; van den Bosch, Matilda Annerstedt. 2016. Estimating greenspace exposure and benefits for cumulative risk assessment applications. EPA/600/R-16/025. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development. 109 p. https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/risk/recordisplay.cfm?deid=314417.
- Kondo, M.; Hohl, B.; Han, S.; Branas, C. 2016. Effects of greening and community reuse of vacant lots on crime. Urban Studies, Vol. 53(15): 17 pages.: 3279-3295.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Sharma, Raghav; Plante, Alain F.; Yang, Yunwen; Burstyn, Igor. 2016. Elemental Concentrations in Urban Green Stormwater Infrastructure Soils. Journal of Environment Quality. 45(1): 107-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/jeq2014.10.0421
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Keene, Danya; Hohl, Bernadette C.; MacDonald, John M.; Branas, Charles C. 2015. A Difference-In-Differences Study of the Effects of a New Abandoned Building Remediation Strategy on Safety. PLoS ONE. 10(7): e0129582-.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Low, Sarah C.; Henning, Jason; Branas, Charles C. 2015. The impact of green stormwater infrastructure installation on surrounding health and safety. American Journal of Public Health. 105(3): e114-e121.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; South, Eugenia C.; Branas, Charles C. 2015. Nature-based strategies for improving urban health and safety. Journal of Urban Health. 92(5): 800-814.
- South, Eugenia C.; Kondo, Michelle C.; Cheney, Rose A.; Branas, Charles C. 2015. Neighborhood blight, stress, and health: a walking trial of urban greening and ambulatory heart rate. American Journal of Public Health. 105(5): 909-913.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Bream, Kent D.W.; Barg, Frances K.; Branas, Charles C. 2014. A random spatial sampling method in a rural developing nation. BMC Public Health. 14(1): 338.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Gross-Davis, Carol Ann; May, Katlyn; Davis, Lauren O.; Johnson, Tyiesha; Mallard, Mable; Gabbadon, Alice; Sherrod, Claudia; Branas, Charles C. 2014. Place-based stressors associated with industry and air pollution. Health & Place. 28: 31-37.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Mizes, Chris; Lee, John; Burstyn, Igor. 2014. Black carbon concentrations in a goods-movement neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 186(7): 4605-4618.
- Kondo, Michelle C.; Mizes, Chris; Lee, John; McGady-Saier, Jacqueline; O'Malley, Lisa; Diliberto, Ariel; Burstyn, Igor. 2014. Towards participatory air pollution exposure assessment in a goods movement community. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. 8(3): 291-304.
National Research Highlights
Vacant lots are a problem that cities are increasingly addressing through greening efforts. Questions remain about if and how these green spaces are being used. A recent study sought to answer these questions and document the benefits of these attempts to improve cityscapes.
Green space and vegetation may play a protective role for urban violence.
From examination of empirical studies of the relationship between drinking water turbidity and the number of acute gastrointestinal illness cases, a Forest Service scientist and her research partners concluded that there is a link between the two.
Economic benefits from violence reduction associated with remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lot greening
Abandoned buildings and vacant lots are blighted spaces seen daily by many urban residents and may create physical opportunities for violence by sheltering illegal activity and illegal firearms. A study by a Forest Service scientist and her research partners found that in an urban area, blight remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lots can be economically beneficial as it is related to reductions in firearm violence and its associated costs.
A study by a Forest Service scientist and her partners found that in an urban area, soils in green stormwater infrastructure facilities appear to accumulate calcium (Ca) and iodine (I), but are either no different, or lower in cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg) and lead (Pb) compared to soils at background locations; however, mean values of these metals found across green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) sites were up to four times greater than targeted objectives for soil cleanup for residential use.
In Youngstown, Ohio, vacant lots greened by community members experienced reductions in violent assaults, while vacant lots greened by contractors experienced reductions in property crimes.
In a study by a Forest Service scientist and her partners, Philadelphia’s “Doors-and-Windows Ordinance,” which requires repairs to abandoned buildings by their owners, was found to be significantly associated with citywide reductions in overall crimes, total assaults, gun assaults, and nuisance crimes.
Forest Service scientists tested the effects of green stormwater infrastructure installation on health and safety outcomes across Philadelphia and found that for green stormwater infrastructure sites constructed between 2000 and 2011, there was a significant decrease in the occurrence of narcotics possession at nearby locations, compared to at control locations.
Studies by Forest Service scientists showed that walking adjacent to greened vacant lots decreased participants' heart rate significantly more than did walking adjacent to a non-greened vacant lot or not in view of any vacant lot. Remediating neighborhood blight may reduce stress and improve health.?
A Forest Service scientist and her research partners found that air pollution contributes to physical and psychosocial conditions that act as community-level social stressors.