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Michelle Kondo, Ph.D.

Michelle Kondo, Ph.D.
Research Social Scientist
Urban Forests, Human Health, and Environmental Quality
100 N. 20th Street, Suite 205
Philadelphia, PA 19103
United States
Current Research

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.

Past Research

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

  • 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
Professional Experience
  • 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
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Philadelphia Study Links Tree Canopy Growth to Decrease in Human Mortality

Year: 2020
Cities are investing in programs to expand tree cover and the myriad of benefits trees provide, such as cleaner and cooler air. In the first citywide health impact assessment of the estimated effects of a tree canopy initiative on premature mortality, a Northern Research Station scientist and her pa...

Greening Vacant Lots Reduces Crime, Increases Use

Year: 2018
A study by a Northern Research Station (NRS) scientist and partners found that residents living near vacant lots that were cleaned and greened reported significantly reduced fear of crime and improved use of outdoor space; they also found that crime significantly decreased in comparison to control a...

Economic benefits from violence reduction associated with remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lot greening

Year: 2017
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 reme...

Can “cleaned and greened” lots take on the role of public greenspace?

Year: 2017
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.

Does urban tree cover play a role in reducing violence in cities?

Year: 2017
Green space and vegetation may play a protective role for urban violence.

Turbidity of drinking water supplies in relation to incidence of gastrointestinal illness

Year: 2017
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.

Community Greening Can Reduce Crime

Year: 2016
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.

Elemental Concentrations in Urban Green Stormwater Infrastructure Soils

Year: 2016
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 ...

Seeing a Greened Vacant Lot May Lower Stress

Year: 2015
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....

Low-cost Urban Building Improvement Can Reduce Crime

Year: 2015
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 crim...

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Reduces Crime

Year: 2015
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 ...

Air Pollution as a Psychosocial Stressor

Year: 2014
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.