Having grown up in Pennsylvania’s rural rustbelt, Dr. Mike Blackhurst knows firsthand the need for community revitalization following economic and industrial decline.
Pair this personal experience with his hometown’s environmental challenges from heavy industry and Dr. Blackhurst’s career of connecting the community with policy-makers to reach relevant solutions led him to Pittsburgh.
As a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Blackhurst puts these ideas in motion at the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR). In his role of research development manager, Dr. Blackhurst oversees research projects that emphasize public policy problems, such as energy efficiency, water scarcity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and environmental life cycle assessment.
Dr. Blackhurst’s current research centers on estimating locations of small-scale green stormwater infrastructure installations, their costs, and effects on stormwater inflow into the combined system. He sees this project as “an important stepping stone towards clarifying the balance of green and gray infrastructure needed to meet our region’s overflow consent decree and aim to move the project in that direction.”
He believes that Pittsburgh’s penchant for consensus-building is both a strength and challenge for the
City’s decision-making process. It is a strength because the community is working together—foundations, non-profits, universities, and municipalities—to find workable solutions to Pittsburgh’s challenges. But this is an inward process that can prevent Pittsburgh from seeking best practices elsewhere.
However, Pittsburgh’s challenges go hand-in-hand with Dr. Blackhurst’s vision for Pittsburgh’s future. He would like to see Pittsburgh do a “better job of parlaying our stated ambitions and intentions into measurable goals” to better achieve these robust goals. Mike aims to push Pittsburgh towards a future that helps “overcome these challenges by proposing solutions to our sustainability and resilience problems that balance more tested, centralizing policymaking with our tendencies to frame solutions around consensus building and partnering.’
Through all of this, Dr. Blackhurst remains optimistic because the region’s underlying conditions “create tremendous potential for improved sustainability and resilience outcomes.”
In addition to his work at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Blackhurst participates in the city’s local music scene and serves on the board of Fair Shake, which provides environmental legal services on a sliding scale to clients in the Appalachian basin.
You can read more about Dr. Blackhurst’s research on stormwater infrastructure at the University Center for Social and Urban Research here.