Faculty Biography

Timothy J. Downs

Timothy J. Downs, D. Env.

Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Policy
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Phone: (508) 421-3814
Email: tdowns@clarku.edu


B.Sc. (Civil Engineering) , Loughborough University, UK, 1984
M.S. (Ocean Engineering), University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, 1990
D.Env. (Doctor of Environmental Science & Engineering), University of California, Los Angeles, 1998

Research Interests

Social and technical health-system innovation (community-centered), participatory local/regional sustainable development & capacity building, environmental & social justice, risk & vulnerability assessment, impacts of rapid urbanization, watershed stewardship, Latin American Region and rapidly industrializing countries.


Tim Downs is a specialist in environmental science and engineering with over 25 years field experience designing and managing collaborative projects in the UK, the United States, Latin America and Africa. His research focus is on how humans change the environment, and how those changes impact their health, wellbeing, and the ecosystems they inhabit. He works with diverse social actors to innovate through collaboration, both socially via new networks, and technically via new applications of science and technology.  Downs applies risk and vulnerability science to identify priority problems with stakeholders, GIS and analytics to understand existing social and technical systems, then innovation theory and capacity building practice to design, implement and monitor more sustainable solutions. In a variety of settings - New England, Mexico, East and West Africa - he works with affected communities, NGOs, governmental agencies, public sector providers, the private sector and donors, applying multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary approaches within and across multiple sectors: health, energy, water supply & sanitation, food & agriculture, land-use, transportation, urban planning, climate-change adaptation & mitigation, biodiversity conservation & ecosystem stewardship.

Awards/Grants/Research Projects

Since 2015, Downs has been collaborating with colleagues at Boston University and local residents to explore the vulnerability of the shallow aquifer system in Holliston, Mass. to contamination by natural Manganese and industrial chemicals. They are also looking into potential health risks to young children that may be the result of early life-stage exposures (including in-utero), compiling an online community health atlas with GIS, and considering ways to improve water supply and waste management. 

Downs was a Co-Investigator with UMass Medical School on the Phase 1 (2008-2012) National Children's Study (NCS) project for Worcester County, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The project will follow 1000 children from pre-birth to age 21.  NCS’s goal was to determine how environmental and genetic factors impact children's health and development. It is the most ambitious research program about the environment and children's health ever undertaken, encompassing 100,000 children in 100 counties nationwide.

During 2010-ongoing, Downs has been working with Atrius Health Foundation, Worcester Common Pathways, UMass Memorial, UMass Medical School and numerous other health-sector groups to develop local and international pilot initiatives for community-centered health system innovation in the context of sustainable development.

During 2010-ongoing, Downs has been leading an academic team to design and develop capacity building for local and regional sustainable development in Worcester and Central Massachusetts, in partnership with local community groups and government agencies.

In 2007, Downs and colleagues in Kenya received approval for follow-up funding to carry out community based malaria intervention in the Lake Victoria Region. Funding came from the Global Environment Facility’s Assessment of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change/Advancing Capacity to support Climate Change Adaptation (AIACC/ACCCA) Program.

He was Co-Principal Investigator for the local action research project “Strengthening Vulnerable Communities in the Worcester Built Environment” under the National Institutes of Health's “Environmental Justice – Partnerships for Communication” grant initiative, 2004-2008.

Selected Publications

Downs T.J., Carr E., Golovko N., Goble R. (2017). “Addressing Risk Conundrums in Sustainable Development”. In: Risk Conundrums: Solving Unsolvable Problems. Kasperson, R. (Editor). Earthscan. Anticipated publication date: 05/2017.

Downs T.J. and Mazari M. (2017) “Addressing Risk Conundrums in Megacity Development: Mexico City”. In: Risk Conundrums: Solving Unsolvable Problems. Kasperson, R. (Editor). Earthscan. Anticipated publication date: 05/2017

Downs, T.J. and Golovko N. (2016). “Integrative education for climate-change resilience x sustainable development transformations”. Int. J. Global Warming. Special Issue on Climate Literacy and Innovations in Climate Change Education.

Downs TJ, Ross L, Goble R, Subedi R, Greenberg S, and Taylor O (2010). “Vulnerability, risk perception and health profile of marginalized people exposed to multiple built-environment stressors in Worcester, Massachusetts: A pilot project”. Risk Analysis. DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01548.x

Downs TJ, Ross L, Mucciarone D, Calvache MC, Taylor O and Goble R (2010). “Participatory Testing and Reporting of Household and Outdoor Environments in an Environmental-Justice Community of Worcester, Massachusetts: A Pilot Project”. Environmental Health. 9(34) doi:10,1186/1476-069X-9-34.

Downs TJ, Ogneva-Himmelberger Y, Aupont O, Wang Y, Raj A, et al. (2010). Vulnerability-based Spatial Sampling Stratification for the National Children’s Study-Worcester County, Massachusetts: Capturing Environmental and Socio-Demographic Variability. Environmental Health Perspectives 118 (9): 1318-1325.doi:10.1289/ehp.0901315

Downs TJ, Ross L, Patton S, Rulnick S, Sinha D, Mucciarone D, Calvache M, Parmenter S, Subedi R, Wysokenski D, Anderson E, Dezan R, Lowe K, Bowen J, Tejani A, Taylor O, Piersanti K, Goble R. (2009). “Complexities of holistic community based participatory research for a low-income, multi-ethnic population exposed to multiple built-environment stressors in Worcester, Massachusetts”. Environmental Research 109 (2009), pp. 1028-1040 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.08.005.

Wandiga SO, Opondo M, Olago D, Githeko A, Githui F, Marshall M, Downs T, Opere A, Yanda PZ, Kangalawe R, Kabumbuli R, Kathuri J, Apindi E, Olaka L, Ogallo L, Mugambi P, Sigalla R, Nanyunja R, Baguma T, Achola P, (2009). “Vulnerability to epidemic malaria in the highlands of Lake Victoria basin: the role of climate change/variability, hydrology, health and socio-economic factors”. Climatic Change. October 2009. 0165-0009 (Print) 1573-1480 (Online).DOI 10.1007/s10584-009-9670-7.

Downs T.J. (2008). “Transforming Impact Assessment for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”.  J. Engineering Sustainability. 116(ES1) March 2008: 39-54.

Downs TJ (2007). “A systematic integrated approach for crafting poverty reduction and sustainable development projects Natural Resources Forum –United Nations Sustainable Development Journal; 31(2007):35-50.

Downs TJ and Larson H.J. (2007). “Achieving Millennium Development Goals for health: Building understanding, trust and capacity to respond”. Health Policy. 83(2-3): 144-161.

Downs T.J. and Ambrose R.F. (2001).  “Syntropic ecotoxicology: A heuristic model for understanding the vulnerability of ecological systems to stress”.  J. Ecosystem Health 7(4): 266-283.

Downs T.J. (2001). “Making sustainable development operational: Integrated capacity building for the water supply and sanitation sector in Mexico”. J. Environ. Planning and Management, 44(4): 525-544.

Downs T.J. (2000). "Changing the culture of underdevelopment and unsustainability". J. Environmental Planning and Management 43(5): 601-621.

Downs T.J. and Santos-Burgoa C. (2000). "Selecting high priority hazardous chemicals for tri-national control: A maximum utility method applied to Mexico". Int. J. Occupat. and Environ. Hlth. 6(3): 220-237.

Downs T.J., Mazari-Hiriart M., Domínguez-Mora R. and Suffet I.H. (2000). "Sustainability of least cost policies to meet Mexico City’s future water demand”. Water Resources Research 36(8): 2321-2339.

Downs T.J., Cifuentes E., Ruth E. and Suffet I.H. (2000) "Effectiveness of natural treatment in a wastewater irrigation district of the Mexico City region". Water Environment Research 72(1): 4-21.

Downs T.J., Cifuentes E. and Suffet I.H. (1999). "Risk screening for human exposure to groundwater pollution in a wastewater irrigation district of the Mexico City Region". Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(7): 553-561.