Scientists & Staff

Michelle Kondo

Michelle Kondo

Research Social Scientist
100 N. 20th Street, Suite 205
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
Phone: 215-988-1619

Contact Michelle Kondo

Resume (337 KB PDF)

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

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Waiting on response to Michelle on photo.  Adding image from news release 4208-52 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA, United States. Photo by Edan Cohen on Unsplash

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 partners found that tree cover in Philadelphia could also reduce premature deaths.

Before, during and after vacant lot greening intervention

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 areas.

Photos of remediated buildings and vacant lots.

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 remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lots can be economically beneficial as it is related to reductions in firearm violence and its associated costs.

Photos of human uses of cleaned and greened vacant lots.

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.

Illustration of the relationship between case-control and case-crossover study designs. Using a case-control approach, a group of case participants who were assaulted (top right) is matched with a control group of like participants who were not assaulted (bottom right). Their environments at the same time of day can be compared for differences. Using a case-crossover approach, the environment of each case at the time of the assault can be compared to the environment each case experienced earlier in the day (top left) to rule-out the influence of factors that differ between case and control participants.

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.

Glass of clear water.

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.

Overview map of treatment and control lots in Youngstown, OH. Michelle Kondo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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.

Green stormwater infrastructure in Center City, Philadelphia. Rebecca Schwartz, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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 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.

Doors and windows remediation before and after. USDA Forest Service

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 crimes.

Stormwater tree trench and pervious pavers. USDA Forest Service

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 possession at nearby locations, compared to at control locations.

Cleaning-and-greening at Wister Street lot.  Robert Grossmann, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

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.?

Emissions from a waterside facility, contributing to air pollution. USDA Forest Service

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.

Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2022