Landscape Architecture

Posted November 14, 2014
  • Gwynns Falls, Baltimore. Image Credit: Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER

Penn launches new Urban Ecology subject

This semester, Penn Landscape has launched a new course on Urban Ecology that introduces design students to the core concepts, processes, and terminology of contemporary urban ecology. Urban ecology is the study of the environment that integrates an understanding of built and social systems alongside that of biophysical systems. It describes the interaction of the built and natural environment, looking at both ecology in the city, as well as ecology of the city, seeing the urban environment as a dynamic, human-influenced system. 

The course, for landscape MLA students in their second year, is structured around lectures and panels of invited speakers, and is organized around three primary segments: ecosystems ecology, landscape ecology, and community ecology/environmental management. Building up from a theoretical understanding of urban ecosystems and their components, the course moves towards exploration of applied ecological restoration projects, green infrastructure systems, and environmental management case studies.

Through lectures, critical readings, and design exercises, the course focuses on analyzing and interpreting the patterns and processes of ecological systems in urban areas. Lectures are designed to give students control of fundamental concepts for understanding the dynamics of urban ecosystems; panels of invited speakers bring individuals at the forefront of both theoretical and applied urban ecology research to the classroom to discuss their work. Speakers this semester have included the following individuals:

Ecosystem Services Framework and Green Infrastructure

Jeanette Compton (Associate Director of City Park Development, The Trust for Public Land)

Lara Roman (Research Ecologist, United States Forest Service Northern Research Station)

Michelle Kondo (Research Hydrologist, United States Forest Service Northern Research Station)

Modeling Urbanization: land use transformation, climate change, and resilience

Ethan Butler (PhD candidate — Crops & Climate, Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences)

Billy Fleming (PhD candidate — Resilience, PennDesign)

Urban Forests: Design, Management, and Adaptation

Max Piana (PhD candidate — Ecology and Evolution, Rutgers Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Natural Resources; Keeper, Hutcheson Memorial Forest)

Novel Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology

Steven Handel (Director, Center for Urban Restoration Ecology; Professor, Rutgers Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Natural Resources)

Urban Vegetation: Plant Community Dynamics

Lea Johnson (Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources)

Long-Term Ecological Research

Steward T.A. Pickett (Distinguished Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies)

Brian McGrath (Dean & Professor of Urban Design, Parsons School of Constructed Environments)

Morgan Grove (Research Forester, USFS Northern Research Station)

Urban Water Systems

Eric Rothstein (Managing Partner & Engineer, eDesign Dynamics)

Franco Montalto (President & Principal Engineer, eDesign Dynamics; Associate Professor, Drexel College of Engineering)

Jenn Hoyle (PhD Candidate — Hydrology and Water Resources, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies)