Preserving the environment is often seen as a battle of development versus nature. But in America today, roughly three-fourths of us live in metropolitan areas. To preserve our health and the planet's health, we need to create something new: A sustainable city.
When we think of nature in cities, we often think about major green expanses, places like Central Park in New York City or Griffith Park in Los Angeles. But in these cities and others, little patches of greenery — sometimes forgotten, often overlooked — can be very important for the local environment.
"For a long time in environmental science we've done a pretty good job of keeping people outside the box of ecosystems" says Dr. Peter Groffman, who studies the microbial and chemical ecology of urban landscapes and waterways.
Modern American urban ecology can be said to have come to fruition to a large extent in Baltimore. Of course there are other cities where parallel, reinforcing, or complementary research and engagement activities are taking place, and all contribute to the emerging edifice of contemporary urban ecology. But the work in Baltimore has a distinct flavor that helps understand what is novel about today's urban ecological science.
In 1997, Cary Institute Distinguished Senior Scientist Steward T. A. Pickett formed the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES), one of only two National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research sites in an urban setting. Under his direction, BES has grown into an interdisciplinary team of more than 150 researchers and collaborators advancing an understanding of how to achieve sustainable, resilient cities.
When you think of urban planning and design, the U.S. Forest Service likely isn't the first federal agency that comes to mind. But with upwards of 70 percent of the world's population projected to live in cities by 2050, the Forest Service is not only paying attention to urban ecosystems, they're hoping to help shape urban design and planning around them.
Cities and suburbs in very different parts of America share familiar patterns of roads, neighborhoods, commercial areas, landscaping, and water features. Ecologist Peter Groffman will explain how these similarities can help us understand land use change from local to continental scales.
Globally, there are more than 3,000 mosquito species, with around 150 native to the U.S. To many listeners – a mosquito is a mosquito. But depending on the species that bites you, mosquitoes can be a nuisance or a public health threat.
Want to feel younger? Live on a street with more trees. That's the finding of University of Chicago researchers who studied the impact of street trees on the real and perceived health of residents of Toronto, Canada.
Urban ecologists attribute the swell of interest in their discipline to multiple factors, including the realization that human actions are warming the planet, that people are migrating to cities in increasing numbers and evidence that the study of urban ecosystems provides important and practical insights.
This past summer Cary's Steward Pickett was a Visiting International Professor at the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences in Beijing. The center is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and home to the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology.
Science and art are rarely thought of as going hand-in-hand. In fact, we typically think of scientists and artists as having entirely different type of brains – one logical and analytical, the other creative and subjective.
When in 1997 the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested proposals for up to two urban Long-Term Ecological sites to join the network of wild and production ecosystems that had been studied up to that point, it had both long-standing and new goals in mind.
Triclosan – a synthetic antibacterial – is driving the development of resistant bacteria in streams and rivers, with urban sites most impacted. So reports a recent study by the Cary Institute’s Emma Rosi-Marshall.
Add water pollution to the list of ills suffered by under-served urban communities. Economically-depressed neighborhoods are hotspots for water contamination due to aging sewer and storm-water systems. Optimistically, a new study suggests that water cleaning and community greening can go hand-in-hand.
Projects that improve water quality by planting vacant lots, parking strips, and other urban spaces with trees and community gardens also bring people out of doors and teach local kids about their environment.
Ecologists define an ecosystem as a unit of the landscape—a forest, a lake, or a river. Often, they are interested in the movement of materials through that area. Rain may deposit nitrogen in a forest, while a stream may carry nitrogen away from the forest and into a river.
As the Director of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES), a Long Term Ecological Research project, I work with colleagues to reveal how watersheds can be used to understand interactions among social, biophysical, and built environments.
The great American lawn is about as far from a natural ecosystem as one can get. These artificial landscapes require an inordinate amount of resources to keep them in the green and manicured condition Americans have come to expect.
The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) is a collaborative of over 30 researchers, educators and policy makers working together to understand how urban ecosystems function. Led by Institute Distinguished Senior Scientist Dr. Steward T. A. Pickett, other IES staff members involved in the effort include: Microbial Ecologist Dr. Peter M. Groffman, Educator Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz, BES Education Coordinator Ms. Janie Gordon, BES Information Manager Mr. Jonathan Walsh, and Administrative Assistant Ms. Holly Beyar.