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Dr. Timon McPhearson

Urban Community Ecologist | PhD, Rutgers University

urban ecology, resilience, social-ecological systems

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Dr. McPhearson's research examines cities as ecosystems to study social, ecological, and technical interactions to understand urban system dynamics. He utilizes both empirical (e.g. Big Data, field experiments) and theoretical approaches (social-ecological systems and resilience theory) with a focus on the role of urban green infrastructure for advancing equity, climate change resilience, and urban sustainability.

Current Research

Comparative urban ecology

Cities are unique, but many also have similar attributes, patterns, and ecological processes. By comparing research on the ecology in and of cities across the US, Europe, and South America, this research seeks to advance a generalized understanding of the similarities and differences among cities that drive major urban social and ecological patterns. By examining the social, ecological, and technical-infrastructural system (SETS) interactions using existing "big data" across a network of cities, researchers are advancing urban ecology as an urban systems science.

Urban ecosystem services

Ecosystems in cities provide a host of benefits to urban residents ranging from cooling hot cities (especially in summer) through evapotranspiration and shading, stormwater absorption, carbon storage, recreation, and providing habitat for urban adapted species. However, the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem function, and such "ecosystem services" have not been well studied in urban areas. This research examines relationships between ecosystem function and services to better understand the spatial variation in public access to these services and how improving our ecological knowledge can advance urban planning and management of urban natural areas.

Ecosystem-based climate adaptation and urban resilience

Cities are hotspots for impacts of climate change. Ecosystems in cities and urban regions offer a suite of potential solutions for climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and urban resilience building. Through cellular automata scenario modeling, machine learning, and "big data" researchers are examining how urban ecosystems can provide novel opportunities for reducing risk and vulnerability to heat and flooding for the most vulnerable urban residents. Additionally, by linking urban biodiversity data with functional traits this work is advancing new urban ecological resilience indicators for assessing current levels of ecosystem resilience.

Urban forest dynamics

Through multi-year ecological experiments in urban forests, this research examines the short- and long-term impacts of urban tree planting and management strategy on biodiversity, ecosystem structure, and functioning. Research includes examining soil nutrients, heavy metals, and carbon dynamics over time together with extensive vegetation monitoring to evaluate best management strategies for maximizing carbon uptake and storage, invasive species control, and forest canopy closure in complex urban biological systems.

Grabowski, Zbigniew J., Timon McPhearson, Marissa Matsler, Peter M. Groffman, and Steward T. A. Pickett. 2022. “What Is Green Infrastructure? A Study Of Definitions In Us City Planning”. Frontiers In Ecology And The Environment. Wiley. doi:10.1002/fee.2445.
Kronenberg, Jakub, Erik Andersson, David N. Barton, Sara T. Borgström, Johannes Langemeyer, Tove Björklund, Dagmar Haase, et al. 2021. “The Thorny Path Toward Greening: Unintended Consequences, Trade-Offs, And Constraints In Green And Blue Infrastructure Planning, Implementation, And Management”. Ecology And Society 26 (2). Resilience Alliance, Inc.. doi:10.5751/es-12445-260236.
Herreros‐Cantis, Pablo, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Mapping Supply Of And Demand For Ecosystem Services To Assess Environmental Justice In New York City”. Ecological Applications. Wiley. doi:10.1002/eap.2390.
Hoover, Fushcia-Ann, Sara Meerow, Zbigniew J. Grabowski, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Environmental Justice Implications Of Siting Criteria In Urban Green Infrastructure Planning”. Journal Of Environmental Policy & Planning. Informa UK Limited, 1-18. doi:10.1080/1523908x.2021.1945916.
Lin, Brenda B, Alessandro Ossola, Marina Alberti, Erik Andersson, Xuemei Bai, Cynnamon Dobbs, Thomas Elmqvist, et al. 2021. “Integrating Solutions To Adapt Cities For Climate Change”. The Lancet Planetary Health 5 (7). Elsevier BV: e479-e486. doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00135-2.
Venter, Zander S., David N. Barton, Laura Martinez-Izquierdo, Johannes Langemeyer, Francesc Baro, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Interactive Spatial Planning Of Urban Green Infrastructure – Retrofitting Green Roofs Where Ecosystem Services Are Most Needed In Oslo”. Ecosystem Services 50. Elsevier BV: 101314. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101314.
Zhou, Weiqi, Steward T. A. Pickett, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Conceptual Frameworks Facilitate Integration For Transdisciplinary Urban Science”. Npj Urban Sustainability 1 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s42949-020-00011-9.
Elmqvist, T., E. Andersson, Timon McPhearson, X. Bai, L. Bettencourt, E. Brondizio, J. Colding, et al. 2021. “Urbanization In And For The Anthropocene”. Npj Urban Sustainability 1 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s42949-021-00018-w.
Frantzeskaki, Niki, Timon McPhearson, and Nadja Kabisch. 2021. “Urban Sustainability Science: Prospects For Innovations Through A System’s Perspective, Relational And Transformations’ Approaches”. Ambio. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01521-1.
Rosenzweig, B. R., P. Herreros, Y. Kim, A. Cohn, K. Grove, J. Brock, J. Yesuf, et al. 2021. “The Value Of Urban Flood Modeling”. Earth's Future 9 (1). American Geophysical Union (AGU). doi:10.1029/2020ef001739.
Frantzeskaki, Niki, Timon McPhearson, and Nadja Kabisch. 2021. “Urban Sustainability Science: Prospects For Innovations Through A System’s Perspective, Relational And Transformations’ Approaches”. Ambio. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01521-1.
Chang, Heejun, Arun Pallathadka, Jason Sauer, Nancy B. Grimm, Rae Zimmerman, Chingwen Cheng, David M. Iwaniec, et al. 2021. “Assessment Of Urban Flood Vulnerability Using The Social-Ecological-Technological Systems Framework In Six Us Cities”. Sustainable Cities And Society 68. Elsevier BV: 102786. doi:10.1016/j.scs.2021.102786.
Grilo, Filipa, Pedro Pinho, Cristiana Aleixo, Cristina Catita, Patrícia Silva, Nuno Lopes, Catarina Freitas, Margarida Santos-Reis, Timon McPhearson, and Cristina Branquinho. 2020. “Using Green To Cool The Grey: Modelling The Cooling Effect Of Green Spaces With A High Spatial Resolution”. Science Of The Total Environment 724. Elsevier BV: 138182. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138182.
Rosenzweig, Bernice, Benjamin L. Ruddell, Lauren McPhillips, Robert Hobbins, Timon McPhearson, Zhongqi Cheng, Heejun Chang, and Yeowon Kim. 2019. “Developing Knowledge Systems For Urban Resilience To Cloudburst Rain Events”. Environmental Science & Policy 99. Elsevier BV: 150-159. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2019.05.020.
Bai, Xuemei, M’Lisa Colbert, Timon McPhearson, Debra Roberts, Jose Siri, Brenna Walsh, and Bob Webb. 2019. “Networking Urban Science, Policy And Practice For Sustainability”. Current Opinion In Environmental Sustainability 39. Elsevier BV: 114-122. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2019.08.002.
Childers, Daniel L., Paul Bois, Hilairy E. Hartnett, Timon McPhearson, Geneviève S. Metson, and Christopher A. Sanchez. 2019. “Urban Ecological Infrastructure: An Inclusive Concept For The Non-Built Urban Environment”. Elem Sci Anth 7 (1). University of California Press: 46. doi:10.1525/elementa.385.
Hölscher, Katharina, Niki Frantzeskaki, Timon McPhearson, and Derk Loorbach. 2019. “Tales Of Transforming Cities: Transformative Climate Governance Capacities In New York City, U.s. And Rotterdam, Netherlands”. Journal Of Environmental Management 231: 843 - 857. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.043.
Hara, Yuji, Timon McPhearson, Yuki Sampei, and Brian McGrath. 2018. “Assessing Urban Agriculture Potential: A Comparative Study Of Osaka, Japan And New York City, United States”. Sustainability Science 13 (4): 937 - 952. doi:10.1007/s11625-018-0535-8.
Depietri, Y., and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Changing Urban Risk: 140 Years Of Climatic Hazards In New York City”. Climatic Change 148 (1-2): 95 - 108. doi:10.1007/s10584-018-2194-2.
Kabisch, Nadja, Dagmar Haase, Thomas Elmqvist, and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Cities Matter: Workspaces In Ecosystem-Service Assessments With Decision-Support Tools In The Context Of Urban Systems”. Bioscience 68 (3): 164 - 166. doi:10.1093/biosci/bix153.