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Dr. Timon McPhearson

Urban Community Ecologist | PhD

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 US, European, and Latin cities this research seeks to advance 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.

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.
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.
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.
Andersson, Erik, and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Making Sense Of Biodiversity: The Affordances Of Systems Ecology”. Frontiers In Psychology 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00594.
Depietri, Yaella, Khila Dahal, and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Multi-Hazard Risks In New York City”. Natural Hazards And Earth System Sciences 18 (12): 3363 - 3381. doi:10.5194/nhess-18-3363-2018.
Locke, Dexter H., and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Urban Areas Do Provide Ecosystem Services”. Frontiers In Ecology And The Environment 16 (4): 203 - 205. doi:10.1002/fee.1796.
Donahue, Marie L., Bonnie L. Keeler, Spencer A. Wood, David Fisher, Zoe A. Hamstead, and Timon McPhearson. 2018. “Using Social Media To Understand Drivers Of Urban Park Visitation In The Twin Cities, Mn”. Landscape And Urban Planning 175: 1 - 10. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.02.006.
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.
McPhillips, Lauren E., Heejun Chang, Mikhail V. Chester, Y. Depietri, Erin Friedman, Nancy B Grimm, John S Kominoski, et al. 2018. “Defining Extreme Events: A Cross-Disciplinary Review”. Earth's Future 6 (3): 441 - 455. doi:10.1002/2017EF000686.
Hamstead, Zoe A., David Fisher, Rositsa T. Ilieva, Spencer A. Wood, Timon McPhearson, and Peleg Kremer. 2018. “Geolocated Social Media As A Rapid Indicator Of Park Visitation And Equitable Park Access”. Computers, Environment And Urban Systems 72: 38 - 50. doi:10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2018.01.007.
Gittleman, Mara, Carson J. Q. Farmer, Peleg Kremer, and Timon McPhearson. 2017. “Estimating Stormwater Runoff For Community Gardens In New York City”. Urban Ecosystems 20: 129-139. doi:10.1007/s11252-016-0575-8.
Romero-Lankao, Patricia, Timon McPhearson, and Debra J. Davidson. 2017. “The Food-Energy-Water Nexus And Urban Complexity”. Nature Climate Change 7. doi:10.1038/nclimate3260.
Bai, Xuemei, Timon McPhearson, Helen Cleugh, H. Nagendra, Xin Tong, Tong Zhu, and Yong-Guan Zhu. 2017. “Linking Urbanization And The Environment: Conceptual And Empirical Advances”. Annual Review Of Environment And Resources 42 (1): 215 - 240. doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-102016-061128.
Groffman, Peter M., Mary L. Cadenasso, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Daniel L. Childers, Nancy B Grimm, Morgan Grove, Sarah E. Hobbie, et al. 2017. “Moving Towards A New Urban Systems Science”. Ecosystems 20: 38-43. doi:10.1007/s10021-016-0053-4.
McPhearson, Timon. 2016. “Scientists Must Have A Say In The Future Of Cities”. Nature 538: 165-166.
Kremer, Peleg, Zoe A. Hamstead, and Timon McPhearson. 2016. “The Value Of Urban Ecosystem Services In New York City: A Spatially Explicit Multicriteria Analysis Of Landscape Scale Valuation Scenarios”. Environmental Science & Policy 62: 57-68. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.04.012.