Urban Ecology

Humans, like all organisms, invariably modify their habitats. All of the organisms we investigate in my lab make their homes in the middle of habitats that are influenced to varying degrees by nearby human habitats. In some cases the life history is dramatically impacted in negative ways. For example, habitat fragmentation and host plant elimination can lead to population structures that are very sparse and patchy compared to areas where human influence is minimal, as is the case with many of the insects we study. However, in other cases the impact can be positive, and even necessary. Insects at my field site in Japan benefit from regular, but moderate, pruning and/or removal of trees in their forested mountain habitat. An appropriate amount of clearing allows sunlight to reach the sole host tree, which is a pioneer species that requires direct sunlight in order to bear fruit. Urban ecology involves studies that focus on the ways in which organisms are impacted by, and adapt to, human-influenced habitats. Thus, most of the work we do in the field falls under the umbrella of urban ecology. Urban ecology encompasses a variety of research areas and applied sciences that involve human influence on natural habitats, with the aim of increasing biological diversity and green spaces, and improving ecological health in urban and suburban areas. The disciplines range from pure biology, including conservation, to chemistry (preserving healthy water and air quality in urban habitats), to sociology and political science (public policy, urban planning, healthy green spaces, community involvement in green space planning and management), design in terms of green architecture) and much, much more. If your interests lie in any of these areas, please read about the interdisciplinary Urban Ecology B.S./.B.A., M.S./M.A. and the combined dual undergraduate/graduate degrees offered by the Hofstra University Biology Department. Click here for more information about Urban Ecology at Hofstra (advisor, Lisa Filippi).