As an ecological designer and urban geographer, I am passionate about design for urban ecology, community engagement, and ecological democracy. I am passionate about teaching and the ability for engaged, experiential learning to teach students about complex, wicked problems; connect them with real world efforts to address these problems; and give students an opportunity to engage meaningfully with them. My experience with place-based learning and projects includes both international (Thailand, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala) and domestic (Boston, Worcester, New York City) localities.
My research primarily focuses on the design and governance of landscapes for sustainable, livable, and just cities. At the neighborhood scale, urban residents play a major role in stewarding the urban environment, and their social perceptions and aesthetics mediate their stewardship. I have examined this question by conducting nine focus groups, including participatory mapping, with community organizations in Boston neighborhoods. Based on this work, I developed a relational place-making framework in order to characterize urban residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood ecologies.
On the urban scale, urban policies have played a major role in urban sustainability, but little is known about their long-term effects on urban ecosystems or the impact of landscape legacies on social conditions. Based on an institutional ethnography of urban tree planting programs in Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia, I developed a governance framework for Nassauer & Opdam’s “Design in Science” model, which contributed to understandings of the role of landscape design in landscape sustainability science. I also examined policy networks in shaping urban environmental programs, which contributed to understandings of the role of local government structure in shaping environmental outcomes. Finally, I investigated the behaviors of political coalitions in different land markets and identified a counter-cyclical relationship between environmental advocacy and land market strength.
Apart from my research on civic empowerment and urban environmental politics, I am working on developing a research program and interdisciplinary community around critical landscape visualization. I have organized a series of Association of American Geographers (AAG) and U.S. Critical Geography conference sessions and published a special issue called “Critical Approaches to Landscape Visualization” in Landscape & Urban Planning, with fourteen contributions representing landscape architecture, architecture, environmental science, and environmental engineering. I have also organized a series of political ecology ENTITLE conference sessions and have edited a special issue called, “Visualizing Undisciplined Environments” in Geoforum, with papers representing human geography, architecture, and landscape architecture.