What is Urban Ecology?

The international scientific journal, Urban Ecology, defines its eponymous discipline as

"…the study of ecosystems that include humans living in cities and urbanizing landscapes. It is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that aims to understand how human and ecological processes can coexist in human-dominated systems and help societies with their efforts to become more sustainable. … Because of its interdisciplinary nature and unique focus on humans and natural systems, the term "urban ecology" has been used variously to describe the study of humans in cities, of nature in cities, and of the coupled relationships between humans and nature. Each of these research areas is contributing to our understanding of urban ecosystems and each must be understood to fully grasp the science of Urban Ecology."

Why is this important?

A single generation from today, by 2030, the population of the world's cities will grow by 2 billion more people. At present, about half of the humans on earth live in urban areas. In 2030, according to The CIA World Factbook, 60 per cent, or almost two-thirds of people will live in cities. In addition to space in which to live, all of these people will need breathable air, drinkable water, and food, which will mostly be grown outside of cities and transported into them.

In short, the entire planet is becoming more urbanized, a phenomenon which is already having a profound effect on the natural systems that maintain breathable air, drinkable water, and fertile soil for agriculture.

But large areas of green spaces exist within cities. Lawns, parks, golf courses, and nature preserves created decades ago and now surrounded by development help filter  pollution in air and water, produce oxygen, mitigate heat absorption by asphalt and concrete, and provide habitat for songbirds and other wildlife.

In the past quarter century, scientists have recognized that understanding the interactions of the living and nonliving components of these urban ecosystems is vital to the future of all life on earth, including ourselves.

Contact Information

Becky Litterst
Secretary, School of Natural Sciences

Phone: (812) 941-2284
Fax: (812) 941-2637

Life Science (LF) 258

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 5:00 pm