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Program in Urban Ecology Program in Urban Ecology

Vision

To develop a world class program in Urban Ecology — a new frontier in science that focuses on the dynamic interactions among humans and the sustainability of ecological systems and natural resources.

Approach

1. To provide an academic unit within the University that would foster (through research and education) the institution’s goal of discovery and dissemination of critical knowledge for sustainable urban ecology to the metropolitan community of Memphis, the people of Tennessee, the nation, and the international community. 

2. To prepare diverse graduate student populations for successful careers in ecology and related fields and, in so doing, contribute to the global need for a workforce qualified to address the world’s growing demand for ecological information.

3. To organize unique partnerships within the community and employ the highest levels of technology to foster an unrivaled program in urban ecological research for meeting the current and future needs in conservation and management of natural resources in the metropolitan community of Memphis and around the world.

Training

Development of an interdisciplinary graduate program focused on ecology and management of natural resources (e.g., wildlife, fisheries, forestry, conservation, and other) with a focus on urban and suburban communities. 

The program would epitomize the highest realization of graduate-level education aimed at resolving and preventing ecological and social problems of the 21st century.             

Students would uphold traditional backgrounds in ecology but cross traditional boundaries resulting in a multidisciplinary focus that would combine ecological studies with such fields as public policy, economics, political science, sociology, communications, geography, and technology... 

Emphasis would be placed on technology and the use of technology to enhance research, teaching, and service as it applies to natural resources.  Students graduating from the program would have technological skills that would equip them for conducting research at the highest level. 

Because of the complexity of the issues and situations associated with urban ecology, there is a strong need for bright, energetic, and imaginative students who feel they can make a difference in our struggle for a sustainable high quality of life on earth. 

The field of Urban Ecology is still developing and needs many bright minds to determine its future directions.  This situation offers students many new and exciting opportunities related to careers in this new frontier of the 21st century.

Research

A new research approach toward understanding the complex interactions among humans and their environment is needed.  While many natural habitats continue to decrease in extent, urban habitat continues to increase at a rapid pace.   Paralleling the growth in urban habitat is an increase in extinction rates of plants and animals and a global loss of biodiversity (the entire array of earth’s biological variety, contained in genes, populations, communities, and ecosystems).  This situation has been described as a crisis state.   

Managers of natural resources, with environmental economists, must offer a careful and well-designed integration of conservation and management plans to transform ecological knowledge into public policy if extinction rates are to be lowered and biodiversity preserved.  The challenge is to simultaneously serve the needs of humans and, yet, preserve nature.  New practices, policies, and bright minds are needed to meet this challenge. 

The research goal is to investigate, synthesize results, and recommend policy changes that will be instrumental in restoring and maintaining the natural processes that create and protect a healthy, unfragmented landscape to support a diverse, flourishing community of human, plant, and animal life.

Because of the multiple interests associated with natural resources in urban locations, a strong and growing need exists for understanding ecological systems in these areas and providing information that can be used in decision-making.

Conservation of natural ecosystems and preservation of biological processes is of paramount interest.  This goal is best achieved through proactive research rather than reactive activities.  Humans are and will continue to be a part of natural and degraded ecological systems, and, therefore, their presence must be considered in ecologically sustainable management of natural resources.

Scientific information strong on policy-relevant questions and a work force of researchers trained with a robust cross-disciplinary approach critical to success in urban environments will result from such focused research.

Institutionalizing Ecological Literacy is critical to our future.  Environments are both urban and rural.   Students and researchers should be knowledgeable of the ever-widening ecosystem concerns, beginning in neighborhoods and expanding the globe.   The proposed Urban Ecology Initiative promises to foster this aim.

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Last Updated: 1/9/13