Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dr. Lister Speaks on Landscape Ecology and Urbanism

As part of the course requirements of FOR 797 Women in Environmental Careers, students share responsibility for reporting on the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  The following was prepared by Carrie Rose Levine (MS FNRM 2011) and Susan Smith (ES 2013).
            Dr. Nina-Marie Lister, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional  Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto and Visiting Professor at the  Harvard University Graduate School of Design, presented her research and
selected design projects in  “(Re)Claiming Ground: Landscape, Ecology and Urbanism” at SUNY-ESF on February 8, 2011 as part of the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series. The talk was jointly sponsored
by the ESF Women’s Caucus, the Randolph G. Pack Environmental Institute, and the Department of Landscape Architecture. The lecture was very well attended, and the audience represented students and faculty from a variety
of ESF departments as well as a good turnout from the Syracuse University School of Architecture due to the cross-disciplinary nature of Dr. Lister’s research.
            Dr. Lister has a background in formal ecology, landscape architecture, and urban planning. This multi-disciplinary training has informed her research on the development and use of reclaimed urban spaces. The lecture addressed the key principles of ecological urbanism, the role that these principles have played in recent theory and practice of urban
design, and the direction in which these principles will continue to evolve in the future.
            In Dr. Lister’s lecture, she expanded on the basic scientific definition of ecology and demonstrated how the concept of ecology can be applied to highly modified and constructed systems such as dense urban areas. Essentially, Dr. Lister argued, the human environment and its relationship to nature can be distilled to the interplay between ecology and design. The pervasiveness of human intervention in the landscape has altered our paradigm of ecology. At the same time, our understanding of ecology has informed design and planning decisions in recent years to the point where both ecology and design are essential driving forces in the way that we experience the urban environment.
            The history of this movement toward and ecological understanding of urban landscape and design was discussed, which provided a solid theoretical foundation for Dr. Lister’s own work. She then showed examples of the kind of work that her firm plandform has done in the Toronto area in conjunction with her students at Ryerson University. This work included examples of restoration design within a highly modified urban landscape. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of her talk came at the very end, when she discussed future directions for the discipline, citing a recent example of a land bridge for migrating animals across a busy highway in the western US that combines principles of ecology, modern design, and human influence on the natural landscape.
            Dr. Lister is a Registered Professional Planner (MCIP, RPP), an Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson Univeristy, and the founding principal of the firm plandform, a creative studio that which explores the relationship between ecology, landscape, and urbanism. She is the author of several papers on ecology and urban design and is co-editor of the book The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty, and
Managing for Sustainability (Columbia University Press, 2008).

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