You may not recognize his name—yet—but Alex Felson, just a touch over the age of 40, is making one for himself as a pioneer in the burgeoning field of “urban ecology.”
Felson runs the Urban Ecology and Design Laboratory—or UEDLAB—at Yale, a bright, roomy space in a building off Prospect Street. It’s half-wet lab—a space where hands-on experiments using biological and chemical materials are conducted (dried plant species lined one counter during my visit)—and half-architectural design studio, with oversized, write-on cabinets that are covered in scribbles and phrases related to various projects. Among the technical designs, I notice a drawing of The Lorax, Dr. Seuss’s famous environmental prophet from the children’s book of the same name.
Felson is busy melding two worlds in the lab—ecology and architecture—resulting in what he calls “Designed Experiments”: innovative projects that not only enhance the landscape aesthetically, but also help study it.
Joint degree (SoA/F&ES) students including Sheena and Rushyan met with F&ES students to share experiences about the program and provide feedback on portfolios for applying to SoA (Yale School of Architecture).
YCEI Town Hall Meeting on Climate with Senator Chris Murphy
2-4 pm | Kroon Hall, Burke Audtiorium Friday, September 13, 2013 195 Prospect Street New Haven, CT Hosted by Yale Climate & Energy Institute
Panelists: Senator Chris Murphy (D, CT)
Ronald Smith: Center for Earth Observation, Department of Geology and Geophysics; Yale
Kerry Emanuel: Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; MIT
Marion McFadden: Acting Executive Director, Hurricane Sandy Task Force – Katie Scharf Dykes: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
Alexander Felson: Director, Urban Ecology and Design Laboratory; FES, Yale School of Architecture
Description: Global climate models all predict that the Northeastern United States will be particularly vulnerable to short- and long-term effects of global warming. Some of these effects — such as higher-than-average temperature and sea level, as well as more intense and more frequent storms and droughts — are already being felt in the New England area. As we learned from Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and winter storm Nemo, isolated weather extremes riding on gradual trends can be extraordinarily damaging. A 2011 report by the American Security Project estimated that failure to mitigate or plan for what is likely to become the new normal could result in the loss of 100,000 jobs and $22 billion from the regional economy between 2010 and 2050. Coarse global climate models indicate the overall direction of change, but much more detailed regional climate, economic and land-use models are needed to assess how global warming will affect New England, county by county, in the 21st century—and to create prudent and effective policies and plans for dealing with the coming changes.
A few years ago, Alexander Felson was working as a design and ecological consultant on a housing development in suburban New York when he made a suggestion that raised the developer’s eyebrows.
Faced with a local planning board that had concerns about the potential environmental effects on nearby vernal pools and amphibian populations, Felson, now an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Yale School of Architecture, urged the developer to spend $36,000 on a scientific study that would put their minds at ease.
He took some convincing, but the developer paid for the study, which addressed the local planners’ concerns and led to additional applied research, which yielded a final project that was more ecologically responsible, moving the homes away from amphibian migration routes, while preserving the number of housing units.
The project is one of four cases studies Felson cites in a new Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article, in which he makes the case that ecologists should become more involved in the design and implementation of urban development projects.
Promoting Earth Stewardship through Designed Experiments
Felson AJ, MA Bradford, TM Terway. 2013. Earth Stewardship Special Issue. Frontiers of Ecology, 11(7). doi:10.1890/130061.
Earth Stewardship requires a repositioning of ecological science in society to promote social–ecological change. This may place ecologists in situations that are largely unfamiliar to them, such as playing a role in the process of urban design. “Designed Experiments” – defined as projects that embed ecological research into urban design to study and shape buildings, landscapes, and the infrastructure of human settlements – are intended to enhance the impact of ecologists working in these new situations. Designed Experiments provide a framework for organizing relationships among ecologists, urban designers, decision makers, and citizens; an opportunity for testing ecological hypotheses; and a platform for experiential learning among multiple participants – all of which have the potential to aid in overcoming barriers to the goals of Earth Stewardship. Here we explore the capacity of Designed Experiments to facilitate progress toward Earth Stewardship through realworld case studies.
An early idea of this is presented in Mitch Joachim’s (Terreform) RiverGym NY concept. The Terreform idea takes this a step further to link exercise to powering the boats. For Metronorth the cars provide commuter exercise opportunities.
Alex Felson from the UEDLAB with the Bradford lab and Rich Hallet from the USFS completed our third year of data collection at Kissena Corridor Park in New York. We measured diameter, height, leaf count andqualitative assessmentsrating trees based on pest damage, drought stress, chlorosis and overall vigor. Trees planted include Tiliaamericana, Quercusrubra, Celtisoccidentalis, Prunusserotina, Carya spp. and Quecus alba.
Photo taken by Tim Carter, From left: Alex Felson, Steward Pickett, Wendi Goldsmith, Larry Baker, Jennifer Rice, and Erle Ellis
Ecological Society of America Symposium August 8, 2013
Past, Present, & Future Design of Infrastructure(s) for a Resilient Society Organized by: Tim Carter, Erle Ellis and Alex Felson
Human systems rely not only on built infrastructures (roads, pipes, etc) but also on the social, cultural, and ecological infrastructures that are inseparable from the physical spaces we inhabit. This symposium will bring environmental historians, designers, political ecologists, geographers and other environmental scientists together with esteemed ecologists to build on the interdisciplinary space created by the conference theme: ” Sustainable Pathways: Learning From the Past and Shaping the Future”.
in-fruh-struhk-cher the basic, underlying framework of a system or organization
1) Infrastructures are not simply physical; 2) The past has shaped the present conditions, but may not determine the future, particularly when resiliency is considered; 3) Ecologists can (should?) play a role in the design of our current and future infrastructures.
Presentation Topics:Erle Ellis. Human infrastructure as ecological infrastructure for the Anthropocene.Wendi Goldsmith. The role of green infrastructure in urban landscape planning and design. Jennifer Rice. Social and Political Infrastructures of resilience: Cities as leaders in climate change governance? Larry Baker. Envisioning Resilient futures for urban water and waste. Steward Pickett. Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design. Alexander Felson. The role of ecologists in informing future nature (infrastructure).
We held a public meeting on July 15th for the final stage of the coastal resilience with The Nature Conservancy and Milone and McBroom. We presented our phased scenarios for Seaside Avenue and the Jacob’s Beach area to a packed audience.
The Developers and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development seek to use Arverne East as a laboratory for New York City to identify and explore best practices in waterfront development for the 21st century and beyond. The FAR ROC competition further provides an opportunity for teams of architects, planners, and other design professionals to propose built solutions that not only are responsive to New York City’s housing needs, but also provide critical economic development in the Rockaways. (From Design Brief)
“I said, look people, you built on a marsh island, it’s oxidizing under your feet — it’s shrinking — and that exacerbates the sea level rise,” said Dr. Hales, director of the Barnegat Bay Partnership, an estuary program financed by the Environmental Protection Agency. “Do you really want to throw good money after bad?”
Their answer? Yes.
Nearly seven months after Hurricane Sandy decimated the northeastern coastline, destroying houses and infrastructure and dumping 11 billion gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage into rivers, bays, canals and even some streets, coastal communities have been racing against the clock to prepare for Memorial Day.
Damage to the coastline was severe. In New Jersey, 94 percent of beaches and dunes were damaged, with 14 percent suffering a major loss of dune vegetation and beach erosion of 100 feet or more; 43 percent were moderately affected, losing 50 to 100 feet of beach, according to an assessment by the American Littoral Society
Not meddling with nature is central to America’s modern wilderness tradition, but should we make an exception to save a population of wolves from extinction?
This editorial highlights the debates around wildlife management, highlighting the critical finding that”a healthy ecosystem depends critically on the presence of top predators like wolves when large herbivores, like moose, are present. Without top predators, prey tend to become overabundant and decimate plants and trees that many species of birds, mammals and insects depend on.” In order to establish and manage ecosystems, scientists and practitioners will have to determine what role we should play in the managing species dynamics.