One of the Institute's major goals is to host symposia that foster a greater understanding of the importance of nature, plants, and landscape throughout history and as part of the lives and urban environments they interact with.

Symposium: The Changing Nature of Nature in Cities

Friday, November 7; 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

From rampant urbanization to the alarming spread of invasive species and the rapidly increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, human activities are impacting natural systems on a global scale. Nowhere is the impact of mankind on nature more evident than in cities, where forests have been razed, wetlands paved, shorelines bulwarked, and nature has been relegated to patches of parkland and isolated remnants of woodlands and wetlands. These urban refuges retain only a fraction of their historic biodiversity, but they do provide opportunity for the more than 50% of the global population that lives in cities to engage with the wonders and mysteries of nature.

The Changing Nature of Nature in Cities symposium will explore the concept of novel ecosystems that are the result of urban development, and ask if these much-maligned accidents of unbridled growth could ultimately mitigate the impacts of environmental change and re-introduce the wonder of nature in cities.

Richard J. Hobbs
School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia

Richard leads the Ecosystem Restoration and Intervention Ecology Research Group. Originally from Scotland, he spent three years in California and has been in Western Australia since 1984, working with CSIRO and at Murdoch University before joining UWA in 2009. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications, author/editor of 20 books, and is Editor in Chief of the journal Restoration Ecology. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2004, is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher, and was 2011 Western Australian Scientist of the Year. His research focuses on effective ecosystem interventions in a changing world.

Peter Del Tredici
Adjunct Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture,
Harvard School of Design

Peter is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard School of Design. He is recently retired from the Arnold Arboretum after 35 years in a variety of capacities, from Plant Propagator to Director of Living Collections. His research interests are wide ranging and mainly involve the interaction between woody plants and their environment. Over the course of his career, Peter has worked with a number of plants, most notably Ginkgo biloba, conifers in the genera Tsuga and Sequoia, various magnolias, and several Stewartia species (family Theaceae). In all of his work, Peter attempts to integrate various aspects of the botany and ecology of a given species with the horticultural issues surrounding its propagation and cultivation. This fusion of science and practice has formed the basis of his teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, especially as it relates to understanding the impacts of climate change and urbanization on plants in both native and designed landscapes. Most recently, the focus of Peter's research has expanded to the subject of spontaneous urban vegetation which resulted in the publication of Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Emma Marris

Emma is a freelance writer based in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Her stories cover the environment, evolution, energy, agriculture, food, language, books, and film, and have appeared in Conservation, Slate, Nature, Nature Medicine, and OnEarth. Recently, Ms. Marris has been experimenting with blogging about "small nature" in mostly urban settings in her blog, "Everyday Nature." She is the author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (Bloomsbury, 2011).

Kate Orff
Associate Professor at the Columbia School of Architecture

Kate is the founder of SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE and an Associate Professor at the Columbia School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Her work focuses on the cultural and physical complexity of urban landscapes and their unique textures, ecologies, programs, and publics.