The vast majority of the world’s urban population lives in coastal cities. Already among the world’s most populous cities, New York is projected to grow to nearly 9 million people by 2030. In an era of climate change and intense urbanization, the problem of creating a more resilient and sustainable city tops the municipal agenda — indeed, it sits among our most pressing twenty-first century challenges worldwide.

Urban ecology is a key interdisciplinary arena for studying the biophysical and social processes that make cities work. Here in New York, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has witnessed diverse research and policy initiatives, all focused on creating sound urban environmental policy with a clear empirical basis. Green public infrastructure initiatives like the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park have transformed the definition of iconic urban space – not only in New York, but worldwide. Such spaces provide ecological services that cut across social and biophysical criteria.

Embedded within the urban fabric of New York City, the NYU campus presents several important sites for critical urban ecology research and teaching. Nestled among the campus buildings and facilities are nearly fifteen aggregate acres of open space.  The campus creates a patchwork of green and built space that are a readymade canvas for a range of ongoing urban ecology field projects.

Our campus maps usually highlight the NYU’s built landscape, but the University’s open spaces are complex systems that sustain 700 trees of 61 species, formal and naturalistic gardens, a grove of mature native oaks, several green roofs (including one of America’s earliest), courtyards, and a variety of interstitial and veneer urban landscapes.

Building on national press recognition and the 2015 Honor Award for Urban University Grounds , we propose to treat NYU’s unique campus as a research site for urban ecology.

Potential projects include:

  1. Sustainable Sites certified project.
  2. DEP Green Infrastructure Grant for courtyards, treepits, rain gardens
  3. Monitoring protocols for storm water management, pollinator support, soil biology.
  4. Student/faculty public art installations, lectures, performances associated with green spaces.
  5. Urban Ag uniquely adapted to NYU’s conditions, i.e. green roofs, vertical farms, aquaponics.
  6. The NYU Forest Project in association with TreeCampus USA .
  7. Field trials of new plant varieties, tools (like the ) and materials like biochar. 
  8. Phenology Clock for campus gardens.
  9. Adaptation of Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces to NYU spaces.
  10. Lecture series, conferences, site tours hosted by NYU Environmental Studies/Law, NYU Sustainability, Food Studies, Anthropology, and other departments.