While conceding that funding agencies are sometimes skeptical about granting a major role to researchers — since it can increase a project’s cost and duration — the paper suggests that ecologists can strategically integrate research into design and engineering. They argue that ecologists should assert the value of ecological research: “The urban ecology researcher will benefit both from studying a system in order to better shape that system and from shaping a system in order to better study it.”
The integration of research into urban design will require some compromises, Felson says. For starters, their research will sometimes support the development of pristine environments. However, their involvement also presents an opportunity to integrate current research into the design of the urban built environment.
“Land development is inevitable,” Felson said. “It’s happening all over the world, and it’s happening with less ecological assessment than it should be…The more we can get ecologists involved in land development the better.”
If done right, he added, increased interaction between ecologists and urban designers could transform the design profession, and ultimately encourage more sustainable landscape and construction projects.
The article, “Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers,” which appears in the current issue of BioScience, was co-authored by seven other authors, including Nikki Springer of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Felson, Alexander J., Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman, Timothy Carter, Franco Montalto, Bill Shuster, Nikki Springer, Emilie K. Stander, and Olyssa Starry. "Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers." BioScience (2013)