Our Vision

The pace and magnitude of contemporary urbanization is unprecedented, and urban areas are central to both environmental challenges and their solutions. Finding ways to inform and influence urban growth and development will be key to a sustainable future. Students electing the Urban Specialization at YSE focus on two key themes: 1) how environmental change affects urban areas, and 2) how urban areas and the process of urbanization affect the environment at local to global scales. This specialization will prepare students with the scientific basis to understand and assess environmental issues in towns, cities and other urban areas (e.g., urban heat islands; climate change impacts) and how urban processes contribute to global environmental change (e.g., biodiversity loss and climate change). The specialization also includes a human-policy dimension that focuses on how local strategies can address these issues. The specialization crosscuts the existing YSE specializations by placing a specific urban lens on the thematic aspects of environmental issues.


Specialization Coordinator

Karen Seto portrait

Karen Seto

Karen Seto is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science. An urban and land change scientist, she is one of the world's leading experts on contemporary urbanization and global change. Her research focus is how urbanization will affect the planet. She has pioneered methods to reconstruct urban land use with satellite imagery and has developed novel methods to forecast urban expansion. She has conducted urbanization research in China for twenty years and in India for more than ten. Her research has generated insights on the links between urbanization and land use, food systems, biodiversity, and climate change.

Teaching Faculty

Faculty who are currently teaching courses within this specialization.

Shimon C. Anisfeld

Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist in Water Resources and Environmental Chemistry

Jessica Bacher


Gaboury Benoit

Grinstein Class of 1954 Professor of Environmental Chemistry, Co-Director of the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology

Mark Bradford

Professor, Soils and Ecosystem Ecology

Susan G. Clark

Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Adjunct Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Policy Sciences

Amity Doolittle

Senior Lecturer

Michael R. Dove

Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology; Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Anthropology Peabody Museum; Co-Coordinator, Joint YSE/Anthropology Doctoral Program; Chair Council on Southeast A

Bradford S. Gentry

Senior Associate Dean of Professional Practice; Frederick K. Weyerhaeuser Professor in the Practice of Forest Resources Management and Policy; Co-Director of the Center for Business & the Environment

Timothy G. Gregoire

J. P. Weyerhaeuser, Jr., Professor of Forest Management

Morgan Grove


David Kooris


Xuhui Lee

Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor of Meteorology

Alessio Miatto

Postdoctoral Associate

Narasimha Rao

Associate Professor of Energy Systems

Peter A. Raymond

Professor of Ecosystem Ecology

Jonathan Reuning-Scherer

Senior Lecturer in Statistics

James E. Saiers

Clifton R. Musser Professor of Hydrology

Karen C. Seto

Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science

Dorceta Taylor

Senior Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Professor of Environmental Justice

Charles Dana Tomlin

Professor (Adjunct)

Peter Yost