Please Note that this syllabus is a living document and will likely change throughout the fall 2013 semester. Although the schedule is reliable, some of the readings are likely to be modified as discussions with our invited guests progress over the next couple of weeks.

Urban Ecology
Fall 2013Syllabus
Fridays: NCSU 1-4 pm BU 2-5 pm


NCSU: NR595-005
Professor: Melissa McHale, Jordan Addition 5225
Office Hours – T 3-4, or by appointment

BU: GE 475/675
Professor: Lucy Hutyra, CAS 439C
Office Hours: Monday 1-3pm

NCSU Location: Jordan 5119

Course description:
This course explores the biophysical environments and ecology of urban settlements. Key topics we will cover include the physical environment (particularly climate & water), patterns in human population growth and development, ecosystem structure and function (net primary productivity, soils, nutrient cycling, organismal populations), global change (urban growth, disturbance, climate change), urban environment pollution and management (air and water quality), and sustainable urban development policies and regulations. My approach in this course will be to facilitate your learning through a combination of lecturing, discussion, and guest lectures. This course will be taught in coordination with several other Urban Ecology courses across other Universities. The weekly live online guest lectures will bring the students from across different campuses together for discussion. In addition, blogs will be used as a within class and across university discussion tool. The course will include some field work within different urban ecosystems as an important way see and experience how urban ecosystems are structured and function.

Required Readings:

Required Textbook – Adler and Tanner (2013) Urban Ecosystems – Ecological principles for the built environment

Available in the NCSU bookstore
Weblink -
Online Cost - $62.94 (kindle edition $45)

All other required readings will be shared on moodle/the wiki page.

Due Dates, Make-Ups and Absence
Work must be turned in on time. LATE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED, BUT THERE WILL BE A 50% LATE GRADE PENALITY. Each student is allowed one unexcused absence after which the participation grade will be reduced by 5% for each additional unexcused absence.

All work prepared for this course must be prepared by you as an individual without collaboration (unless you are explicitly directed otherwise by the teaching staff).

Originality of Work
All work prepared for this course must be written in your own words and prepared specifically for this course. You may not copy phrases, sentences, or paragraphs in written work from ANY source without quotes and specific attribution. This includes web sources. Copying will result in a 0 grade and repeated copying will be considered academic misconduct.

All students are expected to attend all lectures, participate in class discussions, complete all assigned reading before class, and write and present a term project. Undergraduate student papers are expected to be 8-10 pages in length. Graduate student papers are expected to be 10-12 pages in length and include a novel data analysis component. The instructor will be available during office hours to assist with student data analysis.

Grades will be assigned based on the student’s performance on the following:
• 15% - 3 Homework assignments (5% each)
• 15% - Midterm exam
• 15% - Weekly blog posts & participation in class and during the paper discussions
• 20% - Final Exam
• 35% - Term paper (25%) & oral presentation (10%)
- Final term paper due electronically on December XX by 6pm.

NCSU students signed up for the 1-credit seminar version of this course will be graded on being prepared for the discussions, class participation, and blogs for the 7 seminars they attend.

The topic of the term paper can be anything related to the course. Examples of paper topics could include (not a comprehensive list):

Urban environment justice | Ecological impacts of urban landscaping choices | Urban wildlife habitat | Urban nitrogen deposition | Urban metabolism| Urban greenhouse gas budgets | Consequences of urban land cover expansion | urban heat island impacts | urban greening efforts | green roofs | Changes in terrestrial biogeochemistry across urban to rural gradients | Urban agriculture | What is urban sustainability?

Lecture & Reading Schedule:
Note this the schedule below reflects both the BU & NCSU class meetings. The BU class will not meet until September 6th. BU class meetings will run from 2-5pm. NCSU classes are from 1-4. Portions of most class meetings will be conducted jointly, with our expert guest lectures and discussions running from 2:30 – 3:50. There will be a 10-minute reflection/review time after each discussion.

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Adler, F.R., Tanner, C.J. (2013) Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Principles for the Built Environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Bartens, J. et al. (2012) Soils in the city: A look at the soils in urban areas. Feature article in CSSA-SSSA-ASA monthly magazine "CSA News". August 2012, pages 4-13. Available online at:
Collins, S. L., S. R. Carpenter, S. M. Swinton, D. E. Orenstein, D. L. Childers, T. L. Gragson, N. B. Grimm, J. M. Grove, S. L. Harlan, J. P. Kaye, A. K. Knapp, G. P. Kofinas, J. J. Magnuson, W. H. McDowell, J. M. Melack, L. A. Ogden, G. P. Robertson, M. D. Smith, and A. C. Whitmer. (2011). An integrated conceptual framework for long-term social-ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 9:351-357.
Duren, R., Miller, C. Measuring the carbon emissions of megacities. Nature Climate Change 2: 560-563.
Glaeser, E.L., Kahn, M.E. (2010) The greenness of cities: Carbon dioxide emission and urban development. Journal of Urban Economics 67: 404-418.
Gobster, P. et al. 2007. The shared landscape: What does aesthetics have to do with ecology? Landscape Ecology 22: 959-972.
Golubiewski, N. (2012) Is there a metabolism of an urban ecosystem? An ecological critique. Ambio 47: 751-764.
Golubiewski, N. (2012) The Power of Language in Feedback Metaphors: A Response to Kennedy. Ambio 47: 767-678.
Groffman, P.M., et al. 2003. Down by the riverside: Urban riparian ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 1: 315-321.
Hope, D. et al. 2003. Socioeconomics driver urban plant diversity. PNAS 100: 8788-8792.
Kalnay, E. and M. Cai. 2003. Impact of urbanization and land-use on climate. Nature 423:528-531.
Kaye, J.P., P. Groffman, N.B. Grimm, L. Baker, and R. Pouyat. 2006. A distinct urban biogeochemistry? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21:192-199.
Kennedy, C., Pincetl, S., Bunje, P. (2011) The study of urban metabolism and its applications to urban planning and design Environmental Pollution 159: 1965-1973.
Kennedy, C. (2012) Comment on article "Is There a Metabolism of an Urban Ecosystem?" by Golubiewski Ambio 41: 765-766.
Liu, J.G. et al. (2007) Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317: 1513-1516.
Marzluff, J.M. 2005. Island biogeography for an urbanizing world: How extinction and colonization may determine biological diversity in human-dominated landscapes. Urban Ecosystems 8:157-177.
NPR Science Friday, ‘Urban Ecology’ June 27, 2003.
Pataki, D.E., et al. Coupling biogeochemical cycles in urban environments: Ecosystem services, green solutions, and misconceptions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 27-36.
Paul, M.J. and J.L. Meyer. 2001. Streams in the urban landscape. Review of Ecology and Systematics 32: 333-365.
Pickett, S. T. A., M. L. Cadenasso, J. M. Grove, P. M. Groffman, L. E. Band, C. G. Boone, W. R. Burch, S. B. Grimmond, J. Hom, J. C. Jenkins, N. L. Law, C. H. Nilon, R. V. Pouyat, K. Szlavecz, P. S. Warren, and M. Wilson. 2008. Beyond urban legends: an emerging framework of urban ecology, as illustrated by the Baltimore ecosystem study. Bioscience 58:139-150.
Pickett, STA., et al. 2011. Urban ecological systems: Scientific foundations and a decade of progress. Journal of Environmental Management 92: 331-361.
Sassen, S. (2001). The global city: New York, London, Tokyo (2nd ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Sassen, S., & Natan, D. (2011). Delegating, not returning, to the biosphere: how to use the multi-scalar and ecological properties of cities. Global Environmental Change, 21, 823-834.
Seto, K.C. et al. (2012a) Urban land teleconnections and sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109: 7687-7692.
Seto, K.C., B. Güneralp, Hutyra, L.R., (2012b) Global Forecasts of Urban Expansion to 2030 and Impacts on Biodiversity and Carbon Pools. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (40): 16083-16088, 2012.
Taha, H. (1997) Urban climates and heat islands: Albedo, evapotranspiration, and anthropogenic heat. Energy and Buildings 25: 90-103.
William, Raymond (1975) The Country and the City. Oxford University Press.
Zhang, X. Y.; Friedl, M. A.; Schaaf, C. B.; Strahler, A. H., Climate controls on vegetation phenological patterns in northern mid- and high latitudes inferred from MODIS data. Global Change Biology 2004, 10, 1133-1145.