Urban and Built Environment Ecology Lab

The Pavao-Zuckerman lab focus on understanding how humans interact with their environmentRincon heights basin and affect ecological processes. Our research program is primarily directed at understanding the drivers and controls on urban ecosystem function, and the implications of this for the management and provision of ecosystem services. A large part of this research program focuses on the ecological performance of designed elements of the built environment and green infrastructure in cities, and how this is particular to arid environments. This research draws on a resilience perspective to integrate ecological and social sciences to understand how decision making affects the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Ultimately these data provide an assessment of ecosystem health and the provision of ecosystem services, indicating how cities and environments respond to decision making, planning, design, and global change.


Congrats to Matthew Wilfong and Sarah Ponte who were both awarded a summer research fellowship from the UMD Graduate School for 2020!

Congrats to Leila Mosleh – she was awarded a Babbitt Dissertation Fellowship from the Lincoln Land Institute Center for Land and Water Policy and a Wiley Dissertation Fellowship from the UMD Graduate College!

Congrats to Rahat Sharif – she was selected for a Global STEWARDS Traineeship with an NSF-NRT Program at UMD!

Leila Mosleh was awarded an NSF ACADEME travel award!

Jennifer Hedin and Taylor Brinks were selected for an AGNR-UMD Undergraduate Research Award!

Mitch organized a session at AGU in New Orleans on decision support systems for the built environment.

Mitch was awarded a Oak Ridge Associated Universities Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement award in Engineering and Applied Sciences to continue his collaborations in PV solar novel ecosystem research.

Emma Giese presented her exit seminar in the ENST department 3/29 – “Stormwater Best Management Practice (BMP) climate resilience in the Anacostia Watershed” – look for a thesis defense in early summer!

Welcoming visiting researcher, Dr. Haoliang Lu from Xiamen University for a 1-year research stay in the lab!

We published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports that documents a photovoltaic heat island effect in solar power plants in Arizona. Next up is thinking about mitigation and decision-making around the PVHI.

Mitch was awarded the TREE Fund Research Fellowship Grant – it supports student research projects in priority areas of arboriculture and urban forestry.  We’ll be looking at approaches to improve urban soil quality to establish forests in vacant lots and provide ecosystem services.

Welcome to the lab and graduate studies in ENST to Tuana Phillips and Rahat Sharif!

A paper in collaboration with Yangfan Li of Xiamen University was accepted for publication in Ecological Indicators: “Quantifying urban ecological governance: a suite of indices characterizes the ecological planning implications of rapid coastal urbanization”

Mitch presents at the Ecological Society of America meetings in Ft. Lauderdale in a session on how tradeoffs create novel ecosystems speaking on “Linking ecology, decisions, and design through ecosystem services of novel urban ecosystems” and is co-authoring a talk on adaptation of the decomposer community of urban soils with Kathy Szlavecz in a symposium on adaptation to novel ecosystems

Mitch and Emma Giese were part of the UMD team that won first place in the EPA Campus Rainworms Challenge!  The student design project reimagined a 5-acre parking lot retrofit to integrate storm water management, solar energy production, and climate adaptation.

Emma Giese was awarded a Dean’s Fellowship by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – congrats Emma!

Mitch was interviewed by Wired magazine for an article about sustainability and water conservation trends in landscape design and architecture.

Mitch presented a talk on soils and green infrastructure in a symposium titled “Carbon Storage and Dynamics in Urban Soils” at the Soil Science Society of America Meeting in Minneapolis, MN on Nov 18th

Our project “Linking ecosystem services and governance of water resources in urbanized landscapes,” has been funded by the NSF-Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems program!  Excited to collaborate with hydrologists, environmental policy experts, and stakeholders to better understand how to get to sustainable water outcomes in our cities.

In summer 2015, Mitch joined the faculty of the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland.


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