USP 433Y Urban Ecology

A major landmark has been crossed in the 21st century when humans became an "urban" species, Homo sapiens "urbanus." Indeed, more than 50% of the world's, and 80% of the U.S. population now resides in cities. The course addresses problems of understanding urban areas from the ecological viewpoint. Central to this understanding is the recognition that humans are organisms, but ones with unique capabilities of modifying the environment on multiple scales. A crucial concept to be introduced is the distinction between ecology in cities and ecology of cities. The former addresses how organisms (including humans) respond to and influence the physical and biological characteristics of cities. The latter studies the role of cities within broader geophysical and ecological processes such as global biogeochemical cycles, local and regional climates, patterns of biodiversity and organism movements, and ecological and social responses to disturbances. This course will look at both of these aspects through a theoretical lens of modern urban ecology. Urban areas are socio-ecological systems, a mosaic of landscapes, in which humans and their activities are a component of, rather than a disturbance imposed on, (urban) ecological systems. The approach taken in this course will be to facilitate students' learning through a combination of lecture, discussion and practical homework exercises. Prerequisites: a general ecology-focused course at the college level or permission of instructor.