Summer 2019 Course Preview for SUST 361 Urban Ecology

This coming summer semester (2019) the Sustainability Studies program will offer an exciting new field-based course, SUST 361 Urban Ecology, taught by Prof. Graham Pickren at the Chicago Campus.

SUST seniors Brittany Janney and Michelle Giles conduct field experiments on water infiltration rates in Chicago parklands (summer 2018)

This five-Saturdays course introduces students to the research methods and practices of the growing field of Urban Ecology. In the environmental sciences, cities were once considered unsuitable for studies of “nature.” However, urban landscapes are now being recognized not only as important places for wildlife habitat, but also as laboratories where new relationships between people and ecosystems are emerging.

This course provides students with an overview of urban ecology followed by hands-on training in research methodologies like plant and pollinator surveying, soil and water testing, air quality monitoring, and asset-mapping. Over the first three weeks, students will meet in the classroom in the mornings and then practice research methods in the field in the afternoon, visiting significant ecological sites around the city. In the final two weeks, students will form small teams and conduct independent research using the methods learned in class, culminating in a brief report on a topic of significance to the environmental community in Chicago.

  • Title/number: SUST 361 Urban Ecology (section 01)
  • Semester offered: Summer 2019 (5 Saturdays from July 8 thru Aug 5)
  • Location: Chicago Campus
  • Day/time: Saturday 9am-5pm
  • Pre-req: ENG 102

SUST majors and minors may take this class to fulfill an upper-level SUST 3xx requirement, but 361 also is open to students at large seeking an experiential learning course, needing a general education course, or desiring elective credit.

Course goals:

  • Demonstrate basic command of core urban ecology methods, concepts, and theory;
  • Design a practical multidisciplinary research project as a team;
  • Collect and analyze data to inform research questions;
  • Write a research report and deliver project findings to stakeholders in written and oral form; and
  • Make scientifically informed decisions about societal issues related to urban areas.

For questions and more details about this course, please contact Dr. Graham Pickren (, assistant professor of Sustainability Studies.

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