I usually describe myself as an “urban ecosystem ecologist” to convey, 1) that I’m an ecosystem ecologist, focusing on the large-scale picture of how nutrients, water, and energy move within and between ecosystems, and 2) I mostly work in cities and other human-inhabited landscapes.At first I resisted tagging my work as “urban,” because many of the questions that motivate me took hold while I was living and working in a rural area. It’s not about the big-city big-infrastructure components so much as the integrated social and ecological systems, and those are found in any of the ecosystems where people live.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to the term “civic ecology,” because it also speaks to an important dimension of my work — that it’s in service to the public good, working to benefit the community. I work with households, neighborhoods, and local governments, looking for ways to increase nutrient sustainability and overall well-being. My work spans the boundary between fundamental ecological research (learning more about what makes the world tick) and practical decision-making (choosing ways to make it run “better”). Right now I’m on the academic side of that boundary, but I could easily see myself going back into government work in the future.