McPhearson, Timon

Timon McPhearson
PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources (Rutgers University)
BS in Environmental Biology (Taylor University summa cum laude)
Assistant Professor Environmental Studies

Professor McPhearson studies ways to better design, restore, and build resilient and sustainable social-ecological systems. He focuses his research on understanding the linkages between urban ecological structure and function with a keen interest in the role of biodiversity and valuation of ecosystem services. Professor McPhearson’s research, teaching, and activism centers on the premise that humans are integrated components of ecosystems and therefore must recognize and take responsibility for the intimate role they play in the structuring and functioning of all ecosystems. This is nowhere more apparent than in urban areas. Cities are home to more than fifty percent of humanity and rising, which poses potentially dramatic implications for the well being of urban residents and the natural systems they depend on. The fact that most people’s experience of nature is urban suggests that cities need to become models of resilient and sustainable social-ecological systems. Accordingly, McPhearson’s research efforts are focused on better understanding urban socio-ecologies and protecting and restoring ecological functions and services in the urban systems.
Courses Taught:

Urban Ecosystems (UENV 3040)
Politics of Biodiversity (co-taught, UENV 4000 level)
Principles of Ecology (UENV 2040)
Environment and Society (UENV 2000)
Ecology LAB (UENV 3450)
Environmental Thinking (LGNC 1457)
Architecture and Social Practice: TREE Seminar (co-taught, PGAR 5680)
Architectural Design: Vertical Design Studio (co-taught, PUAD 4002)

Recent Publications:
 McPhearson, P. Timon and Keith G. Tidball. 2012. “Disturbances in Urban Social-Ecological Systems: Niche Opportunities for Environmental Education” in Trans-Disciplinary Environmental Education, eds. Marianne Krasny and Justin Dillon. Peter Lang, New York, In Review.
McPhearson, P. Timon. 2011. Cities as Highly Functional Socio-Ecological Systems: Solving the Environmental Crisis with a Tree? Scapes 8, In Press.
McPhearson, P. Timon. 2011. Toward a Sustainable New York City: Greening Through Urban Forest Restoration. In, The Triple Bottom Line: Sustainability Principles, Practice, and Perspective in America’s Cities (M. Slavin, editor), pp181-204, Island Press, Washington, D.C.
McPhearson, P. Timon, Mike Feller, Alex Felson, Richard Karty, Jacqueline Lu, Mathew Palmer, and Timothy Wenskus. 2010. Assessing the Effects of Urban Forest Restoration Effort of MillionTreesNYC on the Structure and Functioning of New York City Ecosystems. Cities and the Environment 3(1): Article 7, 21pp.
Campbell, Lindsay, Cristiana Fragola, Marianne Krasny, Gina Lovasi, Jacqueline W.T. Lu, David Maddox, Simon McDonnell, P. Timon McPhearson, Franco Montalto, Andrew Newman, Ellen Pehek, Ruth A. Rae, Megan Shane, Richard Stedman, Erika Svendsen, Keith G. Tidball, Lynne Westphal, and Tom Whitlow (authors listed alphabetically). 2010. MillionTreesNYC, Green Infrastructure, and Urban Ecology: Building a Research Agenda, MillionTreesNYC Advisory Board Research & Evaluation Subcommittee, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, New York City, NY.
Horning, Ned, P. Timon McPhearson, and Osman C. Wallace. 2009. An Introduction to Remote Sensing. Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

McPhearson, P. Timon, Stuart P.D. Gill, Robert Pollack, and Julia E. Sable. 2008. Increasing Scientific Literacy in Undergraduate Education: A Case Study from “Frontiers of Science” at Columbia University. In A Vision of Transdisciplinarity: Laying Foundations for a World Knowledge Dialogue (Eds. Frédéric Darbellay, Moira Cockell, Jérôme Billotte, and Francis Waldvogel), EPFL Press, Switzerland.

Johnson, Elizabeth A. and P. Timon McPhearson. 2007. Protecting Nature in Your Community. Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

McPhearson, P.T. and Osman C. Wallace. 2007. Application of Remote Sensing to Biodiversity Conservation. Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

McPhearson, P. Timon. 2006. Contributing author to Legacy: Conserving New York State’s Biodiversity (eds Johnson, E.A., and D. Smith). American Museum of Natural History, New York State Biodiversity Research Institute, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Natural Heritage Program, and The Nature Conservancy, Albany, New York.

McPhearson, P.T. 2004. The Complexity of Cooperation in Ecological Communities. Ph.D. dissertation. Rutgers University. New Brunswick, NJ.

McPhearson, P.T. and P.J. Morin. 2003. Review of “The importance of species: Perspectives on expendability and triage,” P. Karieva and S.A. Levin (eds). Integrative and Comparative Biology 43:603.

Petchey, Owen L., Tim Casey, Lin Jiang, P. Timon McPhearson and Jennifer Price. 2002. Species richness, environmental fluctuations, and temporal change in total community biomass. Oikos 99: 231-240.

Petchey, O.L., P. T. McPhearson, T. M. Casey, and P. J. Morin. 1999. Environmental warming alters food-web structure and ecosystem function. Nature 420:69-72.
Office Location:
72 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor
Phone Number/Extension:
212.229.5321 x3220


Research Interests:
 Professor McPhearson’s research, from the lab to the field, aims to reveal and conserve the ecological processes that structure and maintain the biodiversity that underpins critical ecosystem services, functions, and structures in urban landscapes. To do this he explores the major environmental factors, both abiotic and biotic, that affect community dynamics and ecosystem function. His lab uses both empirical and theoretical approaches including mathematical modeling, spatial analysis, laboratory experiments, and field studies to enhance our understanding of urban ecosystems with the goal of developing best practices for enhancing urban resilience and sustainability. His research is primarily focused on four overlapping areas: (1) The economic and non-economic valuation of urban ecosystem services and associated biodiversity; (2) The influence of management and environmental stress on community structure and ecosystem functioning in urban ecosystems; (2) the relationship between environmental stewardship and ecosystem services; and (3) the relative importance of cooperative interaction and its effects on system dynamics.
Professional Affiliations:
Cities and the Environment
Ecology and Society
Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing
Columbia University Press
Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners

ICLEI/UNESCO Urban Biosphere (URBIS) Initiative
Urban Assembly School for Green Careers

Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences
British Ecological Society
Ecological Society of America
Society for Conservation Biology
Society for Ecological Restoration
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Global Roundtable on Climate Change
Scientists Without Borders
US Green Building Council

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