Most people in the US and around the world live in and around cities. This means the environment in cities will directly affect the health of most people. It also means cities are where most people experience nature – where most kids will climb trees or find their first bug. Our goal is to contribute knowledge and outreach to help cities serve human health, conservation, and recreation functions.
To achieve this we study a lot about trees. Trees contribute to all these functions by providing cool, clean air for people and food and habitat for animals. We study the ecology of tree pests to understand why they become so abundant and damaging on urban trees. We use this knowledge to develop tree planting and maintenance recommendations for urban foresters, landscape architects, and others who manage urban forests.
We also study how to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as pollination and decomposition, in cities. This ensures that kids and other people can go outside and experience a diverse array of insects. It also ensures that cities are not just death traps that bees fly into but can’t get out of (in ecology that’s called a sink). We spend a lot of time teaching the public about pollinators and other insects in person and in the press.
The plants we install in urban landscapes or put in a vase in our home come from nurseries and greenhouses. We study the ecology of pests in these systems to reduce pesticide use. This includes developing cultural practices that prevent pest outbreaks and optimizing biological control. When insecticide are necessary our research and extension helps growers reduce their risk to the environment, non-target organisms, and people.
From the blog
I can expect this encounter to go one of two ways. This is a woman with an insatiable appetite for learning, whose scholastic intrigue cannot keep her from asking me what I am doing, OR she is a slightly disgruntled neighbor. She is the latter.
Pink-striped oakworms are chomping on oak trees in Raleigh right now and leaving piles of frass (poop) in their wake. Spot them on your trees by looking for branches with all of their leaves chewed off.
Insects experience the environment at much smaller scales than people do. Some insects may not move more than a block in their lives. We figured bees that can't tolerate heat won't be found in hot parts of town and did a study to determine if that's true.