Urban Ecology

urban ecology

What would you consider to be “natural”? How does the environment affect humans, and how much do humans affect the environment? When we think about nature and biodiversity, we often think about faraway and “untouched” places. But when we look at humans as part of the environment, as one of many organisms in complicated systems, new ideas and new questions become possible.

How to Use this Video


This video describes the field of urban ecology and features scientists who use the city as their field site. We’ll hear about studying both the wildlife and the human life of our urban green spaces, and we’ll focus on how humans are an influential part of the urban ecosystem.

Find the video below, as well as some of the important science senses it features relating to asking scientific questions, getting a representative sample, and applying scientific knowledge.

Have thoughts about the video? What resources or activities have you used to teach this topic in your class? We’d love to know – share your voice by sending us a message below 🙂


Science Senses Featured in this Video

Data sense

Collecting data

Choosing a representative sample

Knowledge sense

Asking scientific questions based on observations

Applying scientific knowledge

Activities & Lesson Plans

Grant writing competition – Assign students a short journal article that describes an ecological experiment. In class, have students work in groups to propose a follow up experiment or a different experiment on a related question. Students must propose methods and generate hypotheses. They then present their proposal to the class and the class votes on which study to fund. (KS – asking questions, designing experiments, communicating science, DS – collecting data, choosing a representative sample)

Ecosystem Services Estimates – How much would you (or a government) pay for some service that you (or the city) get for free from an intact ecosystem? (NS – making a back-of-the-envelope estimate).

Ecosystem Services vs. Hot Spots Debate – Have students discuss the merits of each conservation strategy (or other conservation strategies). Which is more likely to garner public support and why? (KS – communicating science, applying scientific knowledge).


Costanza et al. 1997. The Value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature. 387:253-260.

Helden and Leather. 2004. Biodiversity on urban roundabouts – Hemiptera, management and the species-area relationship. Basic and Applied Ecology. 5:367-377.

Kimmerer. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions.

OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 44: Ecology and the Biosphere from OpenStax: Biology. OpenStax. (Access this OER here.)

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