Tuesday, August 5, 2008 - 2:50 PM

COS 38-5: Ecological landscape design: Linking research and education in the studio classroom

Sarah Taylor Lovell, University of Vermont and Douglas M. Johnston, Iowa State University.

Background/Question/Methods Ecological landscape design can serve an important role in linking research and education through interdisciplinary training of young scientists and landscape designers in the studio classroom.  The ecological landscape design process encourages the exploration of multifunctional solutions for landscape transformation that minimize the negative impacts of human activities on the environment.  Unlike the vague and ubiquitous term “sustainability”, which is often applied in the context of landscapes, multifunctionality suggests clear goals for providing a range of environmental, social, and economic functions based on stakeholder interests. 
Results/Conclusions In the classroom, students review and discuss literature on innovative theoretical and applied principles from the fields of landscape ecology, agroecology, and ecological design.  In the studio, students apply their knowledge in the design of multifunctional landscapes guided by ecological principles in the following steps: defining the project site and landscape context, analyzing landscape structures and functions, master planning using an ecosystem approach, designing sites to reveal ecological functions, and monitoring ecological functions.  Within the designs, they are encouraged to attain multiple targeted performance standards such as conserving and producing energy; providing food; managing water quality and quantity; reducing, reusing, and treating waste; conserving and increasing biodiversity; meeting visual quality expectations; and providing recreational opportunities.  The development of a framework for ecological design of landscapes demonstrates the importance of a multi-scale approach for connecting sites to their surrounding context, the benefits of considering multiple functions on the same site, and the value of the interaction between students studying in diverse fields.  We feel that students in ecology and other scientific disciplines will benefit from the involvement in ecological landscape design, as they will be better prepared to meet the challenges of the future including human population growth, degradation of landscapes, and competition for limited natural resources.  The authors share their experiences and several examples of projects from courses offered at two universities.