Ecology + Design symposium highlights collaborative problem solving

Stephanie Swindle Thomas
October 23, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ecology + Design (E+D) will host its inaugural symposium on Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the Jury Space of the Stuckeman Family Building on Penn State’s University Park campus, featuring talks by nine academic and industry leaders in ecology and design. The event is free and open to the public.

Topics of discussion will be key ecological principles, useful collaborative strategies, and research to test performance. The speakers will be divided into three groups and each deliver a brief TED-talk-style presentation of a point of view on their topic, followed by a panel discussion with the audience. The goal of the event is to enhance practice, research efforts, and organization through addressing complex and interdisciplinary problems and employing design strategies.

“E+D is the first effort on campus to deliberately integrate design with ecology,” explained Andy Cole, associate professor of landscape architecture in the Stuckeman School. “Designers change the way we live in the world, and integrating ecology with design will greatly improve and inform ecologically-based landscape decisions.”

Acknowledging that designers and planners are change agents for the environment, Cole hopes that integrating ecological science and physical design, E+D will improve ecological health in design. Through collaboration, ecologists and designers can integrate their ideas and solutions to better inform and serve the public good.

The E+D symposium will convene nine leaders in natural sciences, social sciences, and design who can speak to the benefit of collaborative efforts between the disciplines. Speakers include Kristina Hill, UC Berkeley; David Orr, Oberlin College; Bill Braham, University of Pennsylvania; Keith Bowers, Biohabitats; Chris Barnes, SCAPE; Thomas Price, Conservation Design Forum; Bill Mitsch, Florida Gulf Coast University; Steve Apfelbaum, Applied Ecological Services; and Wu Hong, Penn State.

“One of the big goals of the symposium is to raise awareness throughout the University about how designers and ecologists are currently collaborating and how they might continue to advance their interdisciplinary efforts. We hope the symposium will be a nexus for building partnerships in research, practice, and pedagogical efforts,” said Stephen Mainzer, visiting assistant professor in landscape architecture.

Cole and Mainzer are exploring the potential of forming a full-fledged Penn State E+D Center to benefit faculty and students in environmental science and design disciplines University-wide through research, education, and outreach. By communicating E+D's mission of research-activated design, they hope to increase visibility and collaborate with allied disciplines, organizations and centers.

“We hope that attendees will appreciate the phenomenal ecological design work already being done by ecologists, landscape architects and other practitioners and realize that including designers into the ecological mix will greatly improve the way our human-dominated landscapes function,” added Cole. “We expect to open people's eyes to the great benefits of adopting an ecological design approach to our built environments.”

The symposium is sponsored by the College of Arts and Architecture, Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Ecology Institute of the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences, PA Water Resources Research Center, and Human Ecology Center.

For the complete schedule and more information, visit the event webpage:

  • E+D logo
    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated September 27, 2019