From city to nature – and halfway back

Living in the centre of a Northern European capitol my entire life, it might not have been obvious that a city girl would develop a professional interest centred on nature conservation, local biodiversity and landscape ecology. However, spending every other weekend in the countryside and many summers hiking different European mountains (since we don’t have any mountains to hike in Denmark), thanks to my nature-loving parents, sparked a lasting curiosity for the natural world. In the end, the combination of the two, city and wildlife, shaped me and initially made me choose landscape architecture studies. Disappointed with the lack of ecological content, I left to start studying biology swearing never to have anything to do with landscape architecture again (I wanted to be a neurobiology researcher). However, my original interest of the connection between urban landscape and biodiversity conservation crept up on me until I finally gave in to the calling of urban ecology. My deep motivation to work interdisciplinary with urban nature lies within the possibility to both supply new high-quality urban habitat for species while improving cities for people through the development of new integrated interdisciplinary urban design and planning approaches.

Trait-based approach linking ecology and design

Since October 2017 I have been doing an interdisciplinary industrial PhD initiated by a Danish landscape design company, SLA, in collaboration with the landscape ecology section at Oldenburg University, Germany, and the section for forest and biomass at the University of Copenhagen. The overall aim of the project is to contribute to sustainable urban development by identifying how ecological research can inform the design practice. Specifically, I will be investigating the composition of plant functional traits on a wet to dry gradient in the urban area of Copenhagen on both designed and spontaneous vegetation. The results in the form of CWM for each point along the gradient should (hopefully) provide information for better selection of plant material for ecological nature-based urban storm water mitigation. We will build the development of the integrated approach on the outcomes of these experiments.

PFTC: Perfect Foundation for a Trait-ecology Career

Since I haven’t worked in the field of trait-based ecology before I started my PhD, I consider the PFTC3 a crash course introduction to both the theories, field work planning and execution as well as statistical methods. In April I will be planning my own field work, and I expect to be much better suited for this task after finishing this course – feeling capable and knowledgeable, when planning my experiment set up, is consequently a big goal of mine for this course. Besides containing all relevant aspects of trait-based ecological research, the PFTC3 also takes places in Peru. Here I had month-long holiday with my boyfriend last summer, so besides feeling excited about gaining skills within trait-based ecology, I am also looking forward to return to a country that made a deep and lasting impression on me.

Climate change – sensitive ecosystems, sensitive people

In Denmark, the public perception of climate change is (more or less) in line with the newest research and popular media often reports on new findings or consequences; lately a story about a starving polar bear has been giving a lot attention and the situation has been credited global warming melting away the northern ice sheets. Occasionally, a politician or other public figure makes a statement against the belief of human-induced climate change, but they quickly get ridiculed both in the media and on social networks.

Travelling Peru as late as last summer, I have been trying to picture what the general attitude towards climate change might be. I don’t remember any climate change related experiences, but with the Andes and the mountain glaciers providing water for the rivers, the country might be vulnerable to rising temperatures slowly limiting water supplies as the glaciers melt away. This very tangible, critical and, probably, visible effect of climate change could (ought?) to lead to a widespread recognition of climate change and the devastating consequences of it. Whether or not humans are responsible for climate change can be a sensitive subject, since in some places it is considered a political issue causing emotional reactions and anger from both sides of the discussion. Personally, I believe that a country and a population respecting science and scientific results must accept that the observed changes in global and local climate is caused by the increasing human dominance on our planet. My personal experience of Peru together with the severe consequences the country might face due to climate change leads me to believe that it is generally accepted in Peru that human activities are responsible for climate change. However, I also think it is very possible that we will encounter individuals with the opposite view.

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