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The MES Top 20

Want to know more about MES field trips? Or how about tips on growing an incredible urban garden? It’s all here. Explore what’s ahead for the environmental field, who’s who of MES and how you can be a greener citizen with our fun and informative lists.

20 Maps That Predict What The World Will Look Like In 2050

20 maps that predict what the world will look like in 2050

Over the last 20 years, the challenges facing our environment have risen to the top of the global political agenda. These maps seek to predict the range of environmental, economic and humanitarian outcomes resulting from our collective action over the next 20 years. Take a look.

Cities with the highest annual flood costs

1. Cities with the highest annual flood costs

According to this study in Nature, the global cost of flood damages is expected to be well above $1 trillion annually due to a combination of rising seas, sinking land and growing coastal development.

Source: Mother Jones

2. Rate of oceanic species invasions

2. Rate of oceanic species invasions

Warming oceans are driving sea life towards the cooler polar waters. By 2050, upwards of two new species per half degree of latitude are expected to inundate the Arctic and Southern oceans under business-as-usual climate change scenarios.

Source: Nereus Project

Viticulture suitability: changes to wine grape regions

3. Viticulture suitability: changes to wine grape regions

Wine grapes are an agricultural “canary in the coal mine” according to Rebecca Shaw, who co-authored a study looking at projected climate change impacts on global viticulture suitability.

Source: PNAS

Percentage change in crop yields with 3℃ average global temperature rise

4. Percentage change in crop yields with 3 average global temperature rise

While limiting global warming to 2℃ was a laudable diplomatic target for those at COP21 in Paris, it is not likely attainable. Unfortunately, under a more realistic 3℃ scenario, the poorest and hungriest parts of the world will suffer the greatest reduction in agricultural productivity.

Source: World Resources Institute

World population distribution represented by land mass

5. World population distribution represented by land mass

Worldmapper teamed up with the SASI group and researchers from the University of Michigan to represent the distribution of the planet’s estimated 9.07 billion people in 2050. According to the study, 62% of the population will live in Africa or Asia.

Source: Worldmapper

Installed land and offshore wind capacity

6. Installed land and offshore wind capacity

This clickable interactive map represents the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Report findings, predicting the growth of US wind generation over the next 35 years.

Source: The Energy Department

Urban populations > 100,000

7. Urban populations > 100,000

This interactive data visualization from a 2012 UNICEF study visualizes historical and predicted urban population growth over 100 years, from 1950 to 2050.

Source: UNICEF

A carbon-free European energy grid

8. A carbon-free European energy grid

The European Climate Foundation’s RoadMap 2050 Report goes beyond predictive models to prescribe a pathway to develop a low-carbon economy for Europe by 2050.

Source: The Roadmap 2050 project

Footprint and load share for 100% renewable generation in the US

9. Footprint and load share for 100% renewable generation in the US

This map shows the projected areal footprint and associated share of annual power load beyond existing 2013 resources to achieve a 100% renewable grid in the US by 2050. In short, this is what wind, water, and solar energy could look like for all 50 states.

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry

Industrial Manufacturing Growth

10. Industrial Manufacturing Growth

This scenario analysis from the IEA predicts the shift of near future industrial growth to India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Source: International Energy Agency

Climate action tracker: INDC pledges are not enough

11. Climate action tracker: INDC pledges are not enough

The emissions reductions targets put forward in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are projected to lead to a global warming of around 2.7°C likely to limit warming to below 3°C by 2100.

Source: Climate Action Tracker

Projected temperature increase by 2050

12. Projected temperature increase by 2050

This map represents the average temperature change between 2015 and 2050 using 35 global climate models with a mid-range climate change scenario.

Source: Urban Climate Change Research Network

Flood scenarios for sea level rise and severe storms in Philadelphia

13. Flood scenarios for sea level rise and severe storms in Philadelphia

Using NOAA’s Digital Coast tool Philadelphia’s first climate adaptation report, Growing Stronger: Toward a Climate-Ready Philadelphia predicts excessive flooding when severe storm conditions are combined with even minimum sea level rise.

Source: Greenworks Philadelphia

Projected difference in cumulative July Precipitation, 2000 to 2050

14. Projected difference in cumulative July Precipitation, 2000 to 2050

Research from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a variety of climate prediction models to estimate changes in July precipitation depth across the U.S. This map represents significant increases in variability and extreme weather, with rainfall increasing or decreasing by over 100% in some cases.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Emerging US megaregions

15. Emerging US megaregions

The America 2050 initiative predicts the emergence of 11 US “megaregions”—expansive metropolitan networks that will be an important organizing device for governance, infrastructure investments and land use planning.

Source: America 2050

Water sustainability index

16. Water sustainability index

This index combines five metrics to assess county-level water risk in the US—water demand, the share of precipitation used for groundwater, drought risk and increases in freshwater withdrawals and summer water deficits.

Source: NRDC

Percentage of summers hotter than any currently on record

17. Percentage of summers hotter than any currently on record

Extreme summer heat can endanger food security by reducing crop productivity, stressing livestock, reducing soil moisture and increasing water consumption.

Source: Climate Communication

The future

18. The future

Here, a number of global scenarios play out, including oceanic garbage patches, robotic fish farms, population growth, land use and water access.

Source: Lapham's Quarterly

100% renewable energy

19. 100% renewable energy

Researchers at Stanford and the University of California teamed up to find projected pathways to a 100% renewable energy mix for 139 countries by 2050 (interactive).

Source: The Solutions Project: 100% Campaign

Projected per capita water availability

20. Projected per capita water availability

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory calculated per capita water availability on a watershed basis for a wide-range of IPCC climate scenarios.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

20 Alumni You Need to Know


Whether you’re a professional in the environmental field or a passionate ecologist looking to start a new career, Penn’s Master of Environmental Studies can help take you where you want to go in your career. Get to know some of MES's most notable alumni, and picture yourself in an exciting field with opportunities all over the globe.

1. Veronica Lee (’10) is a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Agency for International Development. She’s spent the last five years managing US Government Assistance to mitigate and adapt to climate change in developing countries. She is currently helping the Republic of Georgia craft their commitment to the UN climate negotiations at COP21.

Bryan Benitez McClelland (’07)

2. Bryan Benitez McClelland (’07) is a Filipino-American environmental consultant, ecotourism developer and social entrepreneur. He founded Bamb EcoLogical Technology, Inc. to have a platform for his socio-ecological enterprise projects. He works with community members of Victoria,Tarlac to build the Bambike, a premium bamboo bicycle.

3. Tom Brightman (’00) is the Land Steward at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. He is instrumental in the care of more than 700 acres of natural and agricultural lands. He made significant contributions to the overall concept and design, interpretive elements and native plant community development of Longwood Gardens' award-winning 86-acre Meadow Garden.

Zoe Reich Margarites (’10)

4. Zoe Reich Margarites (’10) is the Senior Director of Delos Solutions and Sustainability. She utilizes her in-depth knowledge of how the built environment directly impacts human health and environmental sustainability. Her projects span across five continents as she brings the WELL Building Standard and custom wellness solutions to her clients.

Consul General Thassanee Wanick (’03)

5. Consul General Thassanee Wanick (’03) founded the Green Building Council Brazil in 2007 and became a Board Member of the World Green Building Council. In 2012, she was appointed Consul General of Thailand for Sao Paulo and Southern Brazil. She also holds the title Knight Officer of the Most Noble Order of the Crown for meritorious services to the country and its people given by His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand.

Naiying Peng (’11)

6. Naiying Peng (’11) a Chinese national, works with Global Environment Facility (GEF) in the World Bank as an Operation Analyst. In GEF—the world’s largest environment financial mechanism—Naiying is a member of Result Based Management team, in which she is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Before GEF, Naiying worked with International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group, focusing on environment and social development.

Whitney Webber (’15)

7. Whitney Webber (’15) is currently the Ocean Advocate for Responsible Fishing and Seafood Fraud at Oceana. She works to protect and restore the world’s oceans through targeted campaigns with the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization. While at Penn, she studied stream restoration in the Chesapeake Bay and won the Fred N. Scatena Award for Outstanding Research in Climate Change.

Rahilla Zafar

8. Rahilla Zafar (’12) works at Cisco Systems and is a contributing author, researcher and editor of the upcoming book, The Internet of Women, Why It Matters. She also co-wrote the book Arab Women Rising, which profiles 35 women entrepreneurs from across the Middle East and North Africa. While in Afghanistan and Pakistan, she worked for the International Organization for Migration.

Rae Okawa (’12)

9. Rae Okawa (’12) is a self-proclaimed “bird nerd.” She is a Development Coordinator for the Hawaii Wildlife Center (HWC). The HWC is the only native bird and bat response center and hospital in the state of Hawaii. Since 2012, Rae's work has supported the care of more than 70 different species and subspecies of native birds and the Hawaiian hoary bat, as well as additional conservation, education, and research assistance programs at HWC.

Dr. Jana A. Hirsch (’10)

10. Dr. Jana A. Hirsch (’10) is a multi-disciplinary social epidemiologist with research interests in public health and urban planning. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and a visiting postdoctoral scholar at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (University of British Columbia). In August 2016, she begins an assistant faculty position in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina.

Greg Kelder (’10)

11. Greg Kelder (’10) is a Vice President and Environmental Portfolio Leader at the Brandywine Group of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies. He has 25 years of experience with complex environmental, toxic tort and insurance coverage matters. Greg serves on the Board for the Global Water Alliance, is a member of the Environmental Claims Journal Editorial Advisory Board, the Environmental Inn of Court, the PA Environmental Council and the PA Bar Association.

Ta-You (Gordon) Huang (’14)

12. Ta-You (Gordon) Huang (’14) initiated a sustainability pilot project with his employer Alere Inc. In it, he established a matrix, outlined standard operating procedures, and provided knowledge of senior management. He is currently a Research Associate in the Substance and Drugs of Abuse sector of Alere.

Niva Kramek (’08)

13. Niva Kramek (’08) works at the US Environmental Protection Agency, in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She is also the project lead for maintaining and updating the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessment. For the Office of Pesticide Programs, Nina was a rule writer and developed regulations and voluntary programs. During her time with MES, she assisted in founding the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative.

Fanyuan Lin (’14)

14. Fanyuan Lin ('14)is a Senior Manager of Corporate Initiatives, Asia Pacific at AECOM in Hong Kong. His work covers management of company initiatives, special projects and events as well as research and analysis to support the decision making of the Office of the President. Before joining the MES program, he worked at the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China for six years.

Caroline D’Angelo (’12)

15. Caroline D'Angelo ('12) directs communications for the Department of State's Greening Diplomacy Initiative—an effort set up by Secretary Clinton and continued by Secretary Kerry. She advises both the US and foreign countries' embassies and consulates on a broad range of sustainability initiatives. She also co-founded wH2O: The Journal of Gender & Water, the first journal on global water and women's issues.

Maria-Tzina Leria (’13)

16. Maria-Tzina Leria (’13) moved back to her homeland, Greece, in 2014 to contribute to the protection and social sustainability of her country. Recruited by The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Shapers Athens Hub—a World Economic Forum initiative, she undertook the role of the Project Manager of ReGeneration. The organization supports internships, professional training and a social work program for Greek youth.

Valerie Baron

17. Valerie Baron (’12) is an Equal Justice Works Law Fellow sponsored by the Animal Welfare Trust at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC. She focuses her time primarily on NRDC’s Climate Healthy Menus and Factory Farm Accountability initiatives. Before entering graduate school, she served on the staff of the Committee on Energy and Commerce at the House of Representatives where she worked on consumer protection policy and legislation.

Dakota Dobyns (’12)

18. Dakota Dobyns (’12) is a consultant at Geneva Global, a firm that specializes in philanthropy, global health and social impact. Before joining Geneva Global, Dakota worked at the World Bank as part of the Agriculture and Environmental Services team, where she collaborated with financial institutions throughout Africa and Asia to increase their agricultural lending capacity.

Luca Bernabei (’12)

19. Luca Bernabei (’12) has been working with Golder Associates, a global geotechnical and environmental consulting firm since graduating from Penn. Recently, he worked on a project in Connecticut where a former industrial site transformed into a nature preserve and wetland.

Cameron McQuale (’10)

20. Cameron McQuale (’10) completed a unique joint graduate degree program organized by Penn, the Paris School of Mines and Tsinghua University. He completed the international program with a six-month professional internship in carbon capture and storage (CCS). Other professional experience includes working with Geostock, CertiNergy and soon opening a locally-sourced bar and restaurant in Colombes, France.

20 Things To Do Outside of the Classroom

20 Things To Do Outside of the Classroom

To meet the needs of working professionals, the Master of Environmental Studies classes take place in the evening. Some prospective students might ask, “What do I do with the rest of my day?” Here are  examples of what our students do when they are not in the classroom.

Attend the first year retreat

1. Attend the first year retreat

We begin the fall semester by welcoming new students to the MES program at a retreat in the Pocono Mountains. Students participate in outdoor adventures like zip lining and canoeing as well as academic endeavors like networking, one-on-one advising, and professional development.

Become a certified bird bander

2. Become a certified bird bander

In 2015, two MES students traveled to Belize to become NABC Certified Bird Banders.

Attend the monthly coffee hour

3. Attend the monthly coffee hour

Once a month our department hosts a coffee hour for students and faculty to catch up, relax and share ideas.

Attend the Alumni career panel

4. Attend the Alumni career panel

Every spring the MES Graduate Advisory Board hosts an Alumni panel where MES graduates talk about their career and give advice to current students.

Attend the All Ivy Environmental and Sustainability Career Fair

5. Attend the All Ivy Environmental and Sustainability Career Fair

Each year the MES program charters a bus to send students  to Columbia University to network and seek jobs and internships at this Ivy League-only event.

Help expand the Penn Park Orchard

6. Help expand the Penn Park Orchard

Students can assist with the planting and maintaining of the fruit orchard in Penn Park, right in the heart of our campus. Learn the proper way to plant and prune trees and get to know your community.

Volunteer with the Global Water Alliance (GWA)

7. Volunteer with the Global Water Alliance (GWA)

Work with this international organization to make a difference in water equity and quality in many developing countries, by fundraising, conference organizing and field work.

Attend a Graduate Advisory Board (GAB)-hosted happy hour

8. Attend a Graduate Advisory Board (GAB)-hosted happy hour

Each semester GAB hosts social events such as happy hours to bring students together in a relaxed atmosphere on campus.

Take the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) certification course

10. Take the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) certification course

Stay up-to-date on current sustainability reporting guidelines and requirements by being certified in a weekend training session on the Penn campus.

Learn about academic publishing

10. Learn about academic publishing

Volunteer to work on wh2O The Journal of Gender and Water. Learn to be an editor, social media director, writer or blogger with Penn’s open source academic journal.

Get the 40hr OSHA HAZWOPER certification

11. Get the 40hr OSHA HAZWOPER certification

With MES, you take 32 hours of training online and then spend eight hours during a weekend in the spring to get certified right on campus.

Volunteer with a local research group

12. Volunteer with a local research group

Through Penn’s networks and connections, you can meet groups in the Philadelphia region who are doing cutting-edge research in urban forestry, green infrastructure and riparian restoration.

Attend thought-provoking seminars on campus

13. Attend thought-provoking seminars on campus

Attend the Wednesday Earth & Environmental Science/ Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership Seminar Series to expand your knowledge. You are also welcome to join our guests for lunch afterwards to continue the discussion.

Attend conferences in your field

14. Attend conferences in your field

Conferences are excellent networking and professional development opportunities. Submit an abstract for a poster or oral presentation and our department can help fund trips in which you present.

Volunteer for the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL)

15. Volunteer for the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL)

With this Wharton Business School group, you can participate in research initiatives, business and sustainability seminars, networking events, conferences and blogging opportunities.

Volunteer for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

16. Volunteer for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

Write blogs, support faculty research on energy policy or work as an energy policy intern to help Penn move toward a more sustainable future.

Take a tour of the campus green spaces

17. Take a tour of the campus green spaces

Learn about the history of the Biopond, green infrastructure, and LEED-certified buildings across our 300+ acre urban campus.

Work on campus-based research projects

18. Work on campus-based research projects

MES students are currently working with the Penn Vet Working Dog Center to design a system that uses dog poop to power lights for their dog agility yard. Really!

Network with leaders in the region

19. Network with leaders in the region

Students have the opportunity to meet leaders in the fields of water, energy, and sustainability at networking events throughout the year.

Become an Eco-Rep

20. Become an Eco-Rep

The Penn campus becomes your living sustainability laboratory as you design new initiatives, events, and activities to improve the campus and educate its students, staff and faculty. Eco-Reps go beyond MES and help make the greater Penn community more environmentally engaged and conscious.

20 Employers Where MES Alumni Have Landed

 20 Employers Where MES Alumni Have Landed

From research and design, to education and community outreach, the opportunities in the environmental field continue to grow. Take a look at just some of the major employers of MES alumni in the region and around the globe.

The Nature Conservancy

1. The Nature Conservancy - Arlington, VA

The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest global conservation organizations. They work across all 50 states and in more than 35 countries to protect lands, waters and all natural life.

FMC Corporation

2. FMC Corporation - Philadelphia, PA

Since 1883, FMC has been using advanced technologies in manufacturing, research and development for the agriculture, health, nutrition and chemical fields. In all of FMC’s work, promoting environmental stewardship and sustainability are core modes of operation.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

3. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Washington, D.C.

The EPA is a federal agency that was established by our government to help protect human and environmental health by enforcing national standards across industries.

Tesla Motors

4. Tesla Motors - Palo Alto, CA

Tesla Motors is an independent automaker that designs, manufactures and sells 100% electric and battery-powered vehicles. Tesla cars can travel hundreds of miles on one full charge and owners never use a drop of gasoline.


5. TerraCycle - Trenton, NJ

TerraCycle is an international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle items for free and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

6. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service - Washington, D.C.

The USDA Forest Service manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Their experts provide assistance to state and local government agencies, businesses and private landowners.

Chester Ridley Crum (CRC) Watersheds Association

7. Chester Ridley Crum (CRC) Watersheds Association - Newtown Square, PA

The CRC Watersheds Association is a non-profit that is devoted to the protection of the water resources of the Chester, Ridley and Crum Creek Valleys in the Chester and Delaware Counties of Pennsylvania. The CRC covers 132 square miles and 40 municipalities, from the South Valley Hills to the Delaware River.

PIKA International

8. PIKA International - Stafford, TX

PIKA International is a leader in the technology and management of environmental remediation, construction, munitions, hazardous and toxic waste handling, as well as radiological services.


9. USAID - Washington, D.C.

As the leading US government agency working toward ending extreme poverty worldwide, USAID provides assistance to foreign nations in trade, health initiatives, environmental sustainability, disaster recovery and much more.

Natural Lands Trust

10. Natural Lands Trust - Media, PA

Based in Philadelphia suburbs, the National Lands Trust is the region’s leading oldest and largest land conservation organization. They own and manage natural preserves and help land owners steward their resources.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries

11. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries - Silver Spring, MD

The NOAA Fisheries protect and conserve our nation’s ocean resources and habitats by maintaining sustainable fisheries, providing safe sources of seafood, assisting the recovery of protected resources and promoting healthy ecosystems.

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

12. The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education - Philadelphia, PA

One of the first centers for urban environmental education, The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education uses a hands-on approach to encouraging citizens to have meaningful and impactful relationship to the natural world—through art projects, wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor classes.

General Electric Power

13. General Electric Power - Fairfield, CT

General Electric is one of the largest industrial manufacturers in the world. Its Energy branch has been investing in renewable resources by widely expanding the use of wind turbines as well as water treatment and processing. GE also develops and researches innovative nuclear energy uses.

Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC)

14. Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) - New England

The coasts of New England are protected by the NROC, a collaboration between state representatives, federal agencies and regional organizations. The group works together to identify and solve local and state ecosystem problems. Their work focuses on ocean and coastal ecosystem health, coastal hazards resilience and ocean planning.

Sustainable Green Initiative

15. Sustainable Green Initiative - Kolkata, India

The founders of Sustainable Green Initiative are working to eliminate greenhouse gases and improve climate change by planting one billion trees in India with special attention paid to urban areas. Since 2012, the organization has planted 25,000 trees in Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru and Gurgaon.

National Park Service (NPS)

16. National Park Service (NPS) - Washington, D.C.

Under the care of park rangers and volunteers, America’s 400 national parks are protected by the National Park Service. From the great outdoors of Yellowstone to the battlefields of Gettysburg, the NPS ensures our country’s historic landmarks and most treasured landscapes are preserved.


17. DuPont - Wilmington, DE

The global headquarters of the DuPont brand lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Among its corporate outreach programs is a commitment to sustainability. The company’s 2020 Sustainability Goals “integrate sustainability in [their] innovation process, further improve [their] operational footprint and continue [their] efforts to enhance global food security.”

Pew Charitable Trusts

18. Pew Charitable Trusts - Philadelphia, PA

Pew is a global research and public policy organization. The company is operated as a non-partisan, non-governmental organization dedicated to serving the public and supports major work and research in the environmental field.

Roux Associates

19. Roux Associates - Islandia, NY

Roux Associates provide environmental consulting and management for a wide range of clients including Target, Pfizer and Amtrak. They are known for their Engineered Natural Systems (ENS®) technologies which are employed in remediation, stormwater runoff and restoration projects.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)

20. Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) - Philadelphia, PA

The DVRPC serves Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in PA; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties in NJ. It provides services to member governments and organizations in the areas of transportation, land use, environmental protection and economic development.

20 Things You Can Do Every Day at Home to Help Improve the Environment

When it comes to ensuring our world has a brighter, greener future, all of us can pitch in. Change doesn’t just happen on Capitol Hill; it can happen in your home and it is easier than you think—here are 20 things you can do every day to help the environment!
- by Laura Barron (MES/MPH, ‘17-expected)

1. Drink from a reusable water bottle

According to Ban the Bottle, making bottles to meet America’s demand uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually. Plastics remain in the environment for a long time, polluting oceans and landfills. Drink from a reusable BPA-free bottle of water and save up to $1,400 in water bottle purchases.


2. Use Tupperware instead of Styrofoam or plastic containers

Styrofoam is considered hazardous waste and can also cause health impacts for workers and consumers.

3. Be sure to properly dispose of all glass, plastics, metal, and paper

Learn more about Philadelphia’s recycling requirements at The Philadelphia Streets Department's website.

4. Donate!

Americans trash more than 68 pounds of clothing per person and textiles annually, according to The Environmental Health Perspectives Journal. In addition to reducing waste, donating goods helps others in need. Organizations like Goodwill take donations and stores like H&M collect clothing for textile recycling.

5. Recycle your electronics

The world generates 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste (known as e-waste) annually. By recycling electronic items, you reduce e-waste toxins and the items can be refurbished and reused, or sustainably recycled!

6. Retrofit your home to improve energy efficiency

Reseal your windows, check your wall outlets and use thermal curtains. Heat can escape your house in unexpected places, from attic holes to wall outlets. Target the source of leaks to reduce energy consumption.

7. Use LED light bulbs and Energy Star appliances

Energy efficient appliances cut down on energy and water consumption, reducing environmental degradation and they save you money!

8. Source your home energy from wind or solar

If you live in Philadelphia, PECO Energy provides greener alternatives, such as local wind or solar. Using non-fossil fuel energy can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

9. Turn off lights

The age old adage, “Turn lights off when you leave the room!” is simple and effective. By not using energy when you’re not there, you save!

10. Unplug appliances

If you’re not using something, unplug it! When a cord is left plugged in, it still uses energy—as much as 10% can be added to your monthly energy bill, according to the Department of Energy.

11. Set timers on your heating and air conditioning systems to maximize efficiency

If you have a timer device on your heater or air conditioning, set it around your schedule so you won’t have to leave it running all day. Energy efficient devices such as the Nest thermostat allow you to control your home temperature remotely from your phone.

12. Know what temperature is most economical and efficient

In winter, setting your thermostat at 68 degrees, and in summer setting it at 78 degrees proves to be the most effective way to regulate the temperature, reduce energy consumption and save money.

13. Install a cool roof

A cool roof reflects sunlight and cools itself by emitting radiation to its surroundings, decreasing the urban heat island effect and lowering energy consumption. The roof stays cooler and reduces the heat conducted to the building below. You can make your roof cool simply by painting it white.

14. Turn your backyard into an eco-friendly landscape

Planting native grasses and plants fosters biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Eliminating pesticide use prevents toxins from seeping into the water supply or being ingested. Practice sustainable watering in your yard by not over-watering and watering early or late to prevent evaporation.

15. Green your local urban spaces

Greening urban areas can improve air quality, decrease stormwater overflow and reduce the heat island effect. Planting trees proves to be the most effective greening tool. To learn about the best trees to plant, read Henry Arnold’s publication about the most sustainable trees for urban areas.

16. Compost those table scraps

According to a recent report by the World Resources Institute, at least one third of all food is wasted annually. This creates methane build up in landfills and is catalytic to global warming. Composting can significantly reduce human emissions and provide environmentally friendly fertilizers.

17. Use water effectively

Time your showers, turn of the sink when you brush and hand-wash dishes or only doing a load of dishes when the dishwasher is full.It may feel like a small amount of water savings, but water is a scare commodity and it takes energy to deliver the water to your faucet, so every drop counts!

18. Wait to wash your clothes until you have a full load and hang dry what you can

Washing clothes uses more than 40 gallons of water per load, so make sure to maximize each load to save water and energy. In addition to reducing energy use and lowering individual carbon emissions, hang drying your clothes can save more than $100 a year.

19. Increase your GSI

Impervious surfaces, such as roads, parking lots, and buildings cause stormwater to flow rapidly into sewers, and the overflow contaminates local waterways. By increasing green stormwater infrastructure we can limit the run off. It can be as simple as planting a tree or using a rain catchment barrel!

20. Write a letter and let your voice be heard

Changing policy is ultimately the most effective way to improve the environment. By writing to your local congressperson or getting involved in voicing your support for sustainability, you can help not only contribute to change as an individual, but on a city-wide level.

20 of the Greenest Spaces on Campus

20 of the Greenest Spaces on Campus

The University of Pennsylvania is committed to sustainability through our robust Climate Action Plan. From our use of renewable energy, recycling practices to offering dozens of courses in the environmental field, Penn continues to lead the way in green infrastructure. Come see it in action.

James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden, BioPond and Greenhouses

1. James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden, BioPond and Greenhouses

Welcome to the oldest green space on Penn’s campus. Since 1897 this lush land has been dedicated to research. Enjoy the company of ducks, turtles, crayfish, goldfish and the cool shade of diverse and vibrant plant life at the the BioPond—tucked away on Hamilton Walk, between 36th and 38th Streets.

The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology

2. The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology

The home of nanotechnology innovation at Penn is LEED Gold certified. The plumbing fixtures and systems reduce water use to 30% below industry standards, while the building’s green roof helps to reduce stormwater runoff and urban heat island.
Photo © Albert Vecerka/Esto

Penn Park

3. Penn Park

Penn Park is 24 acres of recreational and athletic green space on the east end of campus bordering the Schuylkill River. Amongst the tennis courts and baseball diamond is acres of natural meadows and greenery that promotes biodiversity.

Wharton School’s Steinberg-Dietrich Hall West Tower Entrance

4. Wharton School’s Steinberg-Dietrich Hall West Tower Entrance

Minted LEED Gold in 2014, the West Tower Entrance of Steinberg-Dietrich Hall features a green roof; light pavers to reduce heat island; Chilled Beams cooling technology; recycled finishes; regional materials; and high efficiency lighting.
Photo by Jeffrey Totaro

Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center

5. Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center

This historic garden and educational institution’s Horticulture Center is LEED platinum certified. Design includes a ground-source heat pump that provides heat and air-conditioning for the building, photovoltaic panels for on-site generation of renewable energy and geothermal wells.

Perelman Quadrangle College Green

6. Perelman Quadrangle College Green

In the heart of Penn’s campus is its most beloved outdoor space. In front of College Hall there’s a 130-year-old elm that’s a descendant of the original treaty elm under which William Penn signed a peace agreement with the Lenape Indians in the 1680s.

7. Locust Walk

Locust Walk was one of the first spaces on campus composed of granite curbs and brick paving—permanent materials that stand the test of time. This tree-lined gateway to Penn is a landmark green space for the University.

George A. Weiss Pavilion

8. George A. Weiss Pavilion

What was formerly a parking garage is now a LEED Gold fitness center. Approximately 95 percent of demolition and construction waste from Weiss Pavilion was diverted from disposal in landfills by salvaging, reusing and recycling materials.

Joe’s Café

9. Joe’s Café

Have a cup of joe and enjoy a study break in a LEED Gold certified spot. Joe’s Café is Penn’s first sustainable commercial interior space. Its food-service practices, recycling, composting and chemical-free cleaning methods make it a green gem.

Shoemaker Green

10. Shoemaker Green

What was formerly tennis courts is now acres of grass lawns, native plants and permeable paving. It’s a pilot project for the Sustainable SITES Initiative, a national program designed to support sustainable land development and management practices.

The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

11. The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

Only a few hospitals in the nation have achieved LEED Silver rating and The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine is one of them. Built with recycled materials, it keeps approximately 3,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the environment each year with its green infrastructure and housekeeping.
Photo by Michael Verzella

Penn Institute for Urban Research

12. Penn Institute for Urban Research

In 2012, the Penn Institute for Urban Research collaborated with FRES, PJM Interconnection, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, PECO, EEB Hub and DOE Grid Star to develop a real-time energy ticker online to promote energy education and conservation.

School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Recycling Center

13. School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Recycling Center

Since opening in 2012, the SEAS Recycling Center has successfully diverted thousands of pounds of waste from landfills. The center collects light bulbs, pen, markers, cardboard, electronics, batteries, ink, toner and plastics.

Koo Family Plaza at Huntsman Hall

14. Koo Family Plaza at Huntsman Hall

Just outside of Wharton’s Hunstman Hall is a leafy green plaza—which is just perfect for taking a study break. Along with its aesthetic characteristics, the plaza has a green roof overhead which helps to reduce stormwater and increase biodiversity.

Wynn Commons

15. Penn Commons

Popular for its outdoor concerts and seemingly endless seating, Penn Commons is a favorite outdoor space for Penn students. Along the Commons and throughout campus, you can find dozens of trees with identifying plaques and information.

Highline Green

16. Highline Green

Built in 2003, Highline Green is a small field within Penn Park designed to provide open space for the Penn community. It is located on Chestnut Street and is commonly used for organized recreation and club sports.
Photo by Rhreyans Bhansali

Hamilton Village Green

17. Hamilton Village Green

Another open space with trees for shade and lush lawns for recreation, Hamilton Village Green is located next to Locust Walk and student housing and can be reserved for activities by Penn students and staff.

Edward Kane Park

18. Edward Kane Park

Penn alumnus Edward Kane longed to return green space to the area next to Penn Museum that was turned into a parking lot in the 1950’s. A gift from Kane and his wife allowed Penn to transform the lot into a beautiful space for visitors with trees, shrubs, grass, flowers, ground cover and ample seating.

The Music Building

19. The Music Building

Renovated in 2010, the Music Building exceeded its goal to meet LEED Silver requirements and was certified LEED Gold. The building features boast efficient lighting, passive storm water management techniques, sustainable interior furnishings and more.

Kings Court English College House

20. Kings Court English College House

Green roofs, or living landscapes, can be found on several building throughout campus, including this College House. The redesign of their rooftop features environmentally-friendly construction, making the building green from "top to bottom."

20 Best Field Trips in MES

20 Best Field Trips in MES

For 20 years, the Master of Environmental Studies program has opened up the world to its students. Discover the exotic locations and nearby gems that our passionate professors and students explore for field trips, capstone research projects and beyond.

United Nations in New York City

1. Students interested in global water issues, particularly as they relate to the UN Millennium Development Goals, have the opportunity to visit the United Nations in New York City. There, they can exchange ideas with leaders as part of ENVS 637 Global Water Issues with MES lecturer and advisor Stan Laskowski.

Long Pond Barrens in the Poconos

2. Dr. Sally Willig offers ENVS 610 Regional Field Ecology, a summer course which includes six field trips to locations in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Students explore diverse and imperiled ecosystems such as the Long Pond Barrens in the Poconos where they learn about The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to preserve and manage this unique ecosystem through prescribed burning.

ENVS 673 The Future of Water

3. Students who are interested in the intersection of business, non-profit and government as it relates to water issues take ENVS 673 The Future of Water with Jon Freedman and Francesca McCann. This course includes a trip to Washington, D.C. for a “Day in the Life of a Lobbyist” where students meet key leaders in each sector and learn about the complexity of water issues from all perspectives.

Batsto River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

4. The best way to learn about wetlands is to get wet! In ENVS 507 Wetlands Dr. Sally Willig takes her students into a variety of wetland environments including kayaking the Batsto River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. This daylong field trip features stopping in a savanna to  survey the diversity of plants—including carnivorous species adapted to the acidic, nutrient-poor soils.

World Water Forum

5. Every three years, the World Water Forum is held in a different country. This conference which draws more than 20,000 participants from more than 150 countries is a unique opportunity for our students to learn about water issues around the world while networking with top water leaders. Past trips included Istanbul, Marseilles and Seoul.

ENVS 599 Independent Study

6. As part of an ENVS 599 Independent Study project, Akudo Ejelonu traveled to India for an environmental health research project with young girls.

ChesLen Preserve

7. ENVS 604 Conservation and Land Management taught by MES alum Thomas Brightman visits sites that are currently being conserved, like the Natural Lands Trust’s ChesLen Preserve, in order to learn best land management practices.

Washington, D.C. headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)

8. ENVS 631 Current EPA Regulatory Practices and Future Directions includes a fieldtrip to the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to learn and exchange ideas with leaders in the field. Students spend the day meeting officials while learning about current complex environmental issues and expectations for future concern.

Philadelphia Waste Water Treatment Plant

9. ENVS 629 The US Water Industry in the 21st Century would not be complete without a visit to a Philadelphia Waste Water Treatment Plant. Course instructor Howard Neukrug, former Water Commissioner for Philadelphia, leads a tour of the facility to show students first-hand how waste water is handled in a large city like Philadelphia.

World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden

10. Students in ENVS 642 Global Water Conference in Stockholm, Sweden attend the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. Preparation before the conference includes connecting with researchers to help with data collection related to WASH programs; doing original research to present at the conference; and/or finding volunteer opportunities during the conference. During this week long event, students attend talks, have dinner with officials, network and blog about their experiences.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

11. As part of ENVS 639 Policy to Practice in Environmental Management, Stan Laskowski led a trip to visit the USEPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to see how policy decisions have been implemented and the impact they have had on the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality.

Stroud Water Research Center and Rushton Woods Preserve

12. Lisa Kiziuk takes her class ENVS 609 Creating Gateways to the Land with Smarter Conservation Strategies on a variety of field trips. Students learn about innovative programs that connect people to nature, which help to facilitate land conservation. Trips include lessons in field methods in stream ecology, bird biology and sustainable agriculture at locations such as Stroud Water Research Center and Rushton Woods Preserve.

Rushton Woods Preserve, Bartram’s Garden, Cape May, NJ, Albany, NY Pine Bush Passerine Banding Station and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

13. The ENVS 606 Ornithology course taught by MES alum Michael McGraw teaches students about birding basics in the classroom and includes fieldtrips to: the Rushton Woods Preserve, Bartram’s Garden, Cape May, NJ, Albany, NY Pine Bush Passerine Banding Station and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to learn identification and bird banding techniques.

ENVS 617 Innovative Environmental Management Strategies

14. As part of the ENVS 617 Innovative Environmental Management Strategies course, students travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials at several government offices including the US EPA headquarters.

Coastal sites within the state of Delaware

15. For her ENVS 599 Independent Study course, Sarah Deutsch used two years of continuous acoustic data collected by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) from three different coastal sites within the state of Delaware to analyze bat movements, average temperature and wind speeds during peak migratory activity.

ENVS 410 Clean Water, Green Cities

16. ENVS 410 Clean Water, Green Cities is an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course which requires that each student develop a community-based final project relating to water issues in Philadelphia. Students often work with local schools like this third grade science class at the Penn Alexander School to teach kids about storm water management solutions and why it matters to them.

ENVS 607 Field Study of Puerto Rico’s Ecology

17. Dr. Sally Willig’s course ENVS 607 Field Study of Puerto Rico’s Ecology exposes students to a wide range of ecosystems in Puerto Rico. Sites include Playa Escondido, which is part of the Northeast Ecological Corridor and an important turtle nesting habitat. Here they learn about the grassroots effort to protect this area that was slated for resort development. Upon their return, students present what they learned to high school students at the Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia.

GEOL 653 Introduction to Hydrology

18. Students in the GEOL 653 Introduction to Hydrology course learn from Professor Tony Sauder how to take stream measurements by doing it in the field. Measurements such as discharge and gage height in local Pennsylvania streams are taken during the trips.

ENVS 638 Global Water Policy & Governance

19. During the ENVS 638 Global Water Policy & Governance course, students met with United Nations officials to learn about what the UN Environmental Programme is doing to improve water access and sanitation around the world.

Guangxi Province in South China

20. For his ENVS 599 Independent Study Xuantong “Tony” Wang traveled to the Guangxi Province in South China. He went to better understand the Karst Terrain that has shaped the culture and traditions of the minority population there, which are heavily tied to this unique environment. He used drone technology to capture this distinctive landscape, which has been largely undocumented.

20 Things to Know About Birding


Birds are incredible indicators of environmental health. They can teach us about climate and weather changes as well as the wellbeing of local flora and fauna. Birds are magnificent creatures—and to better appreciate them, bird expert Heather Kostick (MES ’16—expected) has shared 20 tips for having a successful and fun birding adventure. Enjoy!

Respect the fact that you are in their habitat

1. Respect the fact that you are in their habitat

Where birds nest, eat and sleep are crucial to their wellbeing. Try not to disrupt their routines.

Don’t forget your binoculars and camera while you’re birding

2. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera while you’re birding

You want to be able to see the birds while maintaining a safe distance!

Make as little noise as possible

3. Make as little noise as possible

This ensures that you can hear everything and you won’t scare the birds off.

Spring and fall migration seasons are the best time of year to bird

4. Spring and fall migration seasons are the best time of year to bird

Each year, MILLIONS of birds migrate south to north and then back again.

Reach out to your local birding club, Audubon, or nature center

5. Reach out to your local birding club, Audubon, or nature center

If you’re inexperienced at birding, don’t be afraid to talk to the experts, it’s what they’re there for!

Make sure you are taking care of yourself while birding

6. Make sure you are taking care of yourself while birding

Always go out in nature prepared—i.e., have enough water, a first aid kit, necessary items like epi-pens and snacks.

Ask questions

7. Ask questions

If you’re in a group, don’t hesitate to inquire about the birds you’re seeing. The more questions you ask, the more you will remember about the birds!

Keep your eyes open and stick to the trails

8. Keep your eyes open and stick to the trails

Birds nest in a variety of habitats during the spring and summer months, and you don’t want to disturb or damage nest sites.

Keeping a list or journal of birds you have seen

9. Keeping a list or journal of birds you have seen

This will help you document your experiences. It’s great to keep track of everything you see and hear.

Don’t be afraid to ask for “bird directions”

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for “bird directions”

If you’re birding with a group and don’t see the bird everyone is looking at, learn the clock system (i.e., the cardinal is at 12 o’clock in that oak tree).

Make sure you turn your phone to vibrate or silent mode

11. Make sure you turn your phone to vibrate or silent mode

You don’t want to miss a bird because your phone distracted you!

Stay off your phone as much as possible

12. Stay off your phone as much as possible

Unless, of course, you are using a bird guide app or are taking notes with your mobile device.

Wear clothes in colors that will better match the landscape

13. Wear clothes in colors that will better match the landscape

This helps you blend in with the environment. Camouflaging with the surrounded landscape allows for better looks at birds. The only exception is that during hunting seasons, you may want to wear at least one item of bright clothing so that you can be seen by hunters.

Check out different habitats other than urban and suburban areas

14. Check out different habitats other than urban and suburban areas

Forests, beaches, marshes and many other habitat types have thousands species of birds to offer!

Make your home more attractive to birds

15. Make your home more attractive to birds

Hang up bird feeders, find a good birdbath (that isn’t too deep), and plant native plants to make your outdoor space better for birds!

Look for small movements in the environment

16. Look for small movements in the environment

Sometimes, you won’t always see the bird you’re hearing, but if you look for little movements within the spot you’re hearing the bird, you have a better chance of spotting it.

Don’t be fooled by wind and clumps of leaves

17. Don’t be fooled by wind and clumps of leaves

This happens to every birder—even experienced ones. Sometimes you’ll see something that looks like a bird but isn’t.

Birding is done at its best in the morning

18. Birding is done at its best in the morning

Start at sunrise and go until about noon for the best chance of seeing all of the birds in the area. Dusk is another good time to go birding. During the middle of the day is when birds are at their least active state.

If you see a baby bird that has fallen from a nest, leave it alone

19. If you see a baby bird that has fallen from a nest, leave it alone

Chances are that the parent is nearby and still feeding it. If you are concerned that a parent is not caring for it or it seems injured, you can contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center.

Have fun and enjoy yourself!

20. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

Take in the wonder of nature and all that birds can teach you about your local environment.

20 Ways to Shop Greener and Cleaner

When it comes to living eco-friendlier lives, one of the first and easiest steps is to change the way we shop. From buying environmentally-conscious brands to skipping the drive and walking to the store, there are plenty of ways we can get our favorite things while shrinking our carbon footprints.
- by Laura Barron (MES/MPH, ‘17-expected)

1. Buy items with limited packaging

Unlike water bottles, plastic packaging cannot be recycled. Look for products that are compostable. Avoid things like straws, plastic silverware and disposable containers and switch to paper containers when possible.

2. Bring a reusable coffee mug to your favorite coffee shop

If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year. It’s a small change that can lead to major payoff. You may even get a little extra coffee for your money.

3. Buy refurbished furniture and electronics

Bulk waste adds significant weight to our landfills. Americans add 250 million pounds of waste to landfills annually according to a Purdue University report. Save yourself time and money, while also reducing your environmental burden by buying used, vintage or refurbished furniture and electronics.

4. Use recyclable bags at the grocery store

Using recyclable bags at the grocery store can help cut down on plastic waste going into landfills and accumulating in the trash vortex in our oceans, but be careful which bags you use!

5. Buy more veggies

One simple way to reduce your carbon footprint through diet is to limit or eliminate your consumption of meat products. Red meat alone contributes to 15% of global emissions according to The Guardian.

6. Get beer, wine and liquor from nearby makers

By reducing the miles your alcohol travels, you can cut down on emissions and support small business. Thankfully there is no shortage of breweries In Philadelphia.

7. Buy Fair Trade and local coffee

Like farms and beer distributors, buying local coffee helps cut down on carbon emissions and supports your regional economy. Though coffee cannot be grown in any climate in North America, just by buying locally-roasted, fair trade coffee, you partake in more eco-conscious practices.

8. Lather up locally, too

Swing by your favorite farmer’s market or main street boutique to find hand-made soap products. No factory-made emissions here. Just bubbles.

Get to know Community Supported Agriculture

9. Get to know Community Supported Agriculture

When you buy food from CSAs, it supports the regional economy and cuts down the carbon footprint of your meal!

10. Read the label

Where was this product made? Is it made of recyclable materials? Toilet paper, paper towels, foils and many other products can be made from 100% recycled materials. Make sure to look for that on the label when shopping!

11. Instead of owning a car, join a car share

Sharing a car with your neighbors means fewer cars on the road, and, therefore, fewer emissions! You can also help reduce the number of miles you drive by thinking more actively about your travel. Other car-sharing options include carpooling or using rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft.

12. Get moving

Transportation contributes to 14% of carbon emissions annually, according to the EPA. If you can skip the car ride to the grocery store, do it! By opting for walking, public transit or biking, you can significantly cut down on emissions, air pollution and urban heat island.

13. Buy an electric vehicle

If owning a car is an important part of your daily life, there are exciting new models out on the road that are energy-efficient. Electric and hybrid vehicles are an important step in lowering fossil fuel use.

14. Opt for biodegradable items

Be sure to compost and recycle when finished with the product. Natural waste in landfills can lead to methane emissions.

15. Go organic

Noted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, “Organic agriculture aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems.” Invest in environmental sustainability and be sure to check that items are certified organic before purchase.

16. Give green gifts

Know someone who is passionate about environmental change? Make a charitable donation in their name. It’s as thoughtful as it is impactful.

17. Pick up cloth napkins instead of paper

Millions of paper napkins and paper towels are thrown away every day. Do your part to reduce paper waste and wipe up with a reusable and easy-to-clean cloth or bamboo napkin.

18. Buy rechargeable batteries

Buying fewer batteries means cutting down on consumption and production. It also means lowering the amount of waste. According to Earth 911, 250 million pounds of batteries end up in landfills each year and can leak toxic chemicals into our land, water and air.

19. Stock up on white vinegar

It’s amazing what you can do with vinegar, baking soda, lemon and a little tea tree oil. Not only are you using fewer chemically-processed items, but you’re also saving money!

20. Volunteer!

There are many great non-profit organizations seeking to preserve and foster environmental sustainability in Philadelphia and beyond that need help.Your neighborhood will thank you, and you’ll feel great knowing you’ve done your part to protect our planet’s future as a consumer and a citizen.

20 Tips for Ecosystem-friendly Habitat Gardening

20 Tips for Ecosystem-friendly Habitat Gardening

With all the stresses on our ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabit them (climate change, invasive species, loss of native plant communities, etc.), it has now become more important than ever to support our local ecosystems through our landscape and gardening practices. Longwood Gardens’ Land Steward Tom Brightman (MES ’00) shares how you can re-invent your home landscapes with nature in mind.

1. Plant a "layered" landscape

Functioning ecosystems have a structure, and your garden should too. A layered landscape is one that has all the structural components of a natural landscape.  For example, if you are looking at a woodland garden, this would include the components of a healthy forest: canopy trees, understory trees, a shrub layer, herbaceous layer and soil layer. Every ecosystem has different structure, so what you would plant to mimic a woodland is very different than what you would plant for a meadow, wetland, etc.

2. Provide a “litter” layer

2. Provide a “litter” layer

Don’t be too quick to clean up your yard’s “mess,” especially in the fall, winter and early spring. Many of our over-wintering birds, insects and mammals need the food and cover that our plantings give during these times of year. Try to always have cover and food for the animals living in your garden.

3. Cover the space completely

3. Cover the space completely

Nature abhors a vacuum—you can either plant densely with the plants you want, or have to pull weeds from where you didn’t plant anything.

4. Leave standing dead trees/stumps/deadfall

4. Leave standing dead trees/stumps/deadfall

Where safe, leave dead trees (both standing and downed) branches and stumps in the landscape. They are important sources of soil renewal, water filtration, habitat for insects and amphibians, as well as food sources for birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches.

5. Keep your cat inside

5. Keep your cat inside

Outdoor and feral cats kill billions (yes, that is billions with a “b”) of birds every year.

6. Plant native species

6. Plant native species

Our native insects’ diets are tied directly to our native plant populations. A clutch of baby birds needs thousands of insects to grow and fledge. Look at your landscape as a bird supermarket—does it have all they need? We recommend reading Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy, and The Living Landscape by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke for all the buggy details.

7. Pick plant species based upon your soil, sun/shade and hydrology

7. Pick plant species based upon your soil, sun/shade and hydrology

Though this is basic Gardening 101, many people ignore this important step in landscaping and gardening.

8. Make a plan

8. Make a plan

Plan the structure of your habitat around your goals for what you want to accomplish (insect habitat, diverse native plant communities, etc.).  Buying whatever looks pretty at the local gardening center in May is not a plan that will succeed in creating a successful habitat. Talk to the landscaping experts and do some research on what plants will attract certain insects, help your soil and increase biodiversity.

9. Remove invasive species

9. Remove invasive species

Without a plan for their removal, many of these invasive species will rapidly out-compete our native plants. Don’t plan on getting rid of them in one year, it is usually a multi-year process at best. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

10. Don’t use insecticides unless you are well-trained in their application

10. Don’t use insecticides unless you are well-trained in their application

It is rare that there are not unintended consequences (i.e. collateral damage to desired insect and animal populations) from using insecticides. Avoid at all costs if you want your landscape and fauna to thrive.

11. Keep water on the landscape where possible

11. Keep water on the landscape where possible

 All life needs water. Try to use what you have wisely, and plan your habitat accordingly.

12. Don’t over-fertilize

Most fertilizer ends up washing off the landscape due to over, or untimely application. (See next slide).

13. Minimize paved surfaces and lawn areas

13. Minimize paved surfaces and lawn areas

Stormwater runoff is a source of serious degradation to our watersheds. It carries toxins, pollution and can cause flooding or erosion. The more permeable your lawn and garden is, the better!

14. Think beyond your landscape

14. Think beyond your landscape

How does your landscape fit into the larger regional landscape? Many of the animals that use our backyards use a larger area for all their needs. How does your landscape benefit the larger picture? Visit nearby parks and nature trails to get a picture of how your land fits into the larger local ecosystem.

15. Re-use leaf litter and minimize input of mulch

15. Re-use leaf litter and minimize input of mulch

Leaves are often the best mulch in a woodland garden situation as they are rapidly colonized by beneficial fungi. You can minimize expenses and the importation of weeds in mulch by using leaf litter instead.

16. Re-assess your definition of a “weed”

16. Re-assess your definition of a “weed”

Some common plants that have often been considered “weeds” are important sources for pollinator habitat. For example, violets support fritillary butterflies and common milkweed feeds the monarch butterfly.

17. Buy your plants locally if possible

17. Buy your plants locally if possible

Plants grown from local provenances are generally better suited to your local climatic conditions. Local growers and nurseries are a terrific source of knowledge on native plants too!

18. Understand natives vs. cultivars

18. Understand natives vs. cultivars

Many plants are cultivated for stronger characteristics, such as longer bloom time, brighter or different flower or leaf color/texture, etc. However, sometimes when a plant is cultivated for a characteristic that humans prefer, the resulting cultivar is not as useful to the insects and animals that use it.  For example, if you change the flower color from red to yellow, the pollinating insect for that plant may not see it the same way. In extreme cases, the insect may not use the flower at all, rendering it of minimal ecological usefulness.

19. Spend time in your landscape

19. Spend time in your landscape

Try to observe what is going on in your landscape and other local native landscapes—you can learn a great deal about how they function through observation.

20. Invite others to experience your landscape!

20. Invite others to experience your landscape!  

By creating a well-structured native landscape you will have invited many wonderful species to your garden. Invite your friends and family to experience it too—it is one of the best ways to have others understand more about the importance of providing habitat in our home and institutional landscapes.

Application information

Apply Now

You may apply to begin the Master of Environmental Studies degree during the fall or spring terms.

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MES in the Community

MES in the Community

Excellence in Environmental Studies Award winner Mahvish Azim Ilyas (MES ’18) wants to shine light on solar energy.

Read Mahvish’s story >

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