Susannah B. Lerman
201 Holdsworth NRC, Univ. of Massachusetts
Contact Susannah B. Lerman
My research highlights strategies and tools for reconciling urban development with conservation. I use a socio-ecological approach to improve fundamental understanding of key ecological processes in urban systems, with a focus on wildlife. Current studies:
- Identify alternative yard management regimes that maximize the benefits provided by suburban yards by testing how different lawn mowing frequencies impact ecosystem function. This research is designed to explicitly link human behaviors (lawn mowing) with ecological processes (pollination and soil respiration) and biological outcomes (insect diversity)
- Integrate habitat relationship models into the urban forest assessment tool i-Tree. The wildlife module provides a rapid assessment of the bird habitat potential in the urban forest, evaluates habitat improvement plans, and provides detailed information of habitat requirements for 10 northeastern birds
- Assess the population dynamics and stability of backyard birds by studying nest success and annual survival along an urban to rural gradient. I partner with citizen scientists to enhance environmental literacy and reconnect people with nearby nature in urban and suburban areas. This research is part of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Network.
I translate the application of scientific information into management tools with the ultimate goal of improving the sustainability of urban environments for wildlife and advancing human well-being through reconnecting urbanites with nearby nature. I explore the links between human management of the urban forest (e.g. yards, neighborhood parks and open space) and the health and success of native wildlife populations, and how these impacts subsequently feedback to influence people due to the role of biodiversity in delivering ecosystem services. I seek opportunities to explain scientific findings to varying audiences while trying to facilitate connections between the publics’ personal lives and the urban ecosystem.
Why This Research is Important
Most people see the urban and suburban landscape as a concrete jungle, devoid of wildlife, but I see potential wildlife habitat that could reverse the loss of biodiversity in urban areas while simultaneously providing positive interactions between people and nature. Given that by 2050 more than 80% of the world population will live in urban and suburban areas, this view becomes an essential tenet in the field of applied ecology, conservation biology and wildlife management. At the heart of my research, I aim to make my work relevant to the end users including environmental practitioners, landscape planners, urban foresters and the public, to more effectively implement change in policy and human behaviors that promote biodiversity.
- University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology , 2011
- Antioch University New England, Conservation Biology , 2005
- University of Delaware, American History , 1994
- Lerman, Susannah B.; Nislow, Keith H.; Nowak, David J.; DeStefano, Stephen; King, David I.; Jones-Farrand, D. Todd. 2014. Using Urban Forest Assessment Tools To Model Bird Habitat Potential.