US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Erika S. Svendsen

Erika Svendsen

Research Social Scientist
290 Broadway, 26th Floor
New York
New York
United States

Phone: 212-637-3598
Contact Erika Svendsen

Current Research

My pimary area of research is to better understand the role of individuals, civic groups and networked alliances within the context of disturbance and recovery.  My research helps identify the key drivers and levers that help to shape, create and sustain new forms of environmental governance. 

One of my most popular research projects is STEW-MAP, the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project.  The objective of STEW-MAP is to utilize social science methods to assess the social and spatial interactions among groups working to care for their environment.  STEW-MAP techniques display groups across a landscape or region, depicting social networks, spatial gaps and overlaps, and providing partnership data in order to strengthen the shared stewardship of public and private lands. STEW-MAP captures information about environmental stewardship through (1) inventory: administering an OMB-approved organizational survey; (2) spatial analysis: geospatial mapping of stakeholder groups; and (3) social network analysis: studying relationships among civic, private, and governmental organizations.

STEW-MAP is just one part of my larger research area which asks how environmental stewardship can play a role in recovery and restoration in light acute and chronic social ecolgoical disturbance? Natural resource stewardship includes many unique forms of caring for the environment and has many benefits, from the physical, to the communal, and the personal.  Large-scale social-ecological disturbances and disasters are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. These events often require large-scale coordinated emergency response and recovery efforts; however, they also cause consideration of how to create more resilient and just communities. My current work focuses on natural resource stewardship as an investment in creating communities that are better able to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all forms of stressors.  See here for an on-line and assessible resource: Green Readiness, Response and Recovery: A Collaborative Synthesis

Currently, I am working on research related to COVID-19 and how natural resrource mangers on our National Forests, State lands and City parks are adapting to distrubance through partnerships and civic engagment.   This work will be published and available in 2021. 



Research Interests

I am interested in amplifying the relationship between environmental governance, social ecological vulnerabilities and equitable social change. 

Why This Research is Important

Understanding the reciprocity that exists between humans and the non-human world is essential not only to a healthy environment but to a vibrant, resilient and humane world.  


  • Columbia University , Ph.D. Urban Planning 2010
  • Yale University, M.E.S. Forestry & Environmental Studies 1993
  • Allegheny College, B.A. Political Science 1990

Professional Experience

  • Healthy Communities Program Associate, The Regional Plan Association
    2001 - 2002
  • Director, NYC Parks GreenThumb Program
    1997 - 2001
  • Fellowship Coordinator, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) International
    1995 - 1997
  • Urban and Community Forester, The Parks and People Foundation
    1993 - 1995
  • Program Associate, The Rockefeller Foundation
    1991 - 1993

Professional Organizations

  • New York City Urban Field Staton, Team Leader (2013 - Current)
  • The Nature of Cities, Writer (2013 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • USDA Forest Service Chief's Team Award, 2017
    For advancing the work of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership Program
  • Early Career Scientist Award, 2012
    For amplifying the work of place-based groups in caring for the environment through the STEW-MAP project
  • USDA Forest Service Chief's Award, 2009
    For engaging urban America and the restoration of urban ecosystems

Featured Publications & Products


Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

  • Fisher, D.R., Svendsen, E.S., and Connolly, J. (2015). Urban Environmental Stewardship and Civic Engagement: How planting trees strengthens the roots of democracy Routledge Press: Explorations in Environmental Studies Series, 24 February, 152 pgs

Research Highlights


Forest Service Partnership with MillionTreesNYC

The demand for a well-trained green-collar labor force will increase as many cities implement sustainability and green infrastructure plans. Add ...


IITF and NRS each established a Charter for Urban Field Stations and Networks

IITF and NRS officially established charters for Urban Research Stations in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, and Phi ...


Scientists Assess Social Meaning of Jamaica Bay Region Parkland

The Jamaica Bay region of New York City is a focus of resiliency planning and adaptive management efforts. Working with natural resource manager ...


Tree Planting Programs a Gateway to Strong Civic Engagement

This study examined how tree planting projects can make an important difference to the social fabric of dense urban communities. Qualitative int ...


Last updated on : 01/04/2022