Undergrad questions: Ecology/Restoration ecology + Landscape Arch?

I am interested in the ecology and landscape arch side equally. The underlying ideal behind my interests is the seamless integration of earth's ecology/ecosystems/nature and human settlement; so that both thrive. this ideal is a dramatic, ambitious paradigm shift from our human settlements of today; obviously with far more reaching implications than just design. thus I'm fine realizing that I may never live to see it fulfilled (at least in the established west) but at least it would be something to study/work towards. of course design is a huge part of this, and its particularly an area of interest for me. also interested in this idea particularly pertaining to cities as they are likely to be of greatest significance in the upcoming future as far as sustainability and global health goes.

  • Is familiarity with the disciplines of ecology+restoration ecology useful at all in conjunction with landscape architecture? When I say useful I mean in terms of general knowledge/application, as well as in the contemporary career fields. I know science and architecture are two heavy fields to pair up, but to me it seems only logical and optimal that these two disciplines integrate. or would a more realistic avenue to take be ecology with planning+soft design? or ecologicial engineering? I don't know. Just curious for some insight from people who know their stuff, cause I don't.

  • Even further, are there any possible firms or organizations I should know about that take this approach to design? might be a longshot
  • Any good LA programs that stress ecology, or dual degree programs? This is why I'm particularly interested in Harvard's Graduate program: Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology program. This program could mean a wide array of things however, anyone have any insight on this program though?
  • Side note: For now I am planning on attending SUNY Stony Brook for a double major in Environmental Design, Policy and Planning +Ecosystems and Human Impacts, with a minor in English. This or the BLA at SUNY ESF

Thanks; this is my first post here on Land8, curious to see what you guys think! 

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It is part of our profession whether you are looking to do it or not. There are firms that specialize in ecological design, but even those that do not often have to do a lot of ecological restoration due to regulation whether they are one person residential design operations like me or large urban planning firms. It is the norm rather than a fringe practice.

Coming from a person whose quite ignorant about this field as of right now, could you go a little more in depth as to the role of ecology+restoration ecology in the landscape architecture discipline? does it focus on true integration, harm reduction, etc? basically just wondering if you could give me a better picture for how landscape architecture exactly uses ecology in its approach.  

I'm a residential landscape architect on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. We have lots of coastal wetland and fresh water wetland resources that are protected. Much of the coast line was developed many years ago with summer homes, but there are sometimes new lots for construction. Years ago, wetlands were not protected, but now they are. One of the primary means of protection is to have a 50' buffer to any and all wetland resources. Usually that means woody vegetation such as trees and shrubs. The conflict of course is that people want to have activities near the wetlands and to have views of the water. Since much of the coastline has been previously developed many older homes have lawn right up to the edge of a wetland. Sometimes the house itself can be very close. Consequently, any alterations to a house or property within 100' of a wetland resource is subject to review by conservation commissions where they apply the state and local wetland regulations and either approve, reject, or place conditions on a project to improve the buffer to the wetland resource and the resource itself. There are usually quantifiable calculations to determine how much mitigation is necessary, but there is also a lot of discretion that the boards have as well.

Mitigation is basically corrective actions to make up for the activities within the buffer zones to wetlands. More often than not, it is the conversion of lawn, pavement, ornamental plantings, or structures into woody native habitat. That mitigation generally occurs where it is most needed - where the existing buffer is thin or non-existent.

These mitigation plantings are typically such plants as Northern Bayberry, Inkberry, Beach Plum, Eastern Red Cedar, Winterberry, Bearberry, Sweet Fern, Chokeberry, Highbush Blueberry, Lowbush Blueberry, Red Maple, White Oak, ... of sizes and spacing in accordance with guidelines set by the conservation commissions. You basically assess the conditions and determine what plants are appropriate to add habitat and also work with everything else about the project that is not related to conservation. You would not want to offer tall trees where there is a view that your client would like to maintain for example. There is a lot of balancing your client's wishes with the conservation commissions values as well. There is a lot of diplomacy both at getting your client to understand that they need to satisfy the conservation commissions and to convince the conservation commission that your proposed project meets the standards of the state wetland act and the local by-law. Someone has to present the plan and advocate for the client. I do it for most of the projects that I work on, but there is usually a civil engineer and attorney on the team and at the hearing as well.

I could send you a link to a video of a recent hearing, if you like.

.... I'm also designing swimming pools. outdoor kitchens, retaining walls, driveways, fencing, and every other part of the landscape on the same projects on the same plan.

That is just what I do as a one person residential landscape architecture office.

"Is familiarity with the disciplines of ecology+restoration ecology useful...?" Absolutely, also worth putting some chemistry/biochemistry in there too, even if you just do chemistry 101 at your university (and spend as much time as possible looking at phosphate chemistry -it's basically the hardest element to control).

I specialise in stormwater mitigation (I hate that word), especially riparian design and with a focus on a blend of planted and tech approaches.

To make a real difference in both reducing pollutant loads, while incorporating aesthetic and/or social aspects you'll need a lot of hats! You will also find yourself working with people who appear to hate the environment (so learning their language will be essential; if you can discuss engineering or finance with folks for whom those are important you can often achieve positive outcomes for the earth and society).

Like the previous reply I also do a lot of other works: BMX/activity parks, urban regeneration, conservation subdivision design, town gardens, species ID and ecological reports for planning permission, arboricultural consultancy...

One company that stands out for me is VOGT LA , very robust both scientifically and aesthetically.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (aka SUNY ESF) is one of the best environmental school in the country AND hosts a top-tier landscape architecture program. While nothing will beat the name recognition of Harvard, ESF has the best of both worlds. With regard to the profession, I think that what you’re going to find is the profession of private landscape architecture (residential or not) is very client-driven. What the client wants is what the client gets. It is very rare that you will find a client that wants to pay for phytoremediation. Most of the work done in that area involves the public sector is some (major) way (i.e. local, State or Federal Gov). Thus, if you’re looking to do environmental restoration you might want to change paths a little and become and environmental planner. Directing policy is “meta-design” (what we used to call it at ESF). OR consider that you’re going to have to be content with restoration being a percent of the work you do. This way your firm can keep the lights on. With that said, their ALWAYS an environmental component to all LA projects. That might be enough to feed your need for ecosystem "wholeness". But just take into consideration, all designers have to be as malleable as possible in this economy. Much Luck! Apply to Harvard, the name recognition alone will be a big plus. but ESF makes an amazing second choice


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