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Anthony Brazel and V. Kerry Smith honored for contributions to urban socioecological research

May 13, 2015

Anthony Brazel
Anthony Brazel

V. Kerry Smith
V. Kerry Smith

Anthony Brazel, Emeritus Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and V. Kerry Smith, Emeritus Regents' Professor and Emeritus Professor of Economics, WP Carey School of Economics, were recently honored for their contributions to urban socioecological research in the CAP LTER research program.

Dr. Brazel, an urban climatologist, has been the driving force behind research on the Phoenix urban heat island, collaborating across disciplines with faculty and students at Arizona State University as well as with colleagues at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, CAP's sister urban LTER site. His research has led to Phoenix being the most studied urban heat island in the United States, and his former students now staff numerous climate-related agencies.

Dr. Smith is a renowned  environmental economist whose work with CAP has focused on the economic valuation of environmental amenities and ecosystem services, contributing important new perspectives to CAP's research program. He has also collaborated on the Phoenix Area Social Survey and has been an important mentor to students interested in entering the economics field.

Grads and undergrads defend theses and dissertations

May 13, 2015

Spring brings a lot of things, including thesis and dissertation defenses. The following have either successfully completed or will be completing their defenses this spring:

  • Thomas Bleasdale defended his dissertation, “Gardens of justice: Food-based social movement in south and west Phoenix,” on April 16th (Sharon Harlan, Chair; Bob Bolin and Kevin McHugh, committee members)
  • Hannah Heavenrich will defend her thesis, “Soil biogeochemical consequences of a ‘sustainable’ urban grassland to shrubland transition,” on May 13th (Sharon Hall, Chair; Kelli Larson and Diane Pataki, committee members)
  • Jeffrey Ackley will defend his dissertation, “Rich lizards: How affluence, land cover, and the urban heat island effect influence desert reptiles persisting in an urban landscape,” on May 15th (Jianguo Wu and Brian Sullivan, co-chairs; Soe Myint, Dale Denardo, and Michael Angilletta, committee members)

  • CAP REU student, Jessica Jia, successfully defended her Honor’s Thesis, “Quantifying the trade-off between landscape vegetation height, surface temperature, and water consumption in single-family residential houses for a desert city,” this spring (Kelli Larson and Elizabeth Wentz, co-chairs).

Congratulations to all of these students!


17th Annual CAP ASM and poster symposium

January 15, 2015

We are excited to be presenting our 17th annual CAP ASM and poster symposium on January 16th from 8 am - 4 pm at ASU SkySong, Building 3, Synergy I and II rooms. The program lists the agenda for the day and abstracts for the over 50 posters being presented, which is a record for CAP symposiums. We will be printing a limited number of programs and hope that most attendees will access abstracts and other information electronically.

Attendees should note that we will be in a new space at SkySong this year. Building 3 is to your right when you enter on SkySong Boulevard. We urge attendees to carpool (parking is to the south of Building 3), bike, or take the 72 bus from the Tempe Transit Center. The Synergy I and II rooms are accessed via the lobby of Building 3. Just follow the signage.

Urban ecology research featured at ESA

August 14, 2014


Research in residential landscapes is a key components of CAP's urban ecology research program
Research in residential landscapes is a key component of CAP's urban ecology research program

The Ecological Society of America held its annual meeting in Sacramento from August 10-15, 2014. CAP was well represented at this meeting by several scientists and students. Below are the sessions in which students and scientists presented CAP-related research.

Convergence of microclimate across diverse cities in the US CAP presenters: Sharon Hall and Kelli Larson

Climate change, ecosystem services, and biogeochemical cycles CAP presenter: Nancy Grimm

Climate change, ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services CAP presenter: Nancy Grimm

Homogenization of plant diversity in six major USA cites: Integrating socio-economic, environmental, and phylogenetic information CAP presenters: Sharon Hall and Kelli Larson

Enhancing Urban Sustainability: Social and Ecological Dimensions CAP presenters: Dan Childers and Melissa Davidson

Urban Ecosystems I CAP presenters: Sharon Hall, Kelli Larson, Julie Ripplinger, and Janet Franklin

Cross-taxa comparative analysis of long-term community data CAP presenter: Julie Ripplinger

Novel flow regimes and novel plant communities: strategies of urban-adapted riparian plants CAP presenter: Julie Stromberg

Moving from the ecology of cities to ecology for cities: Integrating urban ecology, design, and decision-making for urban sustainability CAP presenters: Dan Childers and Melissa Davidson

Sustainability: Urban Systems CAP presenters: Melissa McHale and Nancy Grimm

Carbon Lost vs. carbon gained:  A study of carbon tradeoffs among land uses in Phoenix, AZ, reveals the inadequacy of statistical spatial scaling techniques and the need for new methodologies for understanding carbon dynamics across cities CAP presenters: Nancy Grimm, Ananda Majumdar, and Melissa McHale

When the economic engine stalls: An examination of plant communities in post-recession urban landscapes CAP presenters: Julie Ripplinger and Janet Franklin

Park equity: It's about process, not just outcomes

August 5, 2014

Dean Chris Boone
ASU School of Sustainability Dean Chris Boone is a CAP LTER co-PI

CAP scientist Chris Boone recently gave a presentation in Los Angeles at the Park Equity Symposium. His presentation, "It’s about process, not just outcomes," was videotaped and is now available on YouTube. It details research Boone and colleagues at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study have done on park equity in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. In his presentation, Boone states that just distribution of and access to parks is laudable but is insufficient to meet standards of justice. Any analysis of park equity must include an assessment of process, including the fairness of institutions, decision-making, and representation. Park equity assessment should include present and past processes since historical decisions can have lasting effects.

Boone and colleagues have also researched park equity in Phoenix, which will be published in an upcoming volume on CAP LTER science, edited by Charles Redman, the co-founder of the CAP research program with current CAP director, Nancy Grimm.

Request for student proposals on conserving desert mountain parks

July 28, 2014

The goal of the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance Student Research Grants program is to support research that assists land managers in making informed decisions about natural and cultural resources of the City of Phoenix Desert Mountain Parks and Preserves, Maricopa County Regional Parks, and City of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  To that end, we encourage applied and/or usable basic research that 1) fills gaps in the ecological, social, and cultural understanding of Preserve resources, and 2) addresses specific management issues.  Preference will be given to projects addressing human impact, developing indicators and standards for resource protection, local and regional benefits derived by preserve/open space park systems, assessing wildlife corridors/connectivity/linkages, climate change and/or urban heat island effects, and species inventories. Grants will be for up to $2,500 for individual research proposals or for up to $5,000 to support collaborative research projects.

For 2014 grants, the deadline for application is 9/2/2014. Awards will be announced by 9/15/2014.


The Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) is a collaboration of land managers, scientists, educators, community members, and conservation-based non-profit organizations committed to focusing collective expertise on the ecological and recreational sustainability of the mountain parks/preserves in and around the Valley. The Alliance believes that community engagement in the study, restoration, and promotion of these preserves will be critical to its success.

Partners in the CAZCA are: Desert Botanical Garden (as coordinating institution); Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department; City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department- Natural Resources Division; McDowell Sonoran Conservancy; Audubon Arizona; Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council; and Arizona State University’s Central Arizona Long-term Ecological research project (CAP LTER), School of Life Sciences, School of Community Resources and Development, and Center for Biodiversity Outcomes. The partnership’s focal preserves are City of Phoenix Desert Mountain Parks and Preserves, Maricopa County Regional Parks, and City of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The goal of the Student Research Grants program is to support research that assists land managers in making informed decisions about the natural and cultural resources of the Preserves. To that end, we encourage applied and/or usable basic scientific and scholarly research that 1) fills gaps in the ecological, social, and cultural understanding of Preserve resources, and 2) addresses specific management issues.  Grants will be for up to $2,500 for individual research proposals or for up to $5,000 to support collaborative research projects.


Grant recipients must be self-directed individuals whose work will contribute to the scientific knowledge of the natural and cultural resource of our local desert mountain preserves. CAZCA’s Research Grants support research in the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences. We welcome proposals from across the study areas listed above, but 2014 priority will be given to research with opportunities for community engagement and which focus toward

  • human impact
  • developing indicators and standards for resource protection
  • local and regional benefits derived by preserve/open space park systems
  • wildlife corridors/connectivity/linkages
  • climate change and/or urban heat island effects
  • species inventories

CAZCA Grants are designed to support funding for graduate students, but may also be appropriate for undergraduate students. Researchers must have study sites on one or more of these preserves. Collaborative projects across two or more preserves/parks is encouraged.

Recipients must complete their work within one year of receiving grant funds, have some public outreach component to their work, and provide a final report and presentation to the partnership.

Allowable expenses

Funds may be used for a variety of purposes including but not limited to materials/supplies, local travel directly related to field work, and lab fees. Requests for permanent equipment are not encouraged, but will be considered. Any permanent equipment purchased with grant funds remains the property of the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance and will need to be returned at the end of the project. Funds may not be used for tuition, student fees, institutional overhead, course textbooks/materials, thesis preparation, publication of results, costs associated with attendance to professional meetings, or fringe benefits.

Provisional acceptance pending research permit

Grant funding is provisional until a research and collecting permit is approved and issued for each study site. Being awarded a grant is NOT A GUARANTEE that a research and collecting permit will be issued for work in a park/preserve as written in the proposal. Modification of methods or sites may be necessary. Grant recipients are encouraged to submit the application for a research and collecting permit for work in a park/preserve as soon as possible. Prior to issuing a permit, land management staff will review the project for compliance with policies and administrative concerns.

Requirements of award winners

Fulfill all conditions of the park/preserve research permit.

Awardees are required to provide the following to the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance Program Coordinator (Stacie Beute) within three months after the completion of field work.

  1. At least one public outreach product such as public participation in the research itself, a talk at a nature center, or a poster, fact sheet, classroom activity to share the research process and results. If a talk is given, please share plans for study, observations to date, and similar projects already completed. Please discuss tentative choice for public outreach with CAZCA’s program coordinator Stacie Beute.
  2. Provide electronic final report to include: intro, methods, results, discussion, relevance to management, literature cited, and acknowledgements or thesis/dissertation as appropriate.
  3. Send several digital photos of researcher/field work in progress with captions for photos in a separate word document

Application instructions

Applicants must submit the following documents via email to Central Arizona Conservation Alliance Program Coordinator Stacie Beute ( by 6pm Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

  1. An abstract of the proposed research endeavor and its relevance to Preserve land managers. The abstract should state the central research objective/question and methods to be employed. (250 word maximum)
  2. A research proposal (2 pages maximum, 12-point font, single spaced) to include the following sections, with headings:

  • Project title
  • An introductory section that briefly reviews current literature on the proposed topic to provide context for and importance of the research objective/question. Research objectives or question
  • A description of the research design including methods and data analysis
  • A discussion of expected results and/or predictions
  • A description of the significance of the proposed work to park management issues or resources (see review criteria #3 below)
  • Proposed research sites
  • Lists for logistical help in the park, i.e. camping in the backcountry, temporary work and/or storage space, access by private vehicle, etc

  1. Literature Cited (2 page maximum)
  2. Project budget and justification with detailed categories and narrative of justification. Categories:

  • Materials/supplies
  • Local travel
  • Laboratory fees
  • Equipment (if approved, see Allowable Expenses section)
  • Other (with details)

  1. A curriculum vitae or resume that lists research experience
  2. A letter of support from a faculty or academic advisor

 Review criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by a panel and award decisions will be made and communicated by 9/15/2014. The following criteria will be important in determining which projects are funded:

  1. Completeness of application
  2. Intellectual merit (overall quality of the science proposed and feasibility of the research)
  3. Significance of the project to preserve/park management issues or resources, i.e. does it help managers make decisions about critical issues? Does it provide missing resource information or help set targets or indicators of desired resource condition?
  4. Educational outreach component, i.e. does the applicant clearly suggest outreach component(s)? Is the outreach creative and useful to the preserve/park?


Contact Information

To ask questions, submit proposals, discuss logistics, or discuss public outreach components, contact:

Stacie Beute, Conservation Alliance Program Coordinator, Desert Botanical Garden or 480.481.8187.

Bringing environmental education to children in low-income communities

July 16, 2014

Undergraduates Alexis Roeckner and Lauren Gault present interactive environmental education lessons at Homeward Bound
Undergraduates Alexis Roeckner and Lauren Gault present interactive environmental education lessons at Homeward Bound.


In Fall 2013 CAP's Ecology Explorers program began a partnership with Homeward Bound, an organization that provides transitional housing, employment services, and other forms of support to low-income families with children that are homeless, recently evicted, or fleeing a domestic violence situation. Under the direction of CAP education coordinator, Gina Hupton, undergraduate and graduate students have been designing and delivering environmental education lessons to pre-school and lower elementary level students through Homeward Bound's after school program. More ...


CAP scientist receives Guggenheim fellowship

May 1, 2014

Emily TalenCAP scientist, Emily Talen has won a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship. She will be using her fellowship year to write a book on neighborhoods, synthesizing information and data across time and space.  Her past CAP-supported work includes research on urban codes  which culminated in a book, City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form.

CAP graduate student is Engineering Student of the Year

March 3, 2014

Tom Volo CAP graduate student Tom Volo was named Engineering Student of the Year at the Greater Phoenix Area 2014 Engineers Week awards ceremony. Tom’s Ph.D. work focuses on urban landscape irrigation and on understanding optimal water application rates, which has tremendous practical application in the Phoenix region. He used data from CAP’s North Desert Village experiment in his Master’s research and has published these findings in Ecohydrology.

CAP alumni discuss biodiversity in the city

January 28, 2014

It is no surprise that CAP alumni (students, post-docs, faculty, and staff) who have moved on to other places continue to be engaged in research and dialogue about urban ecology. Some recent activity on the Web involved CAP alumni discussing aspects of biodiversity in the city. Recent post on Yale Environment 360 that includes comments by former CAP post-doc Madhu Katti and former CAP Ph.D. student Susannah Lerman. Rotating blog forum about cities as ecosystems, featuring former CAP post-docs Madhu Katti and Mark Hostetler. Posting by former CAP post-doc  Madhu Katti on biodiversity in cities.

Decision Center for a Desert City publishes synthesis document

January 15, 2014

The Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University, CAP's sister project, has published a synthesis document "Advancing Science in Support of Water Policy and Urban Climate Change Adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A Synthesis of Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Water, and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty." CAP scientist Kelli Larson is the lead author on this document. The report summarizes the center’s major achievements in research, education, and community and institutional outreach since its founding in 2004.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and organized under ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, DCDC is focused on water sustainability, urban climate adaptation, and decision-making under uncertainty. The center pursues research, in close collaboration with stakeholders, to create a more sustainable future. Research and modeling efforts analyze interacting factors such as population growth and economic development, climate change and variability, water supplies and demands, and governance to inform water management and other environmental decisions among diverse stakeholders.

CAP All Scientists Meeting to be held January 17th at ASU's SkySong facility

January 15, 2014

CAP will be holding its 16th annual All Scientists Meeting and Poster Symposium on January 17th at ASU's SkySong facility in Scottsdale. Joyce Coffee, Managing Director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), will be the keynote speaker. ND-GAIN is the world’s leading index showing which countries are best prepared to deal with the droughts, superstorms, and other natural disasters climate change can cause. Ms. Coffee will be speaking on "Adaptation Implementation: Efforts to Parlay Research into Action in Three Sectors." She will bring a wealth of experience working on climate change and sustainability, particularly in the governmental and corporate sectors, into her presentation, including work directing the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan.

In addition to Ms. Coffee’s keynote presentation in the morning, Dave White, co-Director of the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), will speak about the recently-published report of findings from 10 years of DCDC research, education, and outreach in the greater Phoenix area. Since CAP is involved in writing its own synthesis volume reflecting on 16 years of urban socioecological research, the day's presentations will include the lead authors of these chapters presenting their work in morning and afternoon sessions. Among the presenters will be Christopher Boone, Paige Warren, Kerry Smith, Jianguo Wu, and Nancy Grimm. These will be thought-provoking presentations that not only synthesize CAP’s past research but also point the way toward future urban socioecological research and practice.

The program for the CAP ASM lists abstracts for the 48 posters that will be presented by a talented group of students, faculty, and staff.

Residential landscapes research featured in Pacific Standard magazine

August 12, 2013

A recent article in Pacific Standard magazine cited research conducted by CAP scientist Kelli Larson on residential landscapes in Phoenix. Larson's work has focused on understanding household decision-making regarding residential landscaping across several neighborhoods in the Phoenix metropolitan area. This work has been folded into a larger research initiative, the Ecological Homogenization of Urban America, involving six US metropolitan areas (Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Phoenix) that examines whether residential neighborhoods across the United States are ecologically similar. CAP scientist Sharon Hall is also an investigator on this project, which is associated with several Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites.

Book links urban ecology, environmental justice, and global environmental change

July 25, 2013

Christopher Boone, Interim Dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and co-PI of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program, and Michail Fragkias, Visiting Professor at Boise State University and former Executive Director of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change program based in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, have tackled the pressing issues posed by the "urban century" in their edited volume, Urbanization and sustainability: Linking urban ecology, environmental justice and global environmental change.

This book brings together a range of scholars from urban ecology, environmental justice, and global environmental change research. In doing so, the editors have linked ideas, frameworks, and theories from the three fields to provide new, integrated insights on the pathways toward urban sustainability.

Chapters in the book range from a case study of the Million Trees Initiative in Los Angeles to an analysis of the social dimensions of environmental risk in São Paulo City, Brazil as well as more theoretical chapters dealing with the definition of urban sustainability and the contributions of ecological theory to understanding environmental justice.

Scholarship on the Phoenix metropolitan area is featured in a chapter authored by a team of Arizona State University scholars, Bob Bolin, Juan Declet Barreto, Michelle Hegmon, Lisa Meierotto, and Abigail York.  Their chapter builds on previous CAP LTER research on the spatial distribution of environmental disamenities and environmental justice. This new research examines shifting vulnerabilities, hazards, and risks in the Phoenix area. While low-income, minority neighborhoods near the urban core have historically borne the brunt of environmental injustice in the metropolitan area, the foreclosure crisis hit the outlying suburbs, which will likely face growing water insecurity due to a reliance on dwindling groundwater resources and a complex set of policies around water rights and groundwater recharge. At the same time, these urban core neighborhoods are expected to face exposure to increased heat under global climate change scenarios.

Boone and Fragkias have contributed a chapter to the volume that examines the connection between environmental justice and sustainability. They argue that "justice is a core yet often ignored principle of sustainability." They suggest that vulnerability science, which offers a framework for examining human-environment relationships and environmental risk on a mostly regional scale, may serve as a bridge between environmental justice perspectives that focus on local-scale, immediate problems and sustainability perspectives that  emphasize long-term thinking on global problems. An integration of principles, practices, and ideas from environmental justice, sustainability, and vulnerability "could be a powerful mix for effecting positive change."

Grimm and Ruddell are co-authors on SW climate report

June 7, 2013

CAP Director Nancy Grimm and CAP scientist Darren Ruddell are co-authors of a newly-released report, Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwestern US. This report is a contribution to the 2013 National Climate Assessment and focuses on the projected future of the region's climate. It provides important and timely information to decision makers. Grimm is a co-author under the urban chapter while Ruddell co-authored the chapter on human health.

Undergraduate researcher receives Fulbright scholarship to UK

April 30, 2013

Jaleila Brumand, a CAP undergraduate student, has received a Fulbright scholarship to the UK. Jaleila has been working with CAP scientist Kelli Larson for the past two years as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) student. Her research focuses on understanding the drivers of residential landscaping decisions in metropolitan Phoenix and culminated in her honor’s thesis, "The effects of formal and informal institutions on residential land management in the Phoenix metropolitan area." She also authored two publications during her REU experience and has had an opportunity to work with a research team from across several Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites.

In the UK, Jaleila will attend the University of Lancaster on a Fulbright-Lancaster University STEM Award in Science and Technology.  She will pursue a MSc in Energy and the Environment, focusing her research on energy vulnerability between the US and UK.


CAP graduate student's photographs included in NSF art exhibit

March 13, 2013

CAP graduate student, Edgar Cardenas, has his photographic work featured in an exhibit at the National Science Foundation, "Ecological Reflections," which opened on February 28th. The exhibit, which is closed to the public, features 39 artists and writers affiliated with LTER sites based in universities across the United States. Their work involves a range of artistic media, including textiles, watercolors, and photography, as well as poetry and essays.

Cardenas' work focuses on the Tres Rios constructed wetland, part of a wastewater treatment facility maintained by the City of Phoenix. He has imbedded himself within CAP co-PI Dan Childers' research group to document the scientific research at Tres Rios while reflecting on what it means to have a vibrant, human-created wetland in the midst of the Sonoran desert.

CAP LTER is actively engaging the arts and humanities in its work through a number of collaborations that explore the nexus between science and human expression and experience.


Cardenas' photographs on display

Cardenas' photographs on display

Ecological Reflections exhibit at NSF

Ecological Reflections exhibit