Planning For Pest Readiness: Building Climate Resilience in Seattle’s Urban Forest with a Community-centric Approach

The urban forest not only plays an important role in providing ecological benefits, but it is also positively associated with public health, especially for communities of color and low-income people who already suffer from environmental injustice. In the fields of landscape architecture and urban forestry, invasive tree pests have rarely received much attention in the planning and design of the urban environment. Yet, they have the potential to weaken and kill massive amounts of trees because they can spread without the control of natural enemies. With the effects of climate change, urban trees will be under greater stress, which makes them even more vulnerable to pests.

This thesis focuses on pest resilience as an integral part of urban forest stewardship through a community-centric approach. Using GIS analyses and case studies, I identify the most ecologically and socially vulnerable communities in Seattle based on their susceptibility to pest infestation and summarize best practices for education and engagement for tree care. I further develop a community engagement framework with an emphasis on environmental justice, while providing resources and recommendations for the City of Seattle and community organizations to approach the pest issue. I also discuss the implications of this research for the urban forest departments in Seattle and for landscape designers.

Reimagining the amphibious city: From health data to ecological design in an Amazonian informal community

Water circumnavigates the Amazon River Basin’s urban centers, blurring lines between city and river. As Amazonian cities swell, growing populations inhabit the seasonally flooding edges of the urban landscape. These amphibious communities, which are adapted to both high and low river seasons, are often informal and are disproportionately vulnerable to health risks tied to socioeconomic inequality, climate change, and urban systems. Though Indigenous architecture has designed with Amazonian hydrology for millennia, colonial ideas of the form that urbanization should take eschew amphibiousness. This design research focuses on the amphibious informal community of Claverito, in Iquitos, Peru to examine the built environment as a social determinant of health and to ask: What is the role of evidence-based ecological design in informal community upgrading? How can health data center people in informal community redevelopment to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals? How can a landscape systems approach to built environment design mitigate risk of exposure to water-related infectious diseases while contributing to city-wide resilience?