Research

The research agenda for the next five years focuses on projects that foster an integrated, holistic, and comprehensive vision for urban sustainability. Towards that end, with colleagues from engineering, architecture, urban planning, and geography, this research group focuses on two primary areas: Urban Infrastructure and Form and Urban Consumption and Commodity Networks.

With the dramatic growth of urban areas and the majority of the world’s population now living in urban settings, cities have become dominant demand drivers in global resource cycles. Globalization processes have intertwined cities with distant places and spaces through system interactions that include the exchange of food, energy, water, materials, capital, and the like. City and ‘hinterland’ have become highly interconnected and interdependent at multiple spatial, temporal, and jurisdictional scales. Cities are increasingly evolving into agglomerated networks of polycentric urban regions, often referred to as megaregions that are spread over large territories with interdependent infrastructure, transportation networks, economies, ecologies, cultures, labor markets, infrastructure, and land use systems. Vast territories of land dedicated to the production, extraction, processing and transportation of materials and resources and their associated networks can no longer be seen as external to urban development, but need to be considered part of the urban “system”.
Thus, cities are complex, adaptive, emergent systems composed of sub-systems—built environment, metabolic flows, governance networks, and social dynamics—that themselves are multi-scalar, networked, and often strongly coupled. Addressing urban sustainability issues in a thoughtful and integrated way, therefore, requires combining disciplinary-bound strengths and perspectives. Differences in epistemology and disciplinary culture can make this synthesis a challenge, but it is necessary to develop a deeper understanding of nature-society interactions; to enable cross-fertilization of novel theories, methods, and approaches; and to provide innovative and transformative responses to societal problems.

Recent Projects
Urban Forest Ecosystems as Equitable Green Infrastructure for the Detroit Region
A fundamental challenge to urban sustainability is how best to incorporate and balance multiple environmental, social, and economic considerations into planning processes.

Water Scarcity Risk for Global Trade Network
The completion of this project will provide an integrated tool to evaluate water scarcity risks for industries with global supply chains.

Recent Publications
Resilience and complexity: A bibliometric review and prospects for Industrial Ecology
Resilience is an increasingly popular concept in academic research and public discourse and is closely connected to complex systems theory. This article reviews research on resilience and complexity in industrial ecology and the broader academy by conducting a bibliometric analysis of the academic literature over a 40-year period (1973–2014). The review revealed a large body of scholarship composed of five clearly identifiable intellectual communities, with resilience theory from ecology especially influential. Based on the study of ecosystems, these scholars conceptualize resilience as a dynamic and adaptive property of systems with multiple stable states that evolve over time.

A political-industrial ecology of water supply infrastructure for Los Angeles
This paper develops a political-industrial ecology approach to explore the urban water metabolism of Los Angeles. Conventional approaches to quantify urban carbon footprints tend to “black box” methodologies that guide the carbon emissions calculus and the social, political, ecological, and economic processes that perpetually reshape nature-society metabolisms. To more fully delineate the water supply metabolism of Los Angeles, this paper combines theory and method from urban political ecology and industrial ecology.