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Contributions from the People & Urban Forest Student Research Group Presented at Two Spring Conferences

Research contributions from Jenna Detweiler’s and Sarah Becker’s People and Urban Forest Research Group project, Urban Forests and Foraging in the U.S., featured at two spring conferences.

Preliminary findings gathered from extensive research work by students in the People and Urban Forest Research Group were presented by Associate Professor Patrick Hurley at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology on April 7th in Philadelphia. This ongoing project focuses on urban foraging in the City of Philadelphia. The project specifically analyzes the city’s urban forest from the perspective of residents–or foragers–who harvest materials from trees and shrubs for food, medicine, and other resource uses. Dr. Hurley’s presentation Assessing the Material Benefits of Philly’s Urban Forest is a collaborative effort co-authored by Dr. Marla Emery of the U.S. Forest Service and research students Jenna Detweiler, Sarah Becker, Victor Fernandez, Kristin McGillis, and Megan Hanscom. The presentation included the first effort to estimate the extent to which a city’s trees and forest can support this overlooked urban natural resource use, highlighting the species that are important to city residents who connect with city trees and other species in this way.

Following on the heels of the April 7th conference, Dr. Hurley traveled to New Orleans as a panel participant examining “Trees in the City and their role in Urban Green Infrastructure” at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers on April 12th. Dr. Hurley’s panel contribution, entitled Assessing the Material Benefits of U.S. Urban Forests: A Forager Oriented Perspective and Methodology, focused on the role that the evolving research of urban foraging can play in better understanding how people interact with diverse greenspaces in the city and the plants that are found in these spaces. Dr. Hurley’s comments were part of an all-day set of sessions seeking to highlight how emerging research can inform management, planning, and policy strategies for enhancing city’s urban forests. This work is part of an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Marla Emery and features contributions by students in his People and Urban Forests Research Group. Analysis by ENV senior Jenna Detweiler and ENV sophomore Sarah Becker were a key part of the presentation and its discussion of insights gained from work on foraging in Philadelphia.

Student researchers in Hurley’s People and Urban Forests Research Group who work on the project Urban Forests and Foraging in the U.S. draw on surveys and in-depth interviews with foragers. The group’s analyses document: species and places that support foraging, how foragers incorporate harvested materials into their lives, and what this practice means for how we think about the values of trees in cities and suburbs. Their findings suggest urban and suburban forests provide access to a wide range of foods, medicines, and other natural resources for use in residents’ daily lives. This includes trees, plants, and mushrooms found in diverse locations, from parks to residential yards. The research group’s findings are intended to inform planning, policy, and scholarly discussions about forest management in diverse urban places and at a variety of scales.