Environmental Studies

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Patrick Hurley

Dr. Patrick Hurley is an environmental social scientist interested in the urban and rural places that produce food, natural resources, and other environmental benefits (so-called ecosystem services) for diverse peoples and species. In particular, Dr. Hurley’s classes examine how these sites of human-environment interaction and the practices they foster illuminate the ways that people relate to, understand, use, degrade, and steward nature. For his students, this spatially- and historically-grounded focus often means studying the effects of land use, landscape, and socio-demographic change on varied environments in order to better understand the sustainability and resiliency of particular places and human-environment relationships.

Student explorations of these topics take place through classes that feature numerous project-oriented and community-engagement learning experiences. In the process, students are introduced to a range of social science methods and work with digital technologies to both analyze and communicate their findings (see Ursinus’ Digital Liberal Arts Working Group). A number of projects begun as class projects have led to additional research endeavors and published scholarly research articles. 

Like his colleagues in the department, Dr. Hurley is an award-winning teacher. He was the 2013 recipient of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s Excellence in Teaching Award. As a doctoral student, he was the recipient of the Morris K. Udall Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, a prestigious national award for environmental scholarship. His scholarly publications have also received critical acclaim. A coauthored research paper won the 2011 Outstanding Article award from the journal Southeastern Geographer

Dr. Hurley is also the co-director of the Robert and Shurley Knaefler Whittaker Environmental Research Station (WERS), located just off campus in Trappe, PA. WERS provides a hands-on site where Ursinus students can learn about sustainable food systems and other ecosystem benefits through land management and experimentation.


Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies


  • B.A., B.A., University of Maryland
  • M.S., Ph.D., University of Oregon


  • Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • Globalization and the Environment
  • Forests and People
  • Urbanization and the Environment
  • Ecological Change in Historical Perspective
  • Political Ecology
  • Sustainability in Urbanizing Watersheds

Professional Experience

Dr. Hurley has worked as a research assistant for the World Wildlife Fund U.S. in the Conservation Science Program. There Dr. Hurley participated in a number of continental biodiversity assessments, including working on the organization’s terrestrial and freshwater assessments of North America. His research on the politics of land development and conservation build upon this work. 

While living in Eugene, Oregon Dr. Hurley served as a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, a 501(3)c organization dedicated to connecting people to the regionally important habitats and species of this Lane County park. His teaching on ecological change and history as well as interests in nontimber forest product use draw upon key experiences and lessons learned from this early engagement with ecological stewardship.

Currently, Dr. Hurley is an Ambassador for the Philadelphia region’s Circuit Trails network. 

Research Interests

Dr. Hurley’s research focuses on the social and political dimensions of the land systems. Land systems science, as a recent Anthropocene article notes, is interested in “observation of change[s in] and understanding the drivers of” “human interactions with the natural environment” (Verburg et al. 2015). This includes a rapidly increasing focus on “using this understanding to design sustainable transformations through stakeholder engagement and through the concept of land governance.” Dr. Hurley has empirical and methodological training in human geography and a theoretical grounding in the interdisciplinary subfield of political ecology.

Dr. Hurley leads the People and Urban Forests research group at Ursinus, where he works with Ursinus students to better the often unrecognized ways that social-political dimensions shape forest conservation strategies and the benefits humans derive from forests. Together with his research students and collaborators, Dr. Hurley specifically examines the uses of the urban forest by residents for material and cultural resilience. This work includes research in Philadelphia with Ursinus students as well as in New York City with USFS Research Geographer Dr. Marla Emery.

Dr. Hurley also examines the politics of land conservation and environmental stewardship in rapidly urbanizing areas (so-called exurbia), where he has completed projects in numerous forested regions in the United States. Currently, he is examining exurban dynamics in southeastern Pennsylvania with Ursinus students. He actively publishes on these topics as well as research on implications of urbanization for environmental management in western Turkey.

Recent Work

Selected PublicationsA Comparative Political Ecology of Exurbia

Hurley, P.T. & Arı, Y. 2018. Saying ‘no’ to (the) Oxygen Capital: Amenity migration, counter-territorialization, and uneven rural landscape change in the Kaz Dağları (Ida Mountains) of western TurkeyJournal of Rural Studies. 62: 195-208.

Hurley, P. T., & Emery, M. R. 2018. Locating provisioning ecosystem services in urban forests: Forageable woody species in New York City, USALandscape and Urban Planning170, 266-275.

Sachdeva, S., Emery, M. R., & Hurley, P. T. 2018. Depiction of wild food foraging practices in the media: Impact of the Great Recession. Society & Natural Resources, 1-17.

McKinnon, I., Hurley, P. T., Myles, C. C., Maccaroni, M., & Filan, T. 2017. Uneven urban metabolisms: Toward an integrative (ex) urban political ecology of sustainability in and around the cityUrban Geography, 1-26. [download]

Shackleton, C. M., Hurley, P. T., Dahlberg, A. C., Emery, M. R., & Nagendra, H. 2017. Urban Foraging: A Ubiquitous Human Practice Overlooked by Urban Planners, Policy, and ResearchSustainability9(10), 1884.

Hurley, P., M. Maccaroni, and A. Williams. 2017. Resistant actors, resistant landscapes? A historical political ecology of a forested conservation object in southeastern Pennsylvania. Landscape Research 42(3): 291-306

Emery, M.R. and P. Hurley. 2016. Ethnobiology in the city: Embracing the urban ecological moment. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(4): 807-819.

Short Gianotti, A. and P. Hurley. 2016. Gathering plants and fungi along the urban-rural gradient. Land Use Policy 57:555-563

Taylor, L. and P. Hurley (editors). 2016. A Comparative Political Ecology of Exurbia: Planning, Environmental Management, and Landscape Change. Springer International Publishing: Switzerland. 

Hurley, P., M. Emery, R. McLain, M. Poe, B. Grabbatin, and C. Goetcheus. 2015. Whose urban forest? The political ecology of gathering urban Non Timber Forest Products (uNTFPs). In Sustainability in the Global City. Isenhour, C., M. Checker, and G. McDonogh (editors). Cambridge University Press.

Poe, M., J. LeCompte, R. McLain, and P. Hurley. 2014. Urban foraging and the relational ecologies of belonging. Social & Cultural Geography

"Planning Paradise" Book coverMcLain, M., P. Hurley, M. Emery, and M. Poe. 2014. Gathering “wild” food in the city: Rethinking the role of urban foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management. Local Environment 19 (2): 220-240

Poe, M., R. McLain, M. Emery, and P.T. Hurley. 2013. Urban forest justice and the rights to wild foods, medicines, and materials in the city. Human Ecology 41: 409-422.

Hurley, P.T. 2012. Whose ‘sense of place’: A political ecology of amenity development in Central Oregon. In Place-based conservation: Perspectives from the social sciences. Stewart, W., D. Williams, and L. Kruger (Editors). Springer.

Hurley, P.T., and Y. Arı. 2011. Mining (dis) amenity: The political ecology of mining opposition in the Kaz (Ida) Mountain region of western TurkeyDevelopment and Change 42(6): 1393-1415.

P.A. Walker and P.T. Hurley. 2011. Planning paradise: Politics and visioning of Land Use in Oregon. University of Arizona Press: Tucson, AZ.

Selected Conference Presentations (Featuring Student Presentations)
  • Hurley, P.T.; M.R. Emery; J. Detweiler*, V. Fernandez*, S. Becker*, K. McGillis*, and M. Hanscom*. Assessing the Material Benefits Supply of Philadelphia’s Urban Forests: Toward a Forager-Oriented Methodology for Studying Urban Provisioning and Cultural Ecosystem Services. Society for Applied Anthropology in Philadelphia, PA. April 2018.
  • Hurley, P. and S. Canty. “Urban Gardening and Community Spaces in the Haddington Neighborhood of West Philadelphia” Oral History Association Meetings, Madison, WI (Presentation by Skype), October, 2014.
  • Maccaroni, M.* and P. Hurley. “Exurban Forest Metabolism? A Political Ecology of Material Landscape Transformations in Southeastern, PA  Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers in Tampa Bay, FL. April, 2014.
  • Hurley, P., M. Dzuna*, M. Emery, L. Brody*, A. Schwemin*, and B. Satmary*. “Hidden resources, illegal harvests: ‘Wild’ plant gathering and the role of parks and protected areas in the Philadelphia, PA Metro Area” Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, March 2014.
  • Hurley, P. “Engaging Urban Greening: The Role of Student-Led Oral History in Assessing the Success of Urban Tree Connection in the Haddington Neighborhood of West Philadelphia” Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Dombay, M.* and P. Hurley. “Analysis of Suburban Forest Species Composition in Land-Use Policies in Montgomery County, PA” Poster at the Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Dzuna, M.* and P. Hurley. “Suburban NTFP Gathering in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area” Poster at the Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Brody, L.* and P. Hurley. “Gathering in the Neighborhood: NTFPs in the suburbs of Philadelphia.” Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, DC. April, 2010.

*Student presenter