Environment and Sustainability

Patrick Hurley during field research in New York City. 
Patrick Hurley during field research in New York City. 

Patrick Hurley

“We need much subtler tools for distinguishing a range of human impacts on natural systems, some negative, some neutral, some positive, all judged by values that cannot help but be anthropogenic even as we strive to make them less anthropocentric.” William Cronon (2000)

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 nonhuman species. He is particularly interested in forested places and how perennial species play in peoples’ interest in new forms of environmental management.

Urbanization & Environment students present case study research on stormwater management effo... Urbanization & Environment students present case study research on stormwater management efforts to a nearby Senior Living Center.
In his classes, students examine how diverse human-environment interactions reveal the ways that people relate to, understand, use, degrade, and steward nature. For his students, a 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 and question the sustainability and resiliency of particular practices, places, and relationships.

Students explore these topics through project-oriented and community-engaged learning experiences. In the process, students discover social science methods and draw on digital technologies to both analyze and communicate their findings (see Ursinus’ Digital Liberal Arts Working Group). A number of works begun as class projects have led to online case studies, expanded research endeavors, and published scholarly research articles. 

Sustainability in the Suburbs students demonstrate proper tree planting techniques at the Food Fo... Sustainability in the Suburbs students demonstrate proper tree planting techniques at the Food Forest stewardship day (October 2019).Dr. Hurley is a co-director of the Robert and Shurley Knaefler Whittaker Environmental Research Station (Whittaker), located just off campus in Trappe, PA. Whittaker provides a hands-on site where Ursinus students can learn about sustainable food systems and other ecosystem benefits through land management and experimentation. Dr. Hurley’s involvement centers on the Ursinus food forest, where students plant, monitor, steward, and harvest a variety of materials from diverse native species.

Like his colleagues in the department, Dr. Hurley is an award-winning teacher and scholar. He was the 2013 recipient of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He has received grants from TreeVitalize and the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts to fund tree planting and land management activities, such as the food forest, that provide experiential learning opportunities integrated into his classes.

Oregon white oak woodlands in Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge (Spring 2019). Oregon white oak woodlands in Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge (Spring 2019).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


Environmental Studies


  • B.A. German Language, B.A. Politics, University of Maryland
  • M.S. Environmental Studies, University of Oregon
  • Ph.D. Environmental Studies, Science and Policy, University of Oregon


  • Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENV 100)
  • Globalization and the Environment (ENV 242)
  • Urbanization and the Environment (ENV 332)
  • Forests and People (ENV 338)
  • Ecological Change in Historical Perspective (ENV 366)
  • Political Ecology (ENV 428W)
  • Sustainability in the Suburbs (ENV 454W)

Professional Experience

Dr. Hurley has worked as a research assistant with World Wildlife Fund’s Conservation Science Program, where he contributed to the program’s assessments of North America’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity. His research on the politics of land development and conservation in the United States builds upon this work, focusing on social dynamics shaping the success of these efforts. 

While a graduate student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon Dr. Hurley served as a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, a non-profit dedicated to connecting people to the unique habitats and species of this Lane County park. His teaching on ecological change as well as interest in nontimber forest product use draw upon key experiences and lessons learned from this experience in the southern Willamette Valley.

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

Research Interests

Dr. Hurley leads the People and Urban Forests research group at Ursinus, where he works with Ursinus students to better understand 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.

Dr. Hurley has methodological training in human geography and has a theoretical grounding in political ecology.

Recent Work

Hurley, P.T., S. Becker*, M.R. Emery, and J. Detwiler*. 2022. Estimating the alignment of tree species composition with foraging practice in Philadelphia’s urban forest: Toward a rapid assessment of provisioning services. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening

Sardeshpande, M., P.T. Hurley, E. Mollee, H. Garekae, A. Dahlberg, M.R. Emery, and C. Shackleton. 2021. How people foraging in urban greenspace can mobilize social-ecological resilience during COVID-19 and beyond. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 3

Hurley, P.T. & Ari, Y. 2018. Saying ‘no’ to (the) Oxygen Capital: Amenity migration, counter-territorialization, and uneven rural landscape change in the Kaz Da?lar? (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 city. Urban 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 cover McLain, 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. Ar?. 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)
  • Becker, S.*, P.T. Hurley, M.R. Emery. 2021. Assessing Access to Culturally Significant Species in New York City: The Case of Ginkgo biloba and Morus Species Harvesging by Chinese Americans and Their Descendants. Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers, Seattle, WA/Virtual. April 2021.
  • 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.

*Student presenter