Natural History and Urban Ecology of Manhattan

Director: Patrick Reynolds, Professor of Biology
Phone:  315-859-4723
Email:  preynold@hamilton.edu

New York City is rightly considered a commercial capital of the world, a crossroads that drives the globalization that characterizes civilization in the twenty-first century. It is the quintessential urban environment, where myriad dimensions of human culture meet and blend to form a fascinating mosaic. Similarly, the city is a collision of biological diversities and ecologies ­– of native and non-native species, of indigenous and man-made niches – that coexist within an environment that is far from our traditional sense of natural habitats or our understanding of how they function. This program will explore the unique environment of New York City from a biological perspective – providing a fundamental understanding of the urban anthropogenic biome, of how such an environment can be studied ecologically, and of the diversity of the non-human inhabitants of “The Big Green Apple.”

395S Special Topic:  Ecological Landscape and Urban Ecology

The recreation of historical landscapes and urban ecology are relatively new subfields of ecological study that are bringing insights to what are among the most poorly understood ecosystems on earth – those created by humans, where habitats are changed utterly from their original incarnations and where contemporary flora and fauna are dependent on the human activity that shapes their environment. That over half the world’s population lives in urban settings indicates the importance of these ecosystems to our understanding of the biosphere. This course will provide an introduction to historical landscape ecology, with focus on the development of the Manhattan ecosystem over the past 400 years, and will review the approaches of urban ecological study, using the city for field observations and to illustrate concepts. 

396S Independent Research

A tutorial resulting in a substantial paper that integrates experience and learning from the internship with an academic perspective and knowledge gained in the seminars or other tutorial readings.

397S Internship

Internship with a firm, organization, agency, or advocacy group appropriate to the theme of the semester. Students will keep a journal or other written account of the experience.

398S Seminar in Global Processes:  The Cosmopolitan Biodiversity of Manhattan

The flora and fauna of Manhattan reflect four centuries of environmental degradation, which includes the introduction of species from around the world. While likely bearing little resemblance to the original biodiversity of Mannahatta island, New York City has greater species richness than might be expected, both through green spaces like Central Park but also in the creation of many microniches throughout the city. This course will build an appreciation of Manhattan biodiversity for all students, and explore its change as related to patterns of human migration and urbanization. It will also provide a deeper understanding of a particular group of plants or animals for each student through urban fieldwork, reference to existing inventories, interaction with New York City natural history organizations, and guest lecturers who have researched Manhattan biodiversity in varied ways.

Student Internship
Matthew Albino ’19 Marvel Entertainment
Cole Burchill ’19 Millman Group at Morgan Stanley
Ursula Castiblanco ’19 Showtime Networks-Smithsonian Channel
Emily Han ’19 Social Science Research Council
Joseph Harnett ’19 The Durst Organization
Conrad Hsiang ’19 City Parks Foundation
Stephanie Kall ’19 Center for Genomics & Systems Biology (NYU)
Edsel Llaurador ’19 The Lowline
Madeleine Maher ’18 Quill.org
Nicholas Pace ’19 New York Restoration Project
Vishal Patel ’19 Council on Foreign Relations
Maria Saenz ’19 Natural Areas Conversancy
Elizabeth Vasquez ’19 Weinstein Carnegie Philanthropic Group
Michael Wang ’19 NY County District Attorney's Office
Jesse Yu ’19 Center for Genomics & Systems Biology (NYU)



Contact Name

Maddie Carrera

Director of Experiential Learning

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