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Susannah Lerman, Let’s talk about the birds and the bees: backyard habitats in suburban yards

February 10, 2020

7:15 pm - 9:15 pm

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Urban and suburban development results in the loss and alteration of vegetation, and is one of the leading causes for severe declines of birds, bees and other wildlife populations. However, backyards have the potential to mitigate some of the detrimental impacts by providing wildlife habitat. Although these green spaces result in small fragments of non-cohesive parcels, collectively, they have the greatest potential for increasing and enhancing habitat in urban and suburban areas. Thus, individual households, in particular, their associated landscaping decisions, have a role to play in improving the capacity of backyards for supporting wildlife and other ecosystem services. This seminar will describe research that has demonstrated how wildlife has responded to landscape design variation, highlighting native plant and native bird relationships, lawn mowing frequency and bee abundance, and wildlife responses at a continental scale. Improving habitat in private yards has implications for human well-being as well since this is where people have their primary interaction with the natural world. Increased exposure and participation in field science programs can further enforce the importance of conservation initiatives and policies aimed at improving habitat in our cities and suburbs.

Dr. Susannah Lerman is a Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service in the Communities and Landscapes of the Urban Northeast unit. Susannah earned her B.A. in American History from the University of Delaware in 1994, an M.S. in Conservation Biology from Antioch University in 2005, and a Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Massachusetts in 2011. Her research explores the links between human management of urban green spaces (e.g. yards, neighborhood parks and open space) and the health and success of native wildlife populations, and how these impacts subsequently feedback to influence people due to the role of biodiversity in delivering ecosystem services. Susannah translates the application of scientific information into management tools and integrates a citizen science approach with the ultimate goal of improving the sustainability of urban environments for birds, bees and other wildlife, and advancing human well-being through reconnecting people with nearby nature. Susannah seeks opportunities to explain scientific findings to varying audiences while trying to facilitate connections between the public’s personal lives and the urban ecosystem.

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