Regenerative Ecologies

Landscape Architecture Directed Research Project / Spring 2022 / Kristi Cheramie

Regenerative Ecologies
Methods for Pedagogical Renewal
Jack Gruber

Regenerative Ecologies is a project meant to highlight the importance of embracing ecology as intrinsic to landscape architecture. Through the contextual lenses of climatological necessity, landscape architecture and ecological history, and current pedagogy, this project proposes methods for implementing changes to landscape architectural curricula and practice.  

In 2019 the ASLA adopted a strong position addressing climate change: stating landscape architects have not just the ability but the “responsibility to address these challenges in practice, advocacy, education, and research…to respond with innovation and leadership.”

With this call to action, landscape architecture as a discipline has positioned itself to take on a strong role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Current methods for educating and practicing landscape architecture in a way that responds to this call rely on individual institutions, firms, or people to introduce themselves to ecological theory. 

Regenerative Ecologies proposes the use of specific ecological tools, both physical and digital, that can be scaled, applied to various geographies, and co-learned with ecological terminology to improve the relationship and practice of ecology with landscape architecture. These tools were chosen and developed into workshops based on their use to understand ecological theory and benefit to landscape architectural practice. 

Workshop 1: Trace a Tributary 

Students in Arch/Larch 2300 this Spring semester were given an assignment asking them to explore and learn about ecological concepts related to boundaries and edges. Traveling to Glen Echo Park, students were introduced to the Trails App—an application that tracks movement, elevation, temperature, and pace— students use their bodies to track the extent of the park’s tributary and watershed as they understood it.

Simultaneously, they were instructed how to use the iNaturalist App—an online database used by observers and ecologists to identify species of plant, animal, and fungi—to identify ecological boundaries using physical and ecological cues.

Through their explorations, students walked 75x the distance of the park and identified over 161 species. By analyzing these species, their habitat requirements, and the physical conditions of the park, students identified Ohio-specific plant communities and ecological edge conditions and provided students with an introduction and access to ecological terminology. 

Workshop 2: Identifying Diversity 

Graduate students volunteered to participate in the second workshop, conducted in the spring semester. Using the quadrat—a tool used by ecologists, biologists, and geologists, to sample small sections of larger landscapes—students were introduced to biodiversity sampling. Students observed and drew 1'x1' sections of two distinct prairie conditions at the Whetstone Prairie restoration project. These observations were then used by students to calculate their sections' biodiversity using the Shannon’s Diversity Index—an ecological equation used to understand a sampled space’s existing and potential biodiversity.