Assistant Professor, Urban Forestry and Environmental Justice
Department of Forest Resources Management
2022- 2424 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
I seek to create more liveable and equitable urban environments through my work. During my career, I have had the privilege to work with communities and organizations across Canada and internationally to achieve sustainability and environmental justice goals, first as a community-based environmental planner and facilitator, and then as a researcher.
My research focuses on urban forestry and environmental justice, using a social-ecological lens. Additional areas of research interest and activity include the role of urban forests in human health and well-being, nature-based solutions to climate change and climate justice, and the use of smart technologies in understanding and managing urban social-ecological systems.
In the realm of environmental justice, my current research is particularly concerned with understanding 1. the nature and dynamics of green gentrification, i.e., the physical or psychological displacement of residents due to local greening activities, and 2. holistic approaches to environmental justice, with a focus on stewardship relationships and uncovering the mechanisms of environmental injustice.
Green College Leading Scholar (UBC) 2019
GIS Scholarship (Esri Canada) 2017
Gold Award for Excellence in Planning Practice (PIBC) 2014
Green gentrification and equitable urban forest governance in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto Current
Principal Investigator, SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2020-2023
Cities are showing an increased appreciation for the myriad ecological and social benefits that urban forests provide. However, the distribution and experience of these benefits among urban residents are often unequal. Complicating this narrative further, attempts to increase urban forest access — e.g., through urban forest renewal projects, the installation of public parks, or the development of community gardens — have been implicated in the physical and psychological displacement of economically-marginalized residents. Green (ecological, or environmental) gentrification can occur when improvements to urban green space trigger a flow of wealth into an area, increasing the cost of living and forcing vulnerable residents to relocate. This impact can also manifest as a sense of exclusion among residents, if green spaces change without local guidance. In order to prevent green gentrification and the worsening of urban green inequities, it is essential that urban foresters become cognizant of the role urban forest management can play in the perpetuation of these sociospatial disparities. To date, there is a dearth of research in this nascent field of study exploring the intersections between urban forestry and green gentrification. In this project, we seek to explore how considerations of green gentrification might contribute to more equitable urban forest governance via case studies of Metro Vancouver, BC, and Greater Toronto, ON. In doing so, we build on our previous work developing a framework for urban forest governance rooted in recognitional equity.
Advancing a 5G framework for natural asset management Current
Principal Investigator, Rogers-UBC Foundry Model Grant, UBC Campus as Living Lab Grant, Mitacs Accelerate Cluster Grant, 2020-2023
Well-designed urban systems contain natural assets, which provide important benefits to urban residents. The management of natural assets has been recognized as a priority investment area by federal and municipal governments. However, natural asset monitoring can be an arduous process, and often has a substantial lag time between when data are collected and processed, if data are even collected. This poses a substantial management issue, as we are lacking tools to effectively care for natural assets. This project will develop a sensor network and leverage anonymized mobile data to create and validate a real-time natural asset monitoring system. This project will utilize a data fusion approach by collecting and compiling many different sets of data to validate server-based solutions that will automate aspects of natural asset assessment, monitoring and measurement, and improve the delivery of ecosystem services to human residents. In doing so, a data environment will be established that will allow for software service applications running on 5G mobile networks.
Urban greening vs. urban densification: Evaluating future what-if scenarios for effects on heat island, shading and cooling of neighbourhoods Current
Co-Investigator, SSHRC Insight Grant, 2020-2023
This project will generate new knowledge that will inform both long-range and day-to-day planning for climate action, urban planning, and the urban forest. Our team is investigating where and how much trees can contribute to climate change planning, particularly adapting cities to increasing temperatures to maintain livability in increasingly dense neighbourhoods. We build upon previously-developed and measured future ‘what-if’ scenarios of projected neighbourhood densification patterns, add future what-if scenarios for urban forest strategies, and measure them for ecosystem services and livability.
Good Decisions, Diverse Voices: Developing Tools for Equitable Decision Making Current
Principal Investigator, Mitacs Accelerate Cluster Grant, 2020-2024
Over the last decade, there has been increasing academic focus on the role of urban planners and decision makers in perpetuating systemic racism, economic inequalities, displacement, and other inequitable practices and outcomes in the planning sphere. However, there is still a limited understanding of how equitable decision making can and should take place in practice. Robust and inclusive decision making is a fundamentally important part of planning to create healthy communities and promote sustainable development. If issues of equity are not central in these decisions, planners cannot correct existing inequities and may in fact perpetuate them. EcoPlan International (EPI), the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Simon Fraser University (SFU) are working together to better understand ways to improve equity and inclusion in decision making in planning practice that both supports EPI in delivering high-quality results to its clients, and informs planning and decision making across Canada. We draw on notions of recognitional and procedural justice in urban space to define equitable decision making and provide a framework for research, identify value elicitation methods that increase equity in decision making, explore ways technology can assist or hinder this process, and provide concrete recommendations for improving equity in planning practice.
Training the future leaders in urban forestry (Ufor) Current
Co-Investigator, NSERC CREATE, 2020-2026
More than 80% of Canadians live in urban areas, and urban forests are often the only nature that people will experience on a regular basis. These urban trees and forests provide many direct and indirect benefits to city dwellers that are just starting to be realized. Planning and managing urban forests require a wide perspective that encompasses any fields. No single research domain or training program can adequately prepare graduate students for the challenges they will face in the workplace. This poses a challenge from an educational and training perspective. Traditionally, management of urban forests in Canada is done by foresters, landscape architects, arborists and horticulturists who have little training in urban ecology, biology, restoration, soil science, hydrology, or social and economic sciences. Well-qualified professional leaders who can manage urban forests in novel urban ecosystems that are shaped by complex socio-cultural and economic conditions, are rare in Canada and across the globe. Ufor (Urban Forestry space training program or ForU in french for “formation en Foresterie Urbaine”) aims to increase the supply of this type of high-level professional. The development of a broad-perspective expertise in the planning and management of urban trees and forests that provide the bulk of ecosystem services in cities, that includes aspects of natural, social and health sciences, will provide a substantial career-long asset for our trainees, with corresponding long-term benefits to Canadians.
Will smarter forests take us farther? Fostering resilience forest ecosystems in the digital era Complete
Principal Investigator, SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grant, 2020-2021
This knowledge synthesis project advances the understanding of the potentially diverse roles of novel and emerging technologies, data, and data science techniques for managing forest ecosystems in Canada. Our project is centred on the following questions: (1) How are existing data, tools, and new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, data analytics, sensors, robotics) being leveraged to measure and assess the resiliency and adaptation potential of socio-cultural-ecological forest systems in rural and urban contexts? (2) What data integration and linkages are possible within and between forest and urban forest managers and stakeholders, given the use of different measures and indicators to monitor these systems? Can the use of new technologies and data science techniques catalyze the disciplinary and multidisciplinary integration of data for decision making? This project will assess the state of knowledge on digital technologies for forest management and develop recommendations for key stakeholders to anticipate and engage in the use of technology and data science techniques.
In the News
- Toronto Star: Brampton gets federal funding to ramp up tree planting
- Brampton gets federal funding to ramp up tree planting
- How cities can avoid ‘green gentrification’ and make urban forests more accessible
- Canadian cities need to align climate change and urban forestry policies
- This is your brain on trees: Why is urban nature so good for our minds, and what happens when pandemic isolates us from it?
- Let’s all raise a toast to the democratization of public space
- The Privilege of a Pandemic Nature View
- More money, more greenspace, according to UBC study
- ‘Green inequity’ plagues U.S. cities, study finds
- Who’s losing access to city parks and green spaces?
- Low-Income City Residents Tend to Have Less Access to Greenery
- Mind the green gap: access to nature shouldn’t be a luxury
- The Inequality of America’s Parks and Green Space
- ‘Value of Trees’ event to be held in South Surrey
Audio: Access to urban green spaces favor the rich, educated
Jarvis, I., Sbihi, H., Davis, Z., Brauer, M., Czekaijlo, A., Davies, H., Gergel, S., Guhn, M., Jerrett, M., Koehoorn, M., Nesbitt, L., Oberlander, T., Su, J. (2022). The influence of lifetime residential exposure to different vegetation types and paved surfaces on early childhood development: a population-based birth cohort study Environment International 163/107196
Quinton, J., Nesbitt, L., Sax, D. (2022). How well do we know green gentrification? A systematic review of the methods Progress in Human Geography 46/960-987
Quinton, J., Nesbitt, L., Czekajlo, A. (2022). Wealthy, educated, and… non-millennial? Variable patterns of distributional inequity in 31 Canadian cities Landscape and Urban Planning 227/104535
Sax, D., Nesbitt, L., Hagerman, S. (2022). Expelled from the garden? Understanding the dynamics of green gentrification in Vancouver, British Columbia Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space OnlineFirst
Sax, D., Nesbitt, L., Quinton, J. (2022). Improvement, not displacement: A framework for urban green gentrification research and practice Environmental Science & Policy 137/373-383
Davis, Z., Guhn, M., Jarvis, I., Jerrett, M., Nesbitt, L., Oberlander, T., Sbihi, H., Su, J., van den Bosch, M. (2021). The association between natural environments and childhood mental health and development: A systematic review and assessment of different exposure measurements International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 235/113767
Cheng, Z., Nitoslawski, S., Konijnendijk, C., Sheppard, S., Nesbitt, L., Girling, C. (2021). Alignment of municipal climate change and urban forestry policies: A Canadian perspective Environmental Science & Policy 122/14-24
Nitoslawski, S.A., Wong‐Stevens, K., Steenberg, J.W.N., Witherspoon, K., Nesbitt, L., Konijnendijk van den Bosch, C.C. (2021). The Digital Forest: Mapping a Decade of Knowledge on Technological Applications for Forest Ecosystems Earth's Future 9/e2021EF002123
Konijnendijk, C.C., Nesbitt, L., Wirtz, Z. (2021). Urban Forest Governance in the Face of Pulse Disturbances – Canadian Experiences Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 47/267-283
Nesbitt, L., Konijnendijk, C., Lauster, N., Park, H. (2020). Intercultural learning in contested space: the biocultural realities of global cities through the lens of Vancouver, Canada In M. Cocks, C. Shackleton (eds.), Urban Nature: Enriching Belonging, Wellbeing and Bioculture, Routledge
Sax, D.*, Manson, C.*, Nesbitt, L. (2020). Governing for diversity: An exploration of practitioners' urban forest preferences and implications for equitable governance Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 2/572572
Devisscher, T., Konijnendijk, C., Nesbitt, L., Lenhart, J., Salbitano, F., Cheng, Z. C., Lwasa, S., van den Bosch, M. (2019). Sustainable Cities and Communities – Impacts on Forests and Forest-Based Livelihoods In C. J. Pierce Colfer, W. de Jong, G. Galloway, P. Pacheco, G. Winkel, and P. Katila (eds.), Sustainable Development Goals: Their Impacts on Forests and People, Cambridge University Press.
Nesbitt, L., Meitner, M., Girling, C., Sheppard, S. (2019). Urban green equity on the ground: Practice-based models of urban green equity in three multicultural cities Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 44/126433
Bardekjian, A., Nesbitt, L., Konijnendijk, C.C., Lötter, B.T. (2019). Women in urban forestry and arboriculture: Experiences, barriers and strategies for leadership Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 46/126442
Nesbitt, L., Meitner, M., Girling, C., Sheppard, S., & Lu, Y. (2019). Who has access to urban vegetation? A spatial analysis of distributional green equity in 10 US cities Landscape and Urban Planning 181/51-79
van den Bosch, M., Brauer, M., Burnett, R., Davies, H., Davis, Z., Guhn, M., Jarvis, I., Nesbitt, L., Oberlander, T., Rugel, E., Sbihi, H., Su, J., Jerrett, M. (2018). Born to be Wise: A population registry data linkage protocol to assess the impact of modifiable early-life environmental exposures on the health and development of children BMJ Open 8/e026954
Liu, J., Chamberlain, B.C., Kozak, R.A., Meitner, M., Nesbitt, L. (2018). Relating shape to human aesthetic evaluations of harvest blocks from an aerial perspective Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 33/793-799
Nesbitt, L., Meitner, M., Sheppard, S., & Girling, C. (2018). The dimensions of urban green equity: A framework for analysis Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 34/240-248
Konijnendijk, C.C., Nesbitt, L., Stephen, B. (2018). Vancouver: envisaging the world’s greenest city In Forests and Sustainable Cities: Inspiring Stories from Around the World, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Devisscher, T., Nesbitt, L., Bardekjian, A. (2018). Main findings and trends of urbanization In C. Farcy, R. de Camino, I. Martinez de Arano, E. Rojas Briales (eds.), Forestry in the Midst of Global Changes, CRC Press
Nesbitt, L., Hotte, N., Barron, S., Cowan, J., Sheppard, S. (2017). The social and economic value of cultural ecosystem services provided by urban forests in North America: A review and suggestions for future research Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 25/103-111
Nesbitt, L. and Meitner, M. (2016). Exploring Relationships between Socioeconomic Background and Urban Greenery in Portland, OR Forests 7/162