Urban Ecology Center

The mission of the Urban Ecology Center (UEC), housed within Cal State LA’s College of Natural and Social Sciences (NSS), is to support the advancement of transdisciplinary research, education, and professional development with a focus on sustainable, equitable, and fair economic drivers, land use practices, and public policies.

The UEC will be an incubator for the study of the Anthropocene (human environment), both past and present, to facilitate an understanding of the complex interactions between human societies and environmental systems. The Anthropocene is the time period in earth’s history when humans became the dominant force in transforming earth’s climate and ecosystems. Today, no place on earth is pristine, that is, without influence by human action, intentional or otherwise. Natural systems cannot be adequately understood without taking into consideration the effects that human societies have had on shaping and altering earth’s environments.

The Anthropocene is an existential threat to the natural environment and humanity itself. The solutions for a fair, equitable, and sustainable future cannot be derived solely from technology, which has increased our control over nature but also led us down a path of global warming, mass extinction, ocean acidification, and more. Solutions for a fair, equitable, and sustainable future must be forged at the interface between the natural world and the human condition. Solutions must be rooted in education and research and transformed into policy, action, and practice.

Goals, Objectives, and Rationale


  1. The UEC will act as a university-wide umbrella organization that leverages the research expertise and skills of Cal State LA’s faculty and students to empower local communities to advocate for environmental equity and justice for a fair and sustainable future.

  2. Bridging the natural and social sciences, the UEC aims to be a cutting-edge Do-Tank with arms that reach across disciplinary and institutional boundaries that is committed to engaging with local non-profits, primary and secondary schools, other colleges and universities, city governments, neighborhood councils, and Cal State LA’s surrounding diverse communities.

  3. By actively engaging with local communities, the UEC will provide education, research, and outreach that empowers people to re-imagine the world and our collective and individual responsibilities in it.

  1. Establish a physical presence on campus for the UEC

  2. Search for and hire UEC staff, including director and administrative assistant coordinator and other staffing as needed.

  3. Support transdisciplinary faculty teams toward creating and/or modernizing curriculum for undergraduate and/or graduate degree programs that synergize with the center’s mission. While curriculum must be housed within existing departmental/programmatic structures, development efforts will rely on and be led by faculty stakeholders from across the college and build upon current interdisciplinary strengths.

  4. Cluster hires across the college/university to support UEC goals and objectives.

  5. Serve as a hub for environmental research, education, and outreach. Achieving this objective will be facilitated through organizing writing teams for federal, state, and private foundation granting mechanisms.

  6. Development efforts to name the center and provide long-lasting financial commitments.

  1. The role of universities should be to actively re-shape humanity’s trajectory by re- imagining the world we live in and providing concrete solutions based on inclusive discourse and action.

  2. As a comprehensive university, Cal State LA’s UEC will serve to guide local communities to a better, healthier future and become a model for responsible environmental education, research, service, and community engagement for the public good.

  3. NSS is an ideal home for the UEC because of the breadth and scope of its departments – Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Geosciences & Environment, History, Latin American Studies, Mathematics, Natural Science, Physics & Astronomy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology. Notably, the UEC’s commitment to service, community engagement, and environmental and social justice, has university-wide relevance and appeal.

  4. The Anthropocene and its concomitant problems threaten our existence on earth. We are literally at a crossroads and the directions we choose now will have real-world consequences for future generations. Ecosystem encroachment is increasing zoonotic events, such as that which recently gave rise to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This proposal to create the UEC is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the many other global crises we face. Solutions to these numerous environmental problems will require novel technologies, applications, and societal approaches. Examples range from new biobased manufacturing processes to yield reliable biodegradable materials from renewable sources, to bioremediation technologies to help clean up after oil spills,to social outreach efforts to help local families switch from using inefficient fossil fuel-powered devices (e.g., lawnmowers) to efficient clean-energy technologies.

  5. The UEC will identify issues through environmental scientific research, education, outreach, and community engagement and determine holistic solutions that emphasize equity, fairness, and inclusion. The UEC will meld natural and social science methodologies to promote sustainable solutions to health equity and environmental justice, focusing on our local communities and similar urban areas across southern California.

Organizational Structure

The Urban Ecology Center will consist of three domains: The Urban Ecology Lab, the Urban Studies Lab, and the Office of Environmental Education and Community Outreach.

Build analytics lab to support transdisciplinary environmental science research

  • Atmosphere – air quality, climate feedbacks
  • Geosphere – geology, sediments, soils
  • Hydrosphere – water quality, hydrology
  • Biosphere – biodiversity, biogeography, restoration, conservation
  • Historical Ecology – human land use, landscape modification, the built environment

Build multimedia ethnography lab to support transdisciplinary environmental studies research

  • Urban Geography – urban settings, spatial analysis, community statistics
  • Urban Ethnography – interviews, surveys, focus groups, community outreach, intervention
  • Environmental History – local histories, neighborhood growth, demographic change, transported landscapes
  • Environmental Law and Justice – environmental law and policy, environmental racism, social justice, community advocacy, activism
  • Health, Food, and Housing – healthy living, food and exercise, green space, gentrification, homelessness

Create the EECO Office to engage with our local communities and publicize environmental best practices

  • Mindsets and Messaging – the psychology of acceptance and change, group vs. individual messaging, marketing, information dissemination (resources, talks, social media, etc.)
  • Community Outreach – partnerships, teacher training, after-school/youth programs, internships, recycling, food banks, clothing redistribution
  • Urban Gardens – growing your own food, composting, seed banks
  • Environmental Safety – home safety, pollutants, sanitation, construction, traffic
  • Disaster Preparedness – fires, earthquakes, floods




Urban Ecology Center
  • Executive Director
  • Administrative Support Coordinator
Urban Ecology Lab
  • Faculty Director
Urban Studies Lab
  • Faculty Director
Office of Environmental Education & Community Outreach
  • Faculty Director