To discover, understand and communicate
human behavior and benefits
as people experience nature in cities

How does place and physical environment influence human behavior? What attitudes and values do people have regarding open spaces in urban and urbanizing environments? How might the study of human ecology help us to improve environmental and ecological systems in cities?

Info about my research program:

Info about the Green Cities: Good Health project:

Many environmental issues involve complex interactions of bio-physical and human systems. Effective problem-solving requires attention to both dimensions. As B.F. Skinner pointed out, most of the problems we face involve human behavior.

As a research scientist I investigate people's perceptions and behaviors with regard to urban landscapes. Based on professional experiences early in my career - as an urban forester in South Florida and a landscape architect in the Midwest - I became interested in how natural environments influence peoples' attitudes, values and actions.

My research of the human dimensions of open space, urban forestry and natural systems include:
1. Public preferences and perceptions regarding urban public landscapes
2. Costs, benefits and perceptions of urban forestry in retail and commercial districts
3. Integration of urban nature and transportation systems
4. Developmental benefits associated with youth participation in urban greening work
5. Effective integration of science and policy through technology transfer

Both qualitative methods (e.g. focused interviews and content analysis) and quantitative methods (e.g. public surveys using photoquestionnaires) are empirical tools I use to assess and evaluate public perceptions and preferences.

In classes and public presentations two themes also help frame lectures and discussions:
• The psycho-social benefits of peoples' experiences of urban nature, and
• How public perceptions and values can be integrated into planning and management of urban open spaces.

Ph.D. Landscape Architecture - School of Natural Resources & Environment; The University of Michigan, 1993.

M. L. A. Landscape Architecture - School of Natural Resources; The University of Michigan, 1987.

B.A. Biology - Whitman College, 1979.


link to full list and downloadable publications

2008. City Trees, Nature and Physical Activity: A Research Review. Arborist News 17, 1, 22-24.

2008 (Winter). With Plants in Mind: Social Benefits of Civic Nature. MasterGardener, 2, 1, 7-11.

2008. Urban Forestry Research and Technology Transfer: A Needs Assessment for the Pacific Northwest Region. Prepared for the Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, 50 pp.

2007. Trees, Retail and Consumer Response: Evidence of the Value of Nature Experience. International Council of Shopping Centers 14, 3, 39-43.

2007. Urban Forestry in Washington’s Cities and Towns. TreeLink, Washington Department of Natural Resources Community Forestry Program, No. 20.

2007 (August). City Trees and Property Values. Arborist News 16, 4, 34-36.

2007. Learning Sustainability: To Know and To Act. Public Garden 22, 1, 12-15.

2007. The Environmental Psychology of Trees. International Council of Shopping Centers Research Review 14, 3, 39-43.

2006. Assessing Public Response to the Freeway Roadside: Urban Forestry and Context Sensitive Solutions. Transportation Research Record, No. 1984, 102-111.

2006. Urban Trees and Traffic Safety: Considering U.S. Roadside Policy and Crash Data. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry 32, 4, 170-179.

2005. Business District Streetscapes, Trees And Consumer Response. Journal of Forestry, 103, 8, 396-400.

2005. Trees In the Small City Retail Business District: Comparing Resident and Visitor Perceptions. Journal of Forestry, 103, 8, 390-395.

2005. Trees Are Good For Business: Urban Forest Planning Guidelines for Business Associations. Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

2005. Civic Nature Valuation: Assessments of Human Functioning and Well-Being in Cities. Proceedings of the 3rd Biennial Conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics.

2005. Trees and Roadside Safety in U.S. Urban Settings, Paper 05-0946. Proceedings of the 84th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

2004. Economics and Public Value of Urban Forests. Urban Agriculture Magazine, Special Issue on Urban and Periurban Forestry, 13, 31-33.

2004. Nature in the Retail Environment: Comparing Consumer and Business Response to Urban Forest Conditions. Landscape Journal, 23, 1, 40-51.

2004. Trees, Parking and Green Law: Strategies for Sustainability. Technical Report of the Georgia Forestry Commission. Stone Mountain, GA: Georgia Forestry Commission, Urban and Community Forestry.

2003. Freeway Roadside Management: The Urban Forest Beyond The White Line. Special Issue on Social Aspects of Urban Forestry. Journal of Arboriculture, 29, 3, 127-136.

2003. Youth and Mental Health: Work Projects in Urban Green Space. In C. Kollin (ed.) Engineering Green: Proceedings of the 11th National Urban Forest Conference.

2002. Retail and Urban Nature: Creating a Consumer Habitat. In A. Kwint (ed.), Reducing Health Complaints at Work: Proceedings of the People/Plant Symposium. Amsterdam, Netherlands: People/Plant Council.

2001. Messages That Stick: Sharing Information with Decision-Makers. In C. Kollin (ed.) Investing in Natural Capital: Proceedings of the 10th National Urban Forest Conference.

1993. Shoreline Residential Development: Landscape Management Alternatives and Public Preferences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


link to view selected presentations

Planning for Urban Forest Functions, Services and Benefits
Canopy of Palo Alto CA
The World Forestry Center
South Carolina Joint Urban Forestry & Urban Planning Conference
Healthy Trees for a Beautiful City Symposium - Toronto

Awaji Landscape Planning and Horticulture Academy (ALPHA) - Kobe, Japan
International Society of Arboriculture, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
Disney EPCOT-The Magic of Landscaping
Meeting of the Plant/People Council - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
National Arbor Day Foundation
Saving Towns at Risk Symposium, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
10th Annual Pennsylvania Community Forestry Conference
National Conference of the National Association for Olmsted Parks
Oklahoma Urban and Community Forestry Council Annual Meeting

Trees, Business and Shopper Response: A Research Review
Texas Tree Conference
California Urban Forest Conference
Connecticut Urban and Community Forestry Conference
Inland Northwest Turf, Tree & Landscape Conference
Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting - Washington Chapter
Plant Health Care for Urban Trees Conference

Economics of the Urban Forest: Valuation of Environmental and Human Services
Environmental Design Research Design Annual Conference
3rd Biennial Conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics
Association of Washington Cities Annual Conference
Annual Conference of the Planning Institute of British Columbia, Canada
6th Canadian Urban Forest Conference

Trees & Urban Streets: Research on Public Perceptions and Transportation Safety
Australia Chapter, International Society of Arboriculture
National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council Meeting
Transportation Research Board National Conference
National Scenic Byways Conference
8th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management

Parking and Trees in Cities and Towns: Legal and Design Approaches
International Society of Arboriculture Southern Chapter Conference
Wisconsin Arborist Association and WI-DNR Urban Forestry Annual Conference
Trees Florida Conference

Youth & Ecological Work Experiences: Assessing Developmental Impacts & Benefits
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
National Urban Forestry Conference - San Antonio, Texas

Policy Decision-Making in Urban Forestry: A Case Study of Portable Science
IUFRO International Conference on Transfer of Forest Science, Knowledge and Technology

Ergonomics of the City: Green Infrastructure and Social Benefits
National Urban Forestry Conference - San Antonio, Texas


ESRM 304 - Environmental & Resource Assessment This course is one of four undergraduate core courses in the College of Forest Resources, and is team taught by up to eight faculty. Methods and field techniques for natural resource assessment are introduced. Dr. Wolf introduces the process and methods of conducting social science studies, using the course project site as a context for exploring social issues. Teaching materials include lectures, field trip, case studies and readings.

LARC 571 - Research Design for Practitioner-Scientists A course designed to introduce graduate design students to the approaches and methods of social science research. Topics include qualitative and quantitative paradigms of inquiry, conceptual framework development, data collection, data analysis and research report writing. Teaching materials include lectures, field trip, and case studies.

UHF401 - Urban Forest Planning and Managemet An overview of skills and practices essential to a leadership role in sustaining urban natural resources. Planning topics include functions and benefits of urban open space, master planning, regulatory and incentive approaches for open space protection, and stakeholder analysis. Management topics include site management plans, resource inventory systems, scheduling and budgeting and personnel. Class materials include lectures, field trip, workshops and case studies. Text is Urban Forestry: Planning and Managing Urban Greenspaces (R. W. Miller).

UHF470 - Urban Forest Landscapes Through field studies along the urban forest gradient - from the downtown inner-city through suburbs, rural lands and wildlands - we explore the cultural, political and biological dimensions that impact urban forest sites and systems. Field visits with professional urban foresters and urban resources managers illustrate the multiple public issues surrounding the application of science and theory to biosystems where people live, work and play. Text is Urban Forest Landscapes: Integrating Multidisciplinary Perspectives (G. Bradley).

UHF590 - Psychological Issues and Urban Green Spaces - Readings and a seminar format are used to explore the range of human behaviors, values, knowledge and attitudes regarding urban open spaces. We consider the different types of urban green space - including parks, greenbelts and community gardens. Discussion topics explore the benefits of human contact with nature and public impacts on green space planning and management. Texts include Green Nature/Human Nature by Charles A. Lewis and With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature (R. Kaplan, S. Kaplan, R. L. Ryan).


• Balancing Crime Deterrence and Environmental Performance In Seattle Parks
• Equity in Urban Forest Management: Assessing Street Tree Condition, Maintenance, and Neighborhood Income Levels in Seattle, WA.
• Sound Relationships: Exploring Experience, Place and Ecological Understanding in Port Townsend's Coastal Areas.

• Survey of Urban Forestry Management Practices of Washington State Municipalities
• A Statewide Assessment of Urban Forestry Inventories for Washington State Communities
• Public Participation Methods in Open Space Planning for Concepcion, Chile

• Analysis of Users at the University of Washington's Medicinal Herb Demonstration Garden
• Interdisciplinary Perceptions of Urban Watershed Planning and Management
• Management Assessment of Native Plant Public Gardens

• Manager Perceptions of Wildlife Policy in Urban Open Space Planning and Management
• A Place for the Sacred: Native-American and European American Representations of Death
in the American Landscape
• Designing Light for the Night: Perceptions of Security and Aesthetic

• The Restorative Spaces of Women under Stress
• Aesthetics and Cognition: The Embodied Mind in the Ecological Landscape


Kathleen L. Wolf, Ph.D.
Research Social Scientist
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
College of the Environment

University of Washington
Box 352100
Seattle, WA 98195-2100

phone: (206) 616-5758


updated August 2008