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Planning For Pest Readiness: Building Climate Resilience in Seattle’s Urban Forest with a Community-centric Approach

The urban forest not only plays an important role in providing ecological benefits, but it is also positively associated with public health, especially for communities of color and low-income people who already suffer from environmental injustice. In the fields of landscape architecture and urban forestry, invasive tree pests have rarely received much attention in the planning and design of the urban environment. Yet, they have the potential to weaken and kill massive amounts of trees because they can spread without the control of natural enemies. With the effects of climate change, urban trees will be under greater stress, which makes them even more vulnerable to pests.

This thesis focuses on pest resilience as an integral part of urban forest stewardship through a community-centric approach. Using GIS analyses and case studies, I identify the most ecologically and socially vulnerable communities in Seattle based on their susceptibility to pest infestation and summarize best practices for education and engagement for tree care. I further develop a community engagement framework with an emphasis on environmental justice, while providing resources and recommendations for the City of Seattle and community organizations to approach the pest issue. I also discuss the implications of this research for the urban forest departments in Seattle and for landscape designers.

Vertical Landscapes: Learning From a Rock Climbing Perspective

Within the field of landscape architecture, verticality is predominantly defined as a design tool. The variety of applications for vertical elements within design, and the spatial role they can play is well documented. However, there is a rapidly growing community that understands vertical spaces as inhabitable places: rock climbers. More and more people equipped with this unique perspective of the vertical are venturing out to monoliths of rock across the country, seeking new heights in various state and national parks. This perception of vertical spaces as places brings a new definition of the vertical to landscape architecture. To begin to understand this definition, this thesis explores the meanings, values, and experiences of rock climbers by utilizing Yosemite National Park as a case study along with firsthand knowledge of the sport. Placing landscape architecture in conversation with rock climbing presents a number of takeaways for the profession including a shift in the perception of vertical space and the way it is designed, a tool for developing knowledge related to the vertical, and a deeper understanding of the embodied experience of rock climbers. With this recognition, landscape architects can better design for and with rock climbers to protect and manage climbing areas as well as create new opportunities for vertical experiences.

Living Laboratory: A Circular Framework for North Seattle College

This thesis proposes North Seattle College as a laboratory to explore the future of sustainable development at the district scale. Incorporating principles of circular cities, regenerative design, and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus into the North Seattle College campus allows the school and its users to move beyond limiting their impacts and minimizing resource use; they will begin giving back to the earth. North Seattle College is a prime location to explore how integrating the flows of food, water, and energy into circular systems can allow a college campus to operate more sustainably and inter-dependently within the broader ecological context. As cities continue to increase in density and the problems caused by climate change continue to intensify, it is important for cities to become more sustainable and resilient. Holistic sustainable design, that prioritizes the health of ecological systems, lessens a city’s ecological footprint and mitigates the negative impacts on the environment by designing efficient buildings, generating energy on site and closing resource loops.  The future of urban living will rely on thinking holistically about the way buildings situate themselves within the urban fabric and the relationships these buildings have with the surrounding ecological systems. To maximize the impact of sustainable design, systems should be organized at the scale of city districts where resource flows become evident. Buildings should push their systems beyond the building and influence the surrounding environment on an ecological and social level.

Unsettling Prairies: A Critical Reimagining of Fire Management in Cities

Climate projections for 2050 expect Puget Sound regional temperatures will likely increase by 2.9-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures more suitable for a mosaic of fire-resilient landscapes such as prairies, grasslands and oak savannas. Through fire, Indigenous people of this region have stewarded these landscapes since time immemorial. But because of settler colonialism and its legacy, these ecocultural landscapes are increasingly disappearing. This thesis argues that landscape designers must decolonize our methods by asking two questions in order to actively engage in prairie revitalization and Tribal co-generation surrounding prairie revitalization. First, how can a decolonizing design framework support the subsequent fire management of prairies in both wildland and urban areas? Second, how can a decolonizing design framework disrupt then deepen landscape architecture to support fire-dependent prairie habitat revitalization within the Pacific West? I propose the Decolonizing Design Framework (DDF) which includes five practices that can potentially integrate within existing landscape design methods (site analysis, conceptual design, participatory design, design-build and landscape management). The five practices are: (1) to honor Tribal sovereignty, 2) to respect the personhoods of biotic and abiotic life that exist on any given site, 3) to co-generate with a Tribe on shared climate adaptation goals, 4) to center long-term care of the land, and 5) to value multispecies epistemologies. I then implement and analyze the DDF in two case studies, the Camas Monitoring Project on the University of Washington – Seattle campus and the UW-Karuk Klamath Project, and present the findings through an autoethnographic method.