Rutgers promotes dialogue with Kiev

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Rutgers University and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden recently organized a weeklong workshop to promote East-West knowledge of urban ecology.

Urban ecology investigates the impact of dense human populations on surrounding environments. In recent years, scientists in North America and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia and Ukraine, have made important advances in the field. However, language and political barriers have inhibited communication of results among urban ecologists.


The M. G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, played host to the "New Approaches to Understanding the Ecology of Urban Plant Communities" workshop.

The Kholodny Institute of Botany is in Kiev, a major center for botanical research in the region. Workshop sessions were also held at the Kaniv Nature Reserve Central Ukraine, which represents the ecosystems of Central Ukraine. The goal of the workshop was to establish collaborative relationships between American and Ukrainian urban ecologists.


Establishing contacts

"We wanted to inform American scientists about the urban ecological situation in Ukraine. We also wanted to share scientific results, approaches and methods used in urban ecology research in Ukraine and the United States," said Steven Handel, professor of ecology and evolution at Rutgers' Cook College and director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology, a collaborative effort by the university and the botanic garden.

"We also wanted to establish new contacts and build scientific relationships between American and Ukrainian experts in urban ecology; and to discuss further prospects for cooperation, in particular in developing collaborative projects."

"The New York and Kiev areas have very similar climates and plant taxa," Handel explained. "The ecological similarities could make East-West collaborations especially productive." But there are also differences that present opportunities for collaboration. "Another possible area is in the analysis of different environmental protection programs and their enforcement in the two countries," Handel said.

38 scientists attend

Eight scientists from the United States and 30 from Ukraine attended the workshop. "Each participant was chosen on the basis of their research or public practice in areas of urgent public concern," Handel said.

The scientists addressed topics including the ecological restoration of urban habitats; the pattern and enhancement of biodiversity in urban environments; the role of urban soils and ecosystem processes urban vegetation; the role and control of alien invasive plants in degraded natural communities; and the management of urban environmental programs and public parks.

Presentations of findings were given by scientists and staff from Rutgers and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and by Keith Bowers of BioHabitats Inc. of Timonium and Jeff Keller of Habitat by Design Inc. of Pennsylvania.


"Urban ecology progress requires deep collaboration among scientists, government regulators, and practitioners, a team approach that was well-developed during this workshop," Handel said.

The workshop organizers hope to hold a follow-up workshop in the New York metropolitan area. They are seeking funding to sponsor 12 Ukrainian professionals at Cook College and Brooklyn Botanical Garden this year.

The Kiev meeting was supported by National Science Foundation funds, administered by the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation.

The workshop was organized by Steven Handel, director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology; Steven Clemants, vice president of science at Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and Sergei Mosyakin, head of the vascular plants department at Kholodny Institute of Botany.