About USL

Our interdisciplinary scholarship examines the social, ecological, and technical-infrastructure system (SETs) interactions that drive persistent patterns and challenges in cities. Our goal in studying and visualizing SETs dynamics is to provide new insight into opportunities for supporting wellbeing of human and non-human species for planning and designing more equitable, resilient, and sustainable cities.

Rapidly expanding urbanization, biodiversity loss, and climate change pose dramatic implications for urban residents and the natural systems they depend on. Our research, from theory to practice, aims to reveal and support the social-ecological-technical system processes that drive everyday experiences in urban areas. We use both empirical and theoretical approaches as well as data visualization to advance urban systems research and practice.

We address a variety of research areas, including: urban resilience; climate change adaptation and nature-based solutions; social-ecological-technical systems analysis and modeling; urban land use planning; social equity and environmental justice; sustainable urban futures and scenarios; urban biodiversity and ecosystem services; and urban ecosystem structure and functioning.


Present Members

Timon McPhearson

Dr. Timon McPhearson is Director of the Urban Systems Lab, Associate Professor of Urban Ecology at The New School’s Environmental Studies program, and research faculty at Tishman Environment and Design Center. In 2017 he was awarded The New School's Distinguished University Teaching Award and in 2018 became a member of the IPCC and Lead Author for the urban systems chapter. He investigates the ecology in, of, and for cities and teaches urban resilience, systems thinking, and urban ecology. Dr. McPhearson is a member of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), and the Urban Heat Island Task Force in the New York City Mayor's Office for Recovery and Resiliency. He co-leads the US NSF Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-related Events Sustainability Research Network (URExSRN) (2015-2020) and ENABLE project (2017-2020). His work is published in scientific journals (e.g. Nature, Nature Climate Change, BioScience, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution), in books (Urban Planet, Sustainability in America’s Cities, Urban Sustainability Transitions), popular press (e.g.The Nature of Cities), and covered by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and more. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, and Associate Research Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University in Sweden.

Follow him on ResearchGate, Google Scholar, LinkedIn, and download his CV here.

Rositsa T. Ilieva

Dr. Rositsa T. Ilieva Associate Researcher in the Urban Systems Lab and an architect-urban planner with an expertise in policies, planning, and design for sustainable cities and urban food systems. She is also adjunct faculty at the Parsons School of Design and the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School. She holds a B.S. and a M.S. degrees in Architecture Cum Laude and a Ph.D. in Spatial Planning and Urban Development Cum Laude from the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy. She has presented her research at numerous international research conferences and is author of “Urban Food Planning: Seeds of Transition in the Global North” (Routledge, 2016). As a member of Urban Systems Lab Dr. Ilieva is conducting geospatial research on current and potential access and use of urban green infrastructure in New York City and exploring how this knowledge can inform the modeling of future climate-related risks and vulnerabilities.

Daniel Sauter

Daniel Sauter is Associate Director for Data Visualization in the Urban Systems Lab and an artist who creates installations and visualizations dealing with the cultural and social implications of emerging technologies. His research is driven by a curiosity about how the computational regime transforms geopolitics, urban spaces, and the human body. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons School of Design and Co-Director of the the New School's Integrative Ph.D. Fellowship Program at the New School in New York City. For more information, see http://danielsauter.com.

Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Urban Ecology in the Environmental Studies Program at The New School and affiliated with the Urban Systems Lab. She is an urban ecosystem ecologist and her research focuses on future urban sustainability and human-environment feedbacks in urban and nearby native ecosystems. She conducts research on sustainability and resilience planning through participatory scenario development with local stakeholders and assessing how urban governance and knowledge networks influence planning in Latin American and US cities. She was previously a Chilean National Commission on Science and Technology (CONICYT) post-doctoral fellow at the Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia and earned her PhD at Arizona State University.

Aucher Serr

Aucher recently completed her Masters in Data Visualization at Parsons School of Design. Prior to that she studied Cognitive Science and Philosophy at UC Berkeley and then spent a few years working at a startup in Tel Aviv called Riskified. She is interested in building tools to help people and policy makers engage more meaningfully with their data. She draws on her background to develop intuitive and information-rich displays that can communicate complex phenomena simply. While working on her masters thesis, Aucher collaborated with the lab to explore the of potential green roofs in New York City. She plans to continue partnering with the lab on future projects related to urban resilience and promoting systemic change.

Claudia Tomateo

Claudia Tomateo is a Design Consultant in the Urban Systems Lab. She is an architect, urban designer and researcher with a focus in the intersection between cartography, urban narratives and strategic design. Her research is driven by the capacity of cartographic pieces to project imaginaries over different contexts, she has conducted research projects for the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Lincoln institute of Land Policy. Claudia holds a master’s in Architecture of Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Bart Orr

Bart Orr is a PhD student in Public and Urban Policy at the New School. He is interested in the relationship between climate change adaptation and resilience policies and socioeconomic inequality. He is also a member of the Global Urban Futures project at the New School.

Katinka Wijsman

Katinka Wijsman is a PhD Candidate in Politics at the New School for Social Research, where she studies global environmental politics, environmental justice, and political ecology. Her research explores the politics that shape the production of resilient coastal landscapes through the introduction of nature-based infrastructure. Using a feminist and multispecies ethnographic approach, her research asks how climate change governance deals with nature as an active agent, and what it means for the concept of political responsibility to include complex and dynamic assemblages of people, animals, plants, and things. In addition to her research, she teaches courses on Feminism & Ecology and Environmental Justice at the undergraduate college of The New School.


Past Members

Rocío Carrero is an environmental scientist with expertise in climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, scenarios and spatial modeling. Since 2016, she has concentrated her efforts in developing and testing experimental models to assess how urban communities build resilience. Dr. Carrero has worked with the EU ECHO, The World Bank, the Red Cross and the IADB, as well as governments and NGOs in over a dozen countries. She holds a PhD in Geosciences from the University Pablo de Olavide of Seville, Spain. Prior to joining the The New School, she was a postdoc at the University College London (UCL) leading urban resilience projects with Dr. Michele Acuto at the City Leadership Lab. She is part of UREx's scenario modeling task force.

Toni Castro-Cosío is a former PhD student in Public and Urban Policy at The New School and completed her PhD in 2016. Her dissertation research is examined urban environmental stewardship and social resilience in Western Queens, NYC and financial inclusion in low- and moderate-income urban communities in Harlem, NYC.

Khila Dahal is a GIScientist by educational training and background. He earned his PhD in Geography from Texas State University in 2014. His research interests include geospatial modeling, urban growth simulation, urban sustainability, scenario modeling, risks and hazards, GIS, Cellular Automata, and agent-based modeling.

Yaella Depietri earned her PhD in Environmental Sciences at the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) (Spain) in 2015. Her PhD has been carried out in collaboration with the United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Bonn (Germany). She focuses on urban vulnerability and ecosystem services.

Zoé Hamstead was a PhD student at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy and completed her PhD in 2016. Her dissertation research used geospatial-temporal modeling to examine how land change impacts social-ecological resilience in New York City with a focus on heat risk and vulnerability. She is currently tenure-track Assistant Professor at SUNY-Buffalo.

Katharina Hölscher is a PhD student at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, at Erasmus University in The Netherlands. She was a visiting scholar in the lab in 2015 as part of a comparative study on urban sustainability transitions in Rotterdam and NYC.

Richard Karty is a former postdoc in the lab from 2009-2011. His research focused on urban biodiversity and community dynamics in the NYC Afforestation Study.

Peleg Kremer is a former postdoc in the lab from 2011-2014. Her research focused on urban ecosystem services mapping and valuation and the social-ecological nature of ecosystem services supply and demand. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Villanova University.

Neele Larondelle is a former postdoc in the lab from 2011-2014. Her research focused on urban ecosystem services mapping and valuation and the social-ecological nature of ecosystem services supply and demand. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Villanova University.

Ruchika Lodha is an architect, designer, and urbanist interested in applying strategic and sustainable design practices within urban environments. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Mumbai and since, has worked with design firms of various scales – local and international, enabling her to manage projects with different scopes – interior design, architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture. Her keen passion for understanding and practicing design in a broader realm encouraged her to pursue a Master of Arts in Theories of Urban Practice at Parsons School of Design, New York.

Jaskirat Randhawa is Technical Lead for Dataviz in the Urban Systems Lab and part-time faculty at Parsons School of Design in New York where his work focuses on emerging technologies for interaction design.. He teaches a graduate class on Web Advanced Javascript in Parsons Design & Technology Program. He is also a Product Manager at Digital Innovation, Verizon, New York. His academic research at Parsons and professional efforts within Verizon emphasize on creating products for building efficient and robust technological systems. Jaskirat endeavors to build meaningful technologies and experiences that benefit people’s lives.

Chrissy Remein is a Master of Science student in Milano's Environmental Policy Program. She is currently working on her thesis with the U.S. Forest Service's Urban Field Station to better define and determine the significance of community cohesion as an urban ecosystem benefit in NYC. She is also working with TEDC on an mapping green roofs across NYC.

Sanpisa Sritrairat is a former postdoc in the lab from 2011-2013. Her research focused on urban forest dynamics in particular soil-plant relationships in urban parkland in NYC as part of the NYC Afforestation Study. She is currently faculty at Mahidol University in Thailand and affiliated researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.


Hildegaard Link
Hildegaard is a PhD student at CUNY-Brooklyn College collaborating with the lab to study ways to develop more sustainable urban energy and water use in the context of urban ecosystem services. 

Jason Mandel
Jason Mandel is a Research Assistant on the Data Visualization team at the Urban Systems Lab. He supports the lab by working on interactive data driven visualizations for the UREx team and other projects. Jason holds a B.S. in Studio Art and Mathematics from SUNY Purchase and is currently a UX Designer and Frontend Engineer with FOAM a geospatial blockchain company building tools for interacting with smart contracts in relation to space. Jason loves to cook and make instruments in his free time.

Elsa Velasco Valdés
Elsa is a former graduate student in the lab from 2011 working on her master's thesis from the University of Alcalá de Henares focusing on land use to examine drivers of urban soil heterogeneity in NYC.