Speaker: Marissa Matsler, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Associate, The Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies & UREx SRN
Title: Making Nature into Infrastructure: Interdisciplinary Challenges across the Eco-Techno Spectrum of Green Infrastructure
Abstract: Green infrastructure (GI) development is increasing in US municipalities. However, despite technical optimism regarding the benefits provided by GI, governance challenges create significant barriers to effective GI implementation and maintenance. This stems in part from the contested definition of GI, i.e. stakeholders place varied, often conflicting demands on the concept. This lack of conceptual clarity means that GI programs currently consist of a mishmash of disparate facility types, from large-scale natural areas to small-scale engineered bioswales, all of which are designed, implemented, and maintained by organizations with different, sometimes conflicting, goals.
To make sense of GI management, I organize this variety along the Eco-Techno Spectrum, arranging facilities according to the degree to which ‘nature’ or biological entities (i.e. plants, soils, microbes) are incorporated as infrastructural components in facilities. On the ‘eco’ end of the spectrum are remnant forests and floodplains where most components are biological. On the ‘techno’ end of the spectrum are engineered green roofs and permeable pavement where components are primarily human-made technologies. This spectrum allows for the combination of ecological and engineering data, which are usually siloed. Importantly, this spectrum also provides a platform on which to integrate governance and socio-political concerns with technical engineering and ecological data. The Eco-Techno Spectrum captures the diversity of technologies, institutional actors, scales, jurisdictions, and ecosystems that make up GI in cities today. While relatively simplistic, this heuristic is powerful because it organizes facilities across different social, ecological, and technical boundaries into a single framework. This unified framework can generate and organize variables of interest from different disciplines and can help create a link between research and practice. In this presentation, I will show the Eco-Techno Spectrum’s utility to an interdisciplinary examination of urban governance through cases in Portland and Baltimore.
Bio: Dr. Marissa Matsler is an interdisciplinary scholar. Her research is focused on understanding the institutional and ecological challenges of green infrastructure development. Her work combines the insights of political ecology, science and technology studies (STS), urban ecology, and urban planning to examine the conflicts between green infrastructure as a conceptual greenspace planning tool and an engineering practice on-the-ground, in particular understanding the consequences of differing green infrastructure policies on marginalized communities and urban ecosystems. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies working as a part of the Urban
Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN). She has a PhD in Urban Studies from Portland State University, a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a BS in Marine Biology from Oregon State University.
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