Heather Sander

Assistant Professor
Education: 
PhD, Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota
Office: 
307 Jessup Hall
Phone: 
319-353-2964
Office Hours: 
Spring, 2016: Mon., 11:00 am - 1:00 pm; Tues., 2:00-3:00 pm; or by appointment
Research Interests: 
urban ecology, land-use change, ecosystem services

Ours is an era of rapid urbanization. Over half of humanity lives in urban areas and it is estimated that by 2050 this number may reach nearly seventy percent. Although urban areas comprise at the most three percent of Earth’s land surface, they impact both natural and human well-being locally and at great distances. In seeking to ensure the ability of future cities to provide sustained quality-of-life and ecological functioning for present and future urbanites, we strive to produce urban social-ecological systems that are both resilient (able to withstand stresses and disturbances without detrimental impact) and adaptive (able to respond to change). Urban green (e.g., parks, community gardens, greenways) and bluespaces (e.g., lakes, streams, canals) are key sites for building such resilient, adaptive, and sustainable urban systems. These spaces promote numerous social and ecological objectives, providing environments for ecological learning, congregating and building social ties, interacting with nature, and relaxation and exercise. Urban green and bluespaces also provide wildlife habitat; mitigate air pollution, heat islands, and flooding; offer economic benefits; and positively impact human health. These spaces thus influence human and ecosystem health and well-being and the ability of urban systems to respond and adapt to change. As urban areas support a large portion of global biodiversity, this rapid and expansive urbanization has also challenged biodiversity conservation and led to recognition of the role urban environments need to play in conservation. To make such conservation possible and to ensure liveable future cities, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the ways in which urban social-ecological systems and the landscapes in which they are embedded shape and in turn are shaped by urban ecological communities.

My research centers on the combined use of field work, GIS, and geospatial analysis to explore questions related to urban ecosystems.  To this end, my research interests are highly interdisciplinary, integrating the natural and social sciences to understand human-environment interactions with a particular focus on the utilization of spatial models and analysis techniques to better understand the relationships between human well-being, urban ecosystem structure and function, and land use.  Through this research I seek to identify fundamental aspects of urban social-ecological systems that can effectively be applied to produce cities that support both environmental functioning and human quality-of-life.

My present research includes projects in three main areas:

  1. Urban biodiversity:  My research in this area seeks to identify how key biophysical and human elements of urban social-ecological systems and surrounding landscapes influence urban biodiversity as well as the regional generalizability of these relationships among cities, focusing on bird and vegetation communities in a series of small cities in the US Corn Belt, an area where little urban ecological research has been conducted.
  2. The values of urban green and blue: Urban water bodies (bluespace) and vegetated open spaces (greenspace) are key sites for building urban sustainability, promoting social, economic, and environmental objectives and influencing human well-being. Building sustainable cities requires an understanding of how urbanities value these amenities, how values vary within cities, and factors influencing these values.  This interdisciplinary work seeks to identify where, by whom, and why these amenities are valued with an aim of improving communication with policy-makers regarding the effects of land use policies on urban blue and green environments and human well-being.
  3. Urban forests benefits:  My research in this area seeks to identify the benefits provided by urban forests.  In this research I focus on methods for characterizing urban forests using both field surveys and remotely-sensed imagery, the use of spatial models for quanitify the benefits these forests provide (e.g., carbon storage and sequestration, habitat, aesthetics, economic), and identifying how future land-use change might alter urban forest structure. 
Courses: 
  • 044:019 Contemporary Environmental Issues
  • 044:088 Environmental Conservation
  • 044:116 Urban Ecology
  • 044:123 Landscape Ecology
  • 044:128 GIS for Environmental Studies: Applications
  • 044:179 Ecosystem Services: Human Dependence on Natural Systems
Graduate Advisees: 

Chang Zhao (Ph.D., in progress)

Cody Hodson (Ph.D., in progress)

Jason McCurdy (M.A., in progress)

Amirhossein Tayyebi (M.A., 2015)

Jamie Sanchagrin (M.A., 2015)

Grants & Funding: 
  • Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) Seed Grant. 2015-2016.  Principal Investigator for "Seeing the urban forest for the trees: An assessment of the relationships between urban forests and biodiversity, carbon storage, and carbon sequestration".  $28,295. 
  • National Science Foundation, WSC-Category 1.  2014-2017.  Senior Personnel for "Decision Processes, Climate Change, and Water Resources in the Agricultural Midwest."  $599,383.  "Collaborative Research" with Adam Ward (PI), Co-PIs Kajsa Dalrymple and Scott Spak, and Senior Personnel Sara Mitchell, Eric TateAnanya Sen Gupta, and Aaron Strong.
  • University of Iowa,  Environmental Health Sciences Research Center Seed Grant. 2012-2014. Co-Investigator for "Evaluating the impact of environmental contaminants on neurocognitive functioning in schoolchildren: A novel geographical analysis of NHANES and SABINS data" with Margaret Carrel. $9,274.
Selected Publications: 

Wilson, C.G., K.M.,Wacha, A.N. Papanicolaou, H.A. Sander, V.B. Freudenberg, B.K.B Abban, C.  Zhao. In review.  Dynamic assessment of current management in an intensively managed agroecosystem. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education.

Hodson, C.B., H.A. Sander. In review.  Green and blue urban landscapes and school-level reading performance. Landscape and Urban Planning.

Sander, H. A., D. Ghosh, C.B. Hodson. In review. Are greener neighborhoods healthier? Varying associations between body mass index and urban greenspace. Health and Place.

Sander, H. A. 2016. Assessing impacts on urban greenspace, waterways, and vegetation in urban planning. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 59(3): 461-479.

H.E. Golden, H.A. Sander, C. Zhao, C.R. Lane, K. Price, E. D’Amico, and J.R. Christensen. 2016. Relative effects of geographically isolated wetlands on streamflow: a watershed-scale analysis. Ecohydrology 9(1):21-38.

Zhao, C., Sander, H. A. 2015. Quantifying and Mapping the Supply of and Demand for Carbon Storage and Sequestration Service from Urban Trees. PLOS-ONE 10(8).

Sander, H.A. and C. Zhao.  2015.  Urban green and blue: Who values what and where?  Land Use Policy 42:194-209.

Sander, H.A. and R.G. Haight. 2012. Estimating the economic value of cultural ecosystem services in an urban area using hedonic pricing. Journal of Environmental Management  113:194-205.

Nelson, E.J., H.A. Sander, P. Hawthorne, M. Conte, D. Ennaanay, S.M. Manson, and S. Polasky. 2010. Projecting global land-use change and its effect on ecosystem service production and biodiversity with simple models. PLoS ONE 5(12):1-22.

Sander, H.A., D. Ghosh, D. Van Riper, and S.M. Manson. 2010. How do you measure distance in spatial models? An example using open space valuation. Environment and Planning B. 37:874-894.

Sander, H.A. 2010. Viewshed analysis. In Encyclopedia of Geography, B. Warf, ed. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Sander, H.A., S. Polasky, and R.G. Haight. 2010. The value of urban tree cover, a hedonic estimation of home sale prices in Ramsey and Dakota County, Minnesota, USA. Ecological Economics. 69:1646-1656.

Kayzar, B., S.M. Manson, H.A. Sander, and N. Young. 2009. Template for a toolkit: community growth options for peripheral communities. The CURA Reporter 39(3-4):25-35.

Sander, H.A. and S. Polasky. 2009. The value of views and open space: estimates from a hedonic pricing model for Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA. Land Use Policy 26:837-845.

Manson, S.M.; H.A. Sander; D. Ghosh; J.M. Oakes; M.W. Orfield, Jr.; W.J. Craig; T.F. Luce Jr.; E. Myott, Jr.; and S. Sun. 2009. Parcel data for research and policy. Geography Compass 3(2):698-726.

Sander, H.A. and S.M. Manson. 2007. Heights and locations of artificial structures in viewshed calculation: how close is close enough? Landscape and Urban Planning 82(4):257-270. 

Presentations: 

Tayyebi, A. and H.A. Sander.  2015.  Developing risk maps to assess uncertainty in land-change models: Implications for uncertainty propagation from suitability map to simulated map.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Hodson, C.B. and H.A. Sander.  2015. Green urban environments and academic performance. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Zhao, C. and H.A. Sander.  2015.  Quantifying and mapping the supply and demand of carbon storage and sequestration services by urban trees. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Golden, H.E., H.A. Sander, C. Zhao, C.R. Lane, K. Price, E. D'Amico, and J.R. Christensen.  Geographically isolated wetlands and hydrologic connectivity: Quantifying seasonal and annual downstream effects using a hybrid modeling approach.  American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Golden, H.E., H.A. Sander, C. Zhao, C.R. Lane, K. Price, E. D'Amico, and J.R. Christensen. 2014.  Cumulative effects of geographically isolated wetlands on streamflow in a coastal plain basin: Estimates using a hybrid modeling approach.  Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting, Portland, OR.

Sander, H.A., J.L. Sanchagrin, and C. Zhao.  2014.  Who values what and where?  Variation in the value of urban vegetation and greenspace.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Tampa, FL.

Sanchagrin, J.L. and H.A. Sander.  2014.  Planning for sustainable, resilient cities: Identifying the benefits of urban greenspace and vegetation using a homeowner survey.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Tampa, FL.

Zhao, C., and H.A. Sander.  2014.  Quantifying and mapping supply and demand of carbon storage service in urban areas, Dakota County, MN.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Tampa, FL.

Sander, H.A. 2013.  Evaluating ecosystem services using economic valuation and geospatial techniques.  Environmental Sciences Seminar, University of Iowa. 

Sander, H.A. 2013 Local and regional analysis of ecosystem services and land use using economic valuation and geospatial techniques.  Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Group, University of Iowa.

Sander, H.A. 2013 Local and regional analysis of ecosystem services and land use using economic valuation and geospatial techniques.  Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Group, University of Iowa. Water Sustainability Seminar Series, University of Iowa.

Sander, H.A., C. Zhao.  2013.  Variation in cultural ecosystem service values in an urban environment.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA.

Golden, H.E., D.M. Amataya, K.W. Bandilla, J.R. Christensen, E.D’Amico, C.D. Knightes, C.R. Lane, K. Price, H. Taanan-Kipperwas, H.A. Sander, H. Ssegane.  2013.  Hydrologic connectivity of geographically isolated wetlands at the watershed scale: simulation approaches and future directions.  Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting, Duluth, MN.

Golden, H.E., H.A. Sander, C.R. Lane, K. Price, E. D’Amico.  2012.  Watershed-scale effects of isolated wetlands on downstream hydrology: Modeling approaches.  9th INTECOL (International Wetlands Conference) with the Society of Wetland Scientists.  Orlando, FL.

Bruins, R.J.F., E.R. Smith, M. Mehaffey, H.A. Sander, L. Tran, L. Wainger.  2012.  The future Midwest North American landscape.  4th International Ecosummit, Columbus, OH.

Sander, H.A., D. Pennington.  2012.  Land-use and ecosystem service delivery.  Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, New York, NY. 

Ghosh, D., H.A. Sander, D. Van Riper, and S.M. Manson.  2011.  How do you measure distance in spatial models? An example using open space valuation.  59th Annual North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International, Miami, FL.

Sander, H.A. 2011. Of birds, carbon, and water -- integrating multiple ecosystem service impacts to identify locations for agricultural conservation practice adoption. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Sander, H.A. 2010. Potential impacts of cropland biofuel production on the provision of avian habitat. A Community on Ecosystem Services Conference, Chandler, AZ December 6-9, 2010.

Sander, H.A. 2010. Modeling farmer adoption of conservation practices in response to a hypothetical incentive program. 65th International Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO.

Sander, H.A. 2010. Modeling the adoption of agricultural conservation practices – constructing the multiple services landscape for the EPA’s Future Midwestern Landscapes study. NERL Seminar Series, Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Sander, H.A., S.M. Manson, and R.G. Haight. 2010. What's It Worth? A Case Study in Modeling and Economic Valuation of Urban Ecosystem Services. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Sander, H.A., E. Smith, and M. Mahaffey. 2010. EPA’s Future Midwestern Landscape study. Midwestern Landscape Conservation Workshop, Madison, WI.

Sander, H.A., S. Polasky, and R.G. Haight. 2008. Tree cover in a rapidly-urbanizing region: economic values and implications for policy. 55th Annual North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International, Brooklyn, NY.

Sander, H.A. and S. Polasky. 2008. The Impact of Parks, Trails, and Views on Residential Property Values: Estimates from a Hedonic Pricing Model for Ramsey County, Minnesota. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.

Marshall, J.D., H.A. Sander, and S.M. Manson. 2007. Air Pollution and Urban Form: Evidence from Satellite Data. 5th WSEAS International Conference on Environment, Ecosystems, and Development. Puerto De La Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

Sander, H.A. 2007. The impact of parks, trails and views on residential property values: estimates from a hedonic pricing model for Ramsey County, Minnesota. University of Minnesota Environmental and Resource Economics Seminar Series.

Sander, H.A. 2007. What's it worth? Improving the visibility of ecosystem services in local planning using spatial models and economic valuation techniques. Royal Geographic Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference 2007, London, U.K.

Sander, H.A. and S.M. Manson. 2007. Artificial structure locations and heights in viewshed calculation: how much accuracy is necessary? Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Sander, H.A. 2007. What’s it worth? Improving land use planning through the modeling and economic valuation of ecosystem services. Conference and Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Society for Conservation Biology, Sandstone, MN.