Steven N. Handel, Director
Steven Clemants, Co-Director

Steering Committee (Click on the names below to see a list of their representative research projects)

Joanna Burger, Dept. of Cell Biology, Rutgers University
Steven Clemants, Vice President for Science, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
John Dighton, Dept. of Biology, Rutgers University
Joan Ehrenfeld, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, Rutgers University
Fred Grassle, IMCS, Rutgers University
Michael Greenberg, Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy, Rutgers University
Jean Marie Hartman, Dept. of Landscape Architecture, Rutgers University
Steven N. Handel, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, Rutgers University
Elizabeth Peters, Director of Publishing, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Judith S. Weis, Dept. of Biology, Rutgers University
Scot Medbury, President, Brooklyn Botanic Garden


Steering Committee — Representative Research Projects

Joanna Burger

“Restoration of Avian Habitat in Urban/Suburban and Coastal Habitats.” N.J. Department of Environmental Protection.

“Factors Affecting Neotropical Migrant Diversity in NE Urban Areas.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Foundation.

Steven Clemants

“New York Metropolitan Flora.” Andrew Mellon Foundation, New York Community Trust (S. Clemants, K. Gould).

Helianthemum Taxonomic/ Population Study.” Massachusetts Audubon Society (K. Gould).

“Black Rock Forest Flora, Vegetational History.” Black Rock Forest Consortium (K. Barringer, S. Clemants).

John Dighton

“A Comparative Ecophysiological Approach to Understanding Multi-species Mycorrhizal Functioning.” National Science Foundation (IBN) (J. Dighton. J. W. Baxter).

“Biotic and Edaphic Controls of Ectomycorrhizal Community Structure and Function.” USDA (J. Dighton, J. Lussenhop, R. Koide).

Joan Ehrenfeld

“Stimulating Woodland Restoration: Long-Term Effects of Special and Biotic Pattern.” National Science Foundation (J. Ehrenfeld, S. Handel, G. Robinson, J. Mattei).

“Development of a Methodology for Assessing Urban Wetlands in the New Jersey Transportation Corridor.” U.S. EPA.

“Causes and Consequences of Exotic Species Invasions in Deciduous Forests.” USDA.

Fred Grassle

“Benthic Macrofaunal Communities in Partially Impounded Saltmarshes in Delaware: Responses to Sediment Drying and Comparisons with Natural Marshes.” NOAA (K.I. Stocks, F.J. Grassle).

“The Effects of Microalgal Primary Production on the Recolonization of Macrofauna Into Saltmarsh-pond Mesocosms” U.S. EPA. (K.I. Stocks, J.F. Grassle).

Michael Greenberg

“Capacity of New Jersey Brownfield Sites.” New Jersey Office of State Planning (M. Greenberg, T. Miller).

“Building Community Brownfields Redevelopment Capacity.” Rutgers SROA, Fund for New Jersey (M. Greenberg, H. Mayer).

“Mass Media Coverage of Brownfields.” U.S. Department of Energy (M. Greenberg, K. Lowrie).

“Building Housing and Community Facilities on Brownfields Sites.” State of New Jersey (M. Greenberg, J. Wells).

“Economic Impact of the USDOE’s Major Nuclear Weapons Sites on the Surrounding Regions — Past and Future.” U.S. Department of Energy (M. Greenberg, A. Isserman, M. Frisch, H. Mayer, K. Lowrie).

“Interactions of the USDOE with Planning and Other Officials of Surrounding Communities, Regarding Land Use and Economic Development.” U.S. Department of Energy (M. Greenberg, K. Lowrie).

“Public Perception of Future Land Use, Environmental Risk and Trust at USDOE Nuclear Weapons Sites.” U.S. Department of Energy (M. Greenberg, B. Williams).

Steven Handel

“Stimulating Woodland Restoration: Long-Term Effects of Spatial and Biotic Pattern.” National Science Foundation (Ecology Program) (J. Ehrenfeld, S. Handel).

“Protocols for Monitoring a Restored Woodland Community.” Prospect Park Alliance, Brooklyn, NY.

“Restoration Ecology of a Degraded Urban Landfill: Templates for Potential Native Plant Communities.” City of New York, Department of Sanitation.

“Restoration of the Wildflower Community in the Morristown National Historical Park Habitat.” U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service (S. Handel, S. Ruhren).

“Ecological Studies and Review of Environmental Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining in Appalachia.” U.S. EPA.

“The Relationship Between Species Richness and Exotic Plant Invasion.” USDA (S.J. Meiners, S. Handel).

Jean Marie Hartman

“Monitoring of Three Wetland Restoration Projects.” Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission.

“Reforestation Potential of Hemlock-Hardwood Stands Following Large-Scale Hemlock Mortality.” USDA Forest Service.

“Analysis of Endangered Plant Species Population Health and Threats.” N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (T. Breden, J.M. Hartman).

“Assessing the Hydrogeomorphic Model for Wetlands Assessment in New Jersey.” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (J.M. Hartman, C. Hatfield).

“The Influence of Trees on the Appraisal Value of Urban Land.” USDA Forest Service (J.M. Hartman, S. Strom, D. Tulloch).

“Population Ecology of the Rare Plant Chrysopsis falcata.” Clayton Mining Corporation (J.M. Hartman, S. Handel).

Judith S. Weis

“Wetland Plants’ Roles in Uptake and Transport of Heavy Metals and Remediation.” National Science Foundation (J.S. Weis, P. Weis).

“Habitat and Nutritional Value of the Invasive Marsh Plant Phragmites australis for Estuarine Animals Compared With That of Spartina alterniflora.” N.J. Water Resources Research Inst., USGS.


he Center for Urban Restoration Ecology produces outstanding print and Web-based publications for professionals, students, and the public.

For the past century, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been a leader in publishing state-of-the-art information for scientists and nonscientists alike.

On its Web site Brooklyn Botanic Garden currently publishes the New York Metropolitan Flora, one of the world’s first, largest, and most comprehensive online floras. Web users have access to databases with more than 150,000 records on each of the families, genera, and species found in the region, including descriptions, ecological information, illustrations and distribution maps, and over 10,000 references on plants of the metropolitan area.

The Garden has been a pioneer in publications that make the latest scientific research useful for professional horticulturists, landscape designers, land managers, and the general public. The internationally acclaimed 21st-Century Gardening Series, for example, pushes the frontiers of ecological landscaping. Each new volume, produced quarterly and sold worldwide, covers a specific subject (including invasive plants, biodiverse gardens, and creating wildlife habitats) with chapters by the leading experts in the field.

Rutgers scientists publish experimental findings in many major journals such as EcologyRestoration Ecology, and Oecologia.

Contact the CURE office for a list of recent publications.


Together, the extensive facilities of Rutgers University and Brooklyn Botanic Garden compose a world-class resource for researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, professional land managers, landscape designers, and the public.

Rutgers University
The headquarters of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology is at Cook College, the School of Agriculture, Marine & Environmental Sciences of Rutgers University. The campus includes Helyar Woods, the Rutgers Display Gardens, and the college research farm. The Hutcheson Memorial Forest adjacent to the New Brunswick campus is one of the few virgin forest stands left in the eastern U.S. and the site of many ongoing ecological studies.

The University’s constellation of field stations fosters research and teaching initiatives covering marine, salt marsh, pineland, old-field, and forest habitats. In the field stations and laboratory facilities of the 56 faculty members of the Graduate Program of Ecology & Evolution, researchers and students are engaged in studies of plant, animal, and microbial ecology. The Chrysler Herbarium of Rutgers houses the official plant collection of the State of New Jersey and specializes in plants of this region. Approximately 120,000 sheets catalog the more than 3,000 plant species of New Jersey, detailing their distribution, variation, and historic range.

The Rutgers University libraries rank among the nation’s top research libraries and include more than 3 million volumes and a variety of electronic indexes and abstracts, as well as full-text electronic journals.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s living collections include over 7,000 taxa and over 10,000 individual specimens. The herbarium includes about 250,000 specimens of preserved plants. The collection is worldwide in scope, with major collections of plants of the greater New York area and of cultivated plants. In addition to a number of important historic collections, it contains over 1,200 type specimens. The original collection was formed by uniting the herbaria of the Brooklyn Lycaeum, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and the Long Island Historical Society.

The research lab is set up for studies in anatomy, cytology, and morphology. Recently, a modern molecular lab was added, including a new DNA sequencer. Educational facilities also include classrooms and three greenhouses.

The research library has over 56,000 books and 3,700 serial titles, including current subscriptions to 355 journals. The collection encompasses the botanical and horticultural sciences, systematics, floristics, and landscape architecture and design.


The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology’s novel curriculum reflects our emphasis on restoring urban and urbanizing environments. Courses serving undergrad-uates, graduates, and professionals are offered at both Rutgers University and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Graduate training: M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are available through the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University. This program—comprising more than 56 faculty and 80 graduate students and operating on all campuses, at area field stations, and abroad—provides a broad spectrum of courses and research opportunities to highly qualified students. Members of the faculty actively pursue research in areas ranging from individual-species ecology through ecosystem, conservation, and restoration issues.

Undergraduate training: Restoration studies can be pursued under majors in Ecology and Evolution, Natural Resource Management, Environmental Studies, and Biology. Independent study and honors projects in field-based sciences are available in many labs. Qualified individuals can also sign up for courses as non-matriculating students. For prerequisites and procedures, consult the Rutgers website.

Continuing education for professionals and the public: We offer a number of short courses ranging from intensive two-day workshops for land managers and landscape designers to week-long sessions that explore topics in depth. Recent workshops have included: Forest Restoration, Meadow Restoration, Control of Invasive Plants, and Ecology of Urban Wetlands. Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a world-renowned education program for both adults and children that covers a wide range of environmental, horticultural, and botanical subjects. For more information, consult the Garden’s website.


The scientific staff of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology conducts research that advances the understanding of species, habitats, and ecological processes critical for effective restoration projects. Habitats throughout the tri-state New York metropolitan region and around the world are the focus of our work.

A number of in-depth investigations at both Rutgers University and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are under way on industrial sites, Superfund sites, U.S. Department of Energy lands, urban forest fragments, wetlands, and tidal areas. For example, the impact of invasive plants on National Park Service land in New Jersey is being studied, and landscape-scale restoration research at Hackensack Meadowlands is being done in partnership with a state agency and a nonprofit organization. Research on transforming waste sites such as landfills into biodiverse and productive habitats is being sponsored by federal and municipal agencies. General support for this research comes from such public agencies as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Park Service, as well as private foundations and individual benefactors.

Urban habitats often harbor a surprising amount of biodiversity. An understanding of this living resource serves as a critical foundation for restoration efforts. To this end, researchers at Brooklyn Botanic Garden are compiling a comprehensive inventory of the present and historic distribution of plant species of counties within a 50-mile radius of Manhattan. More than 150,000 plant records have already been entered, telling us a great deal about the effects of urbanization on biota and ecological processes; such data are essential for new progress in ecology and a firm footing for public environmental policy.


The mission of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology is to restore and enhance the ecological integrity of degraded public lands by doing the following:

  • Engaging in research on the ecological threats to habitats from urbanization and the specific challenges involved in the restoration of these sites;
  • Advancing the science of ecological restoration in areas of changing land use, such as abandoned farmlands or landfills, contaminated lands, and former industrial sites;
  • Studying the interactions between living organisms and the physical environment of restoration sites;
  • Examining the effectiveness of the techniques and procedures used by restoration ecologists;
  • Monitoring the fate of restored habitats to increase knowledge of how and where ecological restoration is most likely to succeed; and
  • Teaching students and professionals about the science of restoration ecology to provide the local, regional, national, and international communities with trained individuals who can design and implement restoration projects.

The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology is administered by a Steering Committee of scientists and educators from Rutgers University and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Steering Committee determines the Center’s program and initiatives each year. To better serve our own region, the Center has an Advisory Board of representatives from public and private organizations. The Advisory Board informs the Center of public needs and potential partnerships that may advance ecological restoration in the region.

The Centre for Urban Restoration Ecology

Sometime during this decade, a family will welcome a child who will mark humanity’s transformation into an urban species—for the first time, more people will live in cities than in rural areas of the earth. The influence of human civilization is being felt in even the most remote parts of the globe. Yet most ecologists continue to study areas relatively unaffected by human activities. The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology is the first scientific initiative in the U.S. established specifically to study and restore human-dominated lands.