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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



As cities expand globally, researchers must clarify how human activities and institutions shape biodiversity and conversely, how ecological processes shape human outcomes. Two features of contemporary cities motivate this thesis. First, urban residents, and especially children, are spending less time in nature and consequently, miss out on healthy and formative experiences with biodiversity. Second, residents with the least access to biodiversity tend to be those with the lowest socioeconomic status (SES). Together, these patterns convey a multi-layered environmental injustice: not only might urbanites become increasingly estranged from biodiversity, disinterested from its conservation, and disconnected from its benefits, but these outcomes may be most acute in communities already suffering from inequality in terms of exposure to hazards or limited economic opportunity. The first chapter explores how children’s behaviors and interests change after learning about animal habitats first-hand in an environmental education program. I conducted an evaluation of the ECOS program in Springfield, Massachusetts, in which I surveyed elementary school students about their memories of ECOS and their related environmental behaviors. Students with parents or peers that had participated in ECOS were more likely to repeat or discuss program activities after the program’s end. Findings will aid educators in Springfield and beyond in improving program impacts and sustainability. The second chapter explains under what conditions socioeconomic inequality becomes linked with biodiversity. I conducted a meta-analysis of published research that assessed SES-biodiversity relationships in 34 cities using fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis. I evaluated the contributions of study design and city-level conditions in shaping SES-biodiversity relationships for various taxonomic groups. The meta-analysis highlighted the contributions of residential and municipal decisions in differentially promoting biodiversity along socioeconomic lines. Further, we identified circumstances in which inequality in biodiversity was ameliorated or negated by urban form, social policy, or collective human preference. Findings will aid researchers and managers in understanding human drivers of biodiversity in their cities and how access to biodiversity may be unequally distributed. In sum, this thesis advances our knowledge about how biodiversity is structured in cities, who gets to experience it, and how such experiences influence our behaviors and interests.


First Advisor

Paige Warren

Second Advisor

Charles Schweik

Third Advisor

Jennifer Randall