The fields of urban forestry and arboriculture are relatively little known outside of the forestry and horticulture disciplines in which these fields were developed. However, urban forests are best understood as social-ecological systems of linked human and natural components (Vogt & Fischer 2014; Mincey et al. 2012), and research on urban forests has begun to use interdisciplinary environmental science methods and theory is beginning to become more common.
With this in mind, in 2015, BUFRG researchers Jess Vogt and Burney Fischer and their colleague Rich Hauer (University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point) surveyed educators and leaders of urban forestry and/or arboriculture programs across the world to examine the interdisciplinary basis of these programs.
We obtained responses from 116 institutions of higher education (85 within the United States) with urban forestry and/or arboriculture coursework. Seventy-four percent of institutions considered urban forestry/arboriculture to be interdisciplinary. Some disciplines (e.g., biology/ecology, forestry) are already very incorporated into their program’s current curriculum, and the importance of several other disciplines is recognized even while incorporation is not yet fully realized (e.g., urban planning, natural resource management, environmental science/studies). However, many major disciplines that have relevance to urban forestry/arboriculture are not rated as particularly important to the field, much less incorporated into curriculum (e.g., anthropology/sociology, economics, engineering, public policy/public affairs).
This study serves as a foundation on which to begin strengthening the interdisciplinary elements of urban forestry and arboriculture education.
The next step of this project will aim to examine the challenges of interdisciplinarity reported by educators, in the context of urban forestry and interdisciplinary environmental science and studies curriculum.