Julia MichalakProgram: Interdisciplinary PhD in Urban Design and Planning
Thesis Title: Effects of urban development on Oregon white oak regeneration pattern and process

An increasing number of studies document systematic changes to species composition across urban regions. However, the consequences of these changes for ecosystem function remain relatively unexplored. As urban regions expand, it is essential that we improve our understanding of how changes in community structure driven by urbanization alter critical ecological functions such as trophic interactions and plant-animal mutualisms.

My current dissertation research investigates whether regeneration patterns and processes differ in urban versus non-urban landscapes, with a particular emphasis on regeneration stages controlled by animal communities. Specifically, I have investigated regeneration patterns by documenting the distribution and abundance of oak seedlings and saplings across an urban gradient, and differences in regeneration processes including acorn predation, dispersal, and germination between urban and non-urban oak woodlands.

Other research and activities:
2011 – 2012: I have been working with Dr. Joshua Lawler’s Landscape Ecology and Conservation lab in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences on the Pacific Northwest Climate Vulnerability Assessment (http://www.climatevulnerability.org/). For this project, I planned and organized a series of Climate Adaptation Workshops in selected case study regions in the Pacific Northwest. The goals of the workshops are to increase communication of climate vulnerability science to landscape managers and receive feedback and develop lessons learned about how climate data and information can be integrated into landscape management decisions.

2010 – 2011: I was awarded a Huckabay teaching fellowship to develop a course in Ecological Land Use Planning. I developed the course in collaboration with Dr. Joshua Lawler, Dr. Ken Yocom and Jennifer Vanderhoof (King County ecologist) and co-taught the class with Dr. Lawler during winter 2011. The course is project-based with students working to develop a wildlife connectivity plan for selected focal species in King County. Specifically, the students are exploring methods for downscaling the connectivity planning process developed by the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group for all of Washington State. This project serves as a platform for understanding the application of landscape ecology and conservation planning theory to real landscapes. In addition, the students explore the social and ecological implications of various land use policies that can support ecological conservation in urbanizing landscapes.

2009 – 2010: I completed a reconstruction of historical land-cover change for 10 study catchments in rural King County as part of the County’s Critical Areas Ordinance regulatory effectiveness study.

Urban Ecosystem Ecology Section travel Award, to attend the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

Michalak, J. 2011. Effects of Habitat and Landscape Structure on Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) Regeneration Across an Urban Gradient. Northwest Science 85:182-193.

Selected Oral Presentations:
Michalak, J. “Effects of urban development and forest cover patterns on Garry oak (Quercus garryana) acorn dispersal processes.” August 2011. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Austin, TX.

Michalak, J. “Conservation planning in the classroom: applying project-based pedagogy to promote interdisciplinary learning.” August 2011. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Austin, TX.

Michalak, J. “Effects of Landscape Pattern on Oak Dispersal and Regeneration in an Urban Landscape.” April 2011. US International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) Symposium, Portland, OR.

Michalak, J. “Effects of Landscape Pattern on Oak Dispersal and Regeneration in an Urban Landscape.” December 2010. A Conference on Ecosystem Services (ACES), Phoenix, AZ.

Michalak, J. “Developing the Historical Context for Understanding Present Day Land Use-Water Quality Relationships.” Frebruary 2010. 2010 Water Center Annual Review of Research, Seattle, WA.

Contact Information:
Urban Ecology Research Laboratory
Department of Urban Design and Planning
University of Washington
Box 355740
3949 15th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98195-5740
phone: (206) 616-9379; fax: (206) 685-9597