Jenna Witzleben

Ecology School blog

Welcome to the Ecology School blog, where I document my ongoing self-education in ecology, landscape design, and urban design.

Ecological Urbanism for beginner’s Reading List

Now that I’ve finished some initial research / benchmarking on programs of study in landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology - it’s time to start learning! Based off these course listings, I created a short reading list for beginners like me. This will hopefully take me through until the later spring / early summer and I will have another reading list again then. I’ll post book summaries and key learnings as I work my way through this list. The books below cover a breadth of topics, to help me form a foundation in ecology, and biophilia, urban design.


Toward an Urban Ecology by Kate Orff

It was clear from the programs of study list that a thorough understanding of and familiarity with landscape and ecology case studies is a core part of learning to do this work. Kate Orff’s book is filled with exemplar design work and I look forward to diving in!


Biophilia by edward O. Wilson

From what I understand, any reading list on biophilia and ecology in the built environment would be lacking without at least one of Edward O. Wilson’s many books and writings. I’m very excited to start off with this one.


The nature and properties of soils by Ray R. Weil and Nyle C. Brady

This one may be less of a pleasure read than the others, as it is more of a traditional college textbook. A mentor of mine recently advised me that I may want to pick an area of ecology to look at in detail, and that soils is a great one to start with - so that’s the plan with this book! I imagine you could also find similar texts if water or plants are more appealing foci to you.


Urban regions: Ecology and Planning beyond the City by Richard T. T. Forman

This is another recommendation from my former professor and mentor. The author of this book has been leading much of the work, research, and teaching in landscape ecology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Seeing as they have a whole degree on Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology, I definitely think they’re leading the way in this field and am looking forward to reading Forman’s perspectives.


Mannahatta by Eric W. Sanderson

Another key topic I noticed in my research on course listings is local natural history and ecology. Especially the schools in California and the southwest US incorporated this in their studies. To better understand the evolution of the landscape where I live, and the plant and animal species around me, I am excited to read Mannahatta. My brother also got me a Field Guide to the Trees of New York and I will be starting to reference that more often too!


The Death and life of Great American Cities by jane jacobs

Of course this is another classic in this field, a must-read for any budding urban designer. I read half of it in grad school but it’s been on my list to finish ever since!


The Urban Design handbook by Urban Design Associates

To accompany the urban theory in Jane Jacob’s book, I wanted to started learning about urban design practices and tools. I will also be posting some video courses (i.e. from soon. But I’m hoping this book will help me build my skills in graphic representation, software, and design documentation.


play the forest School Way by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton

This one I had to add, as I’m currently doing a project at work related to child-friendly urban design. To help me bring biophilia into these conversations and design work, I’m exciting to read this book about forest school practices.

What great urban design / landscape / ecology books have you read lately? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!

Jenna WitzlebenComment