Multifunctional Landscape Analysis and Design


Principle Investigator

Sarah Lovell, Associate Professor of Landscape Agroecology

My research program has evolved from a unique interdisciplinary background, including an MS and PhD in Agronomy followed by a Master in Landscape Architecture (MLA). I have combined skills and knowledge from different fields to build a program focusing broadly on the design and analysis of sustainable, multifunctional landscapes, in an effort to improve ecosystem functioning and provision of ecosystem services.  My research projects generally fit into two thematic areas - urban agriculture and whole-farm planning.  The research in urban agriculture focuses primarily on assessing the benefits of food production systems including plant biodiversity, pollination services, and cultural functions, as well as the impact on food security of the participating households and economic viability of the community.  The work in whole-farm planning includes spatial analysis of functions provided by different habitat types including non-crop areas, as well as the development of planning tools that support farmers in transitioning to more sustainable and diversified systems.  My research on multifunctional landscapes has the potential to impact the way in which we design our urban and agricultural landscapes, resulting in alternative solutions that offer greater benefits for people and their environment.

Sarah's Departmental Directory Webpage
Sarah's CV - download PDF


Current Graduate Students

Erik Stanek, Senior in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences

I am a senior undergraduate majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Science and minoring Spatial and Quantitative Methods in the College of ACES. While studying abroad at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, I formed a strong interest in Agroforestry and have since been researching this topic. My research focuses on spatial and quantitative modeling of agroforestry systems and is currently directed toward establishing a light interaction model for the MWP research site. I hope to continue my education and pursue a masters in agroforestry and environmental informatics to further enhance the understanding perennial cropping systems.

Chloe' Mattia, MS Student

Recently graduated from UIUC with a BS in Natural Resources and Environmental Science, I aim to develop better relationships between people and natural resources, especially food and bioenergy resources. I have learned from various undergrad research positions and involvement with ecological restoration, concepts of connectivity and ecosystem functionality that apply to agriculture. My experience studying alternatives food systems, with the WPP Research Site, showed me the utility of an environmental science perspective in developing such systems. As a graduate student, I look forward to using social science research methods and Geographic Information Science to find the optimal path through cultural, economical, and ecological obstacles to implement multifunctional perennial crop systems in Central Illinois. 

Matthew Wilson, MS Student

My research targets the need for effective design tools for mixed agroforestry planning.  The complexity of systems that may integrate crops, forages, trees, and livestock makes it difficult to compile and analyze the information required to effectively plan and install such practices.  Having been involved in both conventional and organic crop production, I see the need for alternative cropping systems that allow for the simultaneous production of food, fiber, and energy while still providing ecosystem services in a way that remains economically viable.  My work is funded by the Jonathan Baldwin Turner fellowship.   

Current Undergraduate Students



John Taylor, Assistant Professor of Urban Agroecology at Chatham University

My multidisciplinary background includes a BA in philosophy from the University of Chicago, a BS in horticulture from Michigan State University, and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan. In my professional career, I managed federal education studies at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, practiced landscape architecture in the Washington, D.C. area, and was a lecturer in landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before returning to graduate school.  My current PhD research explores the social and ecological dynamics of urban agriculture using Chicago, IL, as a case study. I developed a method for identifying food production sites through manual aerial image analysis in Google Earth and applied it to mapping public and private gardens and farms in Chicago. The resulting dataset demonstrates that urban agriculture is an extensive land use type with wide variations in spatial distribution and that the production area of home gardens is at least three times that of community gardens.

J. Rafter Ferguson, PhD Candidate

My research program is organized around working directly with farmers and community groups to support the transition to sustainable and multifunctional agriculture. My work is informed equally by agroecology and political ecology, so I'm interested in both the quantifiable performance of farming systems, as well as the ways in which our ideas about agriculture translate into policies and practices that different consequences for different communities. My research focus of my dissertation is the permaculture movement, and it's present and potential contributions to agroecological transition. I came to the Crop Sciences Department at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010, after receiving an MS in Agroecology at the University of Vermont. Prior to graduate study I spent a decade as an activist in the global justice movement, as participant, organizer, and scholar. My professional work in ecological design, as consultant and educator, includes projects in ecological waste and water treatment, integrated mushroom production, and whole farm design. I'm currently funded by a Jonathan Baldwin Turner Fellowship.

Samuel Edward Wortman, Assistant Professor of Urban Food Production
Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

The overall goal of my research program is to improve the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of urban and peri-urban food production systems of the north central US. Current projects are focused on characterizing the distribution of air and soil pollutants and quantifying their effects on vegetable crop physiology within metropolitan regions, improving the efficiency and productivity of hydroponic and aquaponic systems, developing multi-tactic organic weed management strategies, and evaluating the long-term agronomic and ecological benefits of various urban and peri-urban soil remediation strategies and cropping systems. Stakeholders include urban and peri-urban farmers, home and community gardeners, environmental consultants, and urban planners.  For more information on my research program, visit my lab website:

Andrew Koeser, Assistant Professor of Landscape Management,
Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida

In all of my work, I strive to provide meaningful, applied research which offers both an immediate benefit to the industries I serve and builds to answer broader questions regarding sustainability in greenhouse production, nursery production, and urban forestry/arboriculture. All of my research to date has been greatly enhanced given input and support from the green industry. I feel extremely lucky to be connected to such an engaged and scientifically-literate group of practitioners.  As a faculty member within Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE), I am charged with protecting and conserving Florida's natural resources through the development of research-based, sustainable urban landscape practices. I work directly with arborists, landscapers, nursery growers, and urban foresters to both reduce the inputs and increase the ecological benefits associated with urban and residential greening.


V. Ernesto Méndez, Associate Professor of Agroecology & Environmental Studies
and Acting Chair
, Department of Plant & Soil Science, University of Vermont

I am an agroecologist with interests in agrifood systems, smallholder agriculture, rural development and environmental conservation. My research focuses on developing and applying transdisciplinary approaches that analyze interactions between agriculture, livelihoods and environmental conservation in tropical and temperate rural landscapes.  My work also utilizes a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach in an effort to directly support sustainable agriculture, conservation and rural development.  A native of El Salvador, I have fifteen years of experience doing research and development work with smallholder farmers in Mexico and Central America. More recently I have started to do work in Vermont.  I am currently leading two major PAR initiatives: 1)  “Vermont Agricultural Resilience in a Changing Climate”, which seeks to connect farmers, researchers and other stakeholder groups to respond to climate change in Vermont; 2) "Agroecology and Food Sovereignty in Mesoamerica", which works with 4 smallholder coffee farmer cooperatives (totaling around 5,000 households) in Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua to analyze and respond to food security issues in coffee regions. For more information on me or my research, visit my lab website, here.