Associate Professor Laura Musacchio
- B.L.A., magna cum laude, State University New York, Syracuse
- M.L.A., State University New York, Syracuse
- Ph.D., Urban and Regional Science (Emphasis areas: Landscape Systems and Environmental Planning and Policy), Texas A&M
Dr. Musacchio works at the intersection of design, planning, ecology, and sustainability science in her teaching and research activities, which help to bridge, integrate, and synthesize diverse knowledge bases and perspectives found in these disciplines. Her teaching and research interests are concerned with the ecology and culture of cities and metropolitan regions during the Anthropocene. She examines people’s interactions with different types of urban natures as hybrid spaces including green infrastructure, urban forests, remnant habitats, gardens, and so on. Her current research interests include biodiversity and wildlife habitat in yards and neighborhoods as well as large linear parks as gardens and landscape infrastructure.
Her teaching and research has a strong emphasis on understanding people’s relationship to biodiversity (plants and wildlife), water, and food and how people reconnect to everyday nature as a way to reduce stress and improve well-being. She is especially interested how the relationship between ecosystem services and ecologies is influenced by people’s interactions with everyday nature. She is intrigued with people’s pluralistic perspectives about what nature and biodiversity means to them and their particular cultures and how changes in weather and climate might shift their understanding of nature and biodiversity. Moreover, her work emphasizes how the regreening movement in cities and metropolitan regions, which has been initiated and organized by different stakeholders (e.g., planners, scientists, and local residents), has impacted the ecosystems services and ecologies of cities and metropolitan regions.
Dr. Musacchio teaches several courses at the undergraduate and graduate level in these topics, and she encourages students to develop an interdisciplinary perspective that facilitates the integration of science and practice. She encourages students to explore the pluralistic ways of knowing ecology as a body of knowledge and to explore how these ways might inform their approach to their studies. Students from a variety of disciplines take her courses including landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, conservation biology, natural resources, urban and regional planning, public policy, sustainability, humanities, and the arts. She also is affiliated with the Urban and Regional Planning program in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Conservation Biology program in the College of Food and Natural Resource Sciences.
Her research projects include an interdisciplinary research team, which was funded by NASA in 2012, investigating how city size and shape influence severe weather, urban pollution, and canopy transition patterns in the Great Plains. Her work with this project looks at bridging land change science to green infrastructure practice for sustainable and resilient metropolitan regions. From a historic viewpoint, the knowledge bases of land change science and green infrastructure practice have had little conceptual and practice integration even though both are concerned with land use and land cover changes but at different scales of concern. The goal of her work with this project is to develop a common agenda to advance both knowledge bases and perspectives in land change science and green infrastructure practice—especially for severe storm research about extreme hydrological events affecting neighborhoods, urban forests, public infrastructure, and hydrological systems.
Her fellowship with Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota investigates the topic of boundary management, also known as boundary work, as an approach in the sciences to better connect theory and application in planning, policy, management, and design. She is working the development of a boundary management toolbox to help students, faculty, and staff at universities to better connect their research interests—such as ecosystem services, green infrastructure, and landscape infrastructure—into real-world problem solving at the science-practice interface (e.g., how science links to design, planning, policy, and management).
Dr. Musacchio's current project at the Institute of the Environment is called "Capacity Building for an Informal Community of Practice (iCoP) for STEAM (STEM plus Arts/Design/Humanities) Approaches at the Institute on the Environment." The project's purpose is build the capacity of an informal community of practice (iCoP) for STEAM (STEM plus Arts/Design/Humanities) approaches at the Institute on the Environment during the academic years of 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The main outcome is to develop an action plan for future steps, strategies, recommendations, and outcomes to establish an iCoP to benefit the Institute on the Environment and University of Minnesota at large.
She is an emeritus editorial board member of Landscape and Urban Planning. She was an editorial board member of Landscape Ecology and Biodiversity and Conservation. In addition, she is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Musacchio, L. 2018. Ecologies as a complement to ecosystem services? Exploring how landscape planners might advance understanding about human-nature relationships in changing landscapes. Landscape Ecology 33:847–860
Musacchio, L. 2013. Key concepts and research priorities for landscape sustainability (introduction to special issue). Landscape Ecology 28:995–998
Musacchio, L. 2013. Cultivating deep care: Integrating landscape ecological research into the cultural dimension of ecosystem services. Landscape Ecology 28:1025–1038
Musacchio, L. 2011. The grand challenge to operationalize landscape sustainability and the design-in-science paradigm. Landscape Ecology 26:1–5
Musacchio, L. 2011. The world's matrix of vegetation: Hunting the hidden dimension of landscape sustainability. Landscape and Urban Planning 100:356–360
Musacchio, L. 2009. The scientific basis for the design of landscape sustainability: A conceptual framework for translational landscape research and practice of designed landscapes and the six Es of landscape sustainability. Landscape Ecology 24:993–1013
Musacchio, L. 2009. The ecology and culture of landscape sustainability (Introduction to special issue). Landscape Ecology 24:989–992
- Fellow, Institute on the Environment (2016–present)
- Resident Fellowship, Institute on the Environment (2012-2016)
- College of Design Outstanding Research Award (2010)
- Planetizen’s 2006 Top 10 Books Designing Small Parks: A Manual Addressing Social and Ecological Concerns Designing Small Parks (by Ann Forsyth and Laura Musacchio)
- Roy Jones Award for Outstanding Research (2005)
- LA 8301 Research Issues and Methods (fall)
- LA 3204 Holistic Landscape Ecology and Bioregional Practice (spring)
- LA 5204 Metropolitan Landscape Ecology (spring)
- LA 5705 Regreening Minds, Cities, and Regions seminar (occasionally)