Dr. Kathleen Wolf is a research social scientist with the University of Washington and with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. As a social scientist her professional mission is to discover, understand, and communicate human behavior and benefits, as people experience nature in cities and towns.
Dr. Wolf says: “Many environmental issues involve complex interactions of bio-physical and human systems. Effective problem-solving requires attention to both dimensions. As B.F. Skinner pointed out, most of the problems we face involve human behavior.
As a research scientist I investigate people’s perceptions and behaviors with regard to urban landscapes. Based on professional experiences early in my career – as an urban forester in South Florida and a landscape architect in the Midwest – I became interested in how natural environments influence peoples’ attitudes, values and actions.
My research of the human dimensions of open space, urban forestry and natural systems include:
- 1. Public preferences and perceptions regarding urban public landscapes
- 2. Costs, benefits and perceptions of urban forestry in retail and commercial districts
- 3. Integration of urban nature and transportation systems
- 4. Developmental benefits associated with youth participation in urban greening work
- 5. Effective integration of science and policy through technology transfer
Both qualitative methods (e.g. focused interviews and content analysis) and quantitative methods (e.g. public surveys using photoquestionnaires) are empirical tools I use to assess and evaluate public perceptions and preferences.
In classes and public presentations two themes also help frame lectures and discussions:
· The psycho-social benefits of peoples’ experiences of urban nature, and
· How public perceptions and values can be integrated into planning and management of urban open spaces.”