Urban Forests: Interview with Jessica Quinton

It’s now less than 3 months until Trees, People and the Built Environment 4 – our triennial conference on urban greenspace. In advance of the conference we’ll be presenting a series of interviews with some of our featured speakers. In the latest of the series, we speak with Jessica Quinton, an independent academic researcher.




Jessica Quinton recently graduated from Dalhousie University with a Master of Environmental Studies. Her NSERC-funded thesis research focused on the role of cemeteries in the urban forest of Halifax, Canada from multiple (biophysical, social, and managerial) perspectives. She obtained a Mitacs Globalink Research Award to travel to Malmӧ, Sweden, where she led a research project examining how cemetery governance and management affect their tree populations. Before embarking on her PhD in urban forestry, she is currently working in science publishing in London, UK.

Tell us about your presentation:

My presentation assesses how the term ‘optimization’ is being discussed and applied within urban forestry research. It examines what researchers seek to optimize, how they study optimization, and how they plan to achieve it. Furthermore, it highlights the difference between optimization as a concept and as a buzzword, and the shortcomings of applying optimization to urban forestry.

Why is your presentation important for our conference?

My presentation highlights how terms can lose their literal meaning and delves into the importance of creating clear objectives/targets, actions, and solutions, and the need to consider the trade-offs that occur during decision-making. It also discusses how optimization as a method can overlook important non-quantitative considerations and perhaps even shift the way we view our urban forests.

What are the biggest challenges facing green infrastructure?

In my opinion, some of the biggest challenges facing green infrastructure are the context-specific nature of design and implementation, lacking integrated regulatory frameworks, and the uncertainty associated with climate change.

What impact is your work making in the built environment?

My previous research has focused on the role of cemeteries within the urban forest and (I hope) has generated wider interest in the consideration of cemeteries as urban greenspaces that should be managed for purposes beyond burial and commemoration. In the future, I plan to shift the focus of my research to assess the unintended detrimental effects that green infrastructure may have on society. I hope that this research will inform future actions to make green infrastructure more equitable.

How do we build resilient places for us to live in for the future?

Building resilient places requires a holistic approach when considering the long-term stressors and sudden disturbances we are facing now and likely to face in the future. We cannot build resilience by discussing solutions solely in terms of economics. Resilience requires consideration of sociodemographics, health and wellbeing, social dynamics, ecology, politics, and more.

How did you get into your role?

I am currently on a gap year between my Master’s and PhD theses and working in academic publishing. I got into urban forestry research during my Master’s thesis when I studied the role of urban cemetery trees from biophysical, sociocultural, and management perspectives. This research highlighted to me how important it is to think creatively about our urban forests and consider multiple perspectives during decision-making and management.

Trees, People and the Built Environment 4 will unite built and natural environment professionals from around the world who are working towards the shared goal of enhancing and developing green infrastructure. This acclaimed urban trees research conference will return to the University of Birmingham on 22-23 April 2020. It is a must-attend event for those who work in urban landscapes or the built environment.

Book Your Tickets Today!

Keep up with conference developments – read the programme online, follow us @TheICF


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