Scientists & Staff

Max Piana

Max R. Piana

Research Ecologist
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA, 01003-4230
Phone: 413-320-9226

Contact Max R. Piana

Current Research

Urban forest ecology. How are urban ecosystems functionally different from non-urban analogs? To test this fundamental question of urban ecology, I use field studies grounded in plant population (plant recruitment) and community (forest succession) ecology. My current research integrates this field data into forest process models.

Urban silviculture. Urban forested natural areas are an important component of the tree canopy in cities, but are often overlooked and typically lack formal management frameworks. One approach to addressing this deficiency may be to borrow from traditional forest management frameworks and practices (that is, silviculture). Although urban forested natural areas share similarities with rural forests, the impacts of urbanization on forest stand dynamics may require modification of these methods and in some cases development of novel silvicultural guidelines. The urban silviculture research program aims to develop a systematic framework to inform project planning and practice, long-term research and -evidence based approaches for urban managers, as well as models for community engagement, education, and workforce training. Examples of this work include the Stillmeadow PeacePark and Forest.

Urban phytotechnologies. Phytotechologies use plants as an engineered solution to restore and remediate ecosystems. We are applying these principles and established approaches, such as phyto-recurrent selection, to urban greenspaces to maximize ecosystem services (e.g. stormwater management) and improve restoration practices (e.g. accelerate afforestation).

Research Interests

My research aims to bridge the science, management and design of urban greenspaces, from stormwater infrastructure to natural areas.

Why This Research is Important

From stormwater infrastructure to natural areas, cities are increasingly investing in the conservation, restoration, and creation of urban greenspaces. These landscapes provide a suite of ecosystem services for residents, as well as local and regional biodiversity. Evidence based approaches, grounded in long-term research, will improve the sustainability and function, both ecological and social of urban greenspaces.


  • Rutgers University, Ph. D. Ecology & Evolution, 2019
  • Yale School of the Environment, M.E.M. (Master Of Environmental Management) Urban Ecology & Design, 2011
  • Wesleyan University, B.A. Psychology; Environmental Studies, 2005

Professional Experience

  • Environmental Researcher, KieranTimberlake 2012 - 2014

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America (2014 - Current)
  • Society for Ecological Restoration (2014 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Joan Ehrenfeld Award for Best Student Presentation in Urban Ecology, 2019
  • Architecture Magazine R + D Award, 2013

Publications & Products

Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2022