Scientists & Staff

Lynne M. Westphal

Research Social Scientist, Emerit
1033 University Place, Suite 360
Evanston, IL, 60201-3172

Contact Lynne M. Westphal

Current Research

My research focuses on how people participate in decision-making and management of local environments and in combining methods and information from a variety of science disciplines to better address complex issues. A lot of my research is in urban areas, where nearby nature plays a vital role in improving quality of life.

With my research colleagues, we are looking civic engagement in stewardship in the Chicago Wilderness region and in comparison to similar activities in others cities. This builds on earlier work where I looked at volunteer motivations and the social impacts of block-level greening projects.

In the RESTORE project we are investigating whether the social structure of groups making ecological restoration decisions makes a difference in terms of the biodiversity of the restoration sites. If it does, it points to best management practices for enhancing biodiversity but if it doesn't, that's good, too because it indicates that a variety of approaches to restoration may be effective, thereby expanding the suite of options for conducting ecological restoration.

I have long been involved in research and other projects in the Calumet rustbelt landscape of southeast Chicago and northwest Indiana. Currently my focus there is with the Northwest Indiana Urban waters project ( Information on earlier work can be found here (

Research Interests

  • Continue to refine and strengthen participatory decision making and management of natural areas.
  • Continuing the integration of social, biological, and physical disciplines in natural resources research.

Why This Research is Important

We understand the importance of habitat for wildlife, yet humans need good habitat, too. Trees, rivers and streams, parks and other open spaces all play a significant role in creating good places to live. My work helps planners, municipal employees, elected officials, NGOs, tree advocates, and others understand how to manage natural resources to improve quality of life and achieve environmental justice.


  • University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D. Public Policy Analysis and Urban Planning., 1999
  • Northeastern Illinois University, M.A. Geography and Environmental Studies, 1992
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, B.A. South Asian Studies, 1982

Professional Organizations

  • Environmental Design Research Association
  • American Psychological Association
    Sec. 35 (environmental psychology)
  • American Sociological Association
  • International Society of Arboriculture
  • Society for Conservation Biology

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Four possible scenarios for fighting wildfire in the time of COVID-19, depending on high or low COVID-19 impacts and a high or low fire season.

Scenarios for Compound Disasters: COVID-19 and Wildfire Management

Year: 2020

Contending with two simultaneous and interacting disasters—wildfire and the COVID-19 pandemic—poses an extraordinary challenge for wildland fire management. All aspects of fire management would be significantly more complex. For this study scientists rapidly developed scenarios to inform wildfire decision making in the face of COVID-19.

An elementary school within the Chicago Public School system

Tree Cover Boosts Academic Performance in Chicago Public Schools

Year: 2018

An analysis of academic achievement within Chicago Public Schools suggests that a higher proportion of tree cover, relative to grass and other vegetation, on school yards is associated with higher math and reading scores.

Resident and visitor support for urban natural areas restoration

Year: 2017

Resident and visitor beliefs about whether a given restoration practice, such as controlled burning, is already being used at a site can be a powerful predictor of support for that practice.

Children’s connections to nature prove to be lasting

Year: 2017

Childhood nature experiences have lifelong positive effects. Children’s voluntary engagement with nature, as opposed to exposure through schools and other organized programs, can result in benefits such as improved test scores, self-discipline, and reduced behavioral problems. This study examined different mechanisms through which children and youth are exposed to nature and the extent to which different exposure mechanisms are associated with such long-term benefits.

Robin from kitchen window. J. Amy Belaire, University of Illinois at Chicago

Birds Connect Urban Residents to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Year: 2015

Birds can help urban residents make connections to the outdoors. Forest Service scientists surveyed urban residents and found that most of them like most birds, even if they aren’t aware of the full species richness in their neighborhoods. This awareness can be used to reach urban residents and help them move towards an understanding of sustainability.

An oak savannah in McHenry county. USDA Forest Service

Shared Principles of Ecological Restoration

Year: 2015

Restoration is growing in application, and Forest Service scientists found a set of guiding principles in effect throughout the Chicago Wilderness region. These principles reflect not only a shared philosophy and technique, but also serve as a system of collective action to benefit the larger landscape and the people who live within it.

Word cloud of North Kenwood-Oakland residents' responses to the question What three words come to mind when you hear climate change Field Museum

Street-Level Views of Climate Change

Year: 2011

Forest Service researchers and partners interviewed residents of two Chicago neighborhoods about their awareness of climate change and their own climate-friendly behaviors. They found that residents have varying levels of knowledge about climate change and identified many opportunities to simultaneously meet neighborhood goals and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The findings will help the City of Chicago shape its Climate Action Plan outreach to residents and the lessons learned are applicable in other places as well.

Restoration in urban areas can take several forms ' or ' View of Chicago skyline from Calumet restoration sites. Lynne Westphal, Forest Service

Models for Ecological Restoration in Urban Areas: Lessons From the USA and Europe

Year: 2010

NRS researchers Paul Gobster and Lynne Westphal and a German colleague, Matthias Gross, analyzed urban restoration projects and developed several alternative models that articulate the various possible types of restoration projects.

Last modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2019