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2018 ELA Conference Session Descriptions

Darrel Morrison
KEYNOTE: Landscape Design as Ecological Art
The natural landscape can teach us many lessons on how to design landscapes that are ecologically sound, experientially rich, “of the place,” and dynamic. Mr. Morrison will look at patterns and processes in the natural landscape and then at designed landscapes where those patterns and processes provide both information and inspiration.  Among the examples will be designed landscapes at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York; The Old Stone Mill landscape at the New York Botanical Garden; the Native Flora Garden Extension at Brooklyn Botanical Garden; and the Stella Niagara Preserve at Lewiston, New York.

M.L. Altobelli
Designing and Maintaining Landscapes to Maximize Carbon Storage Potential
The managed landscape has huge potential to help with carbon sequestration.  Easy-to-overlook, urban and suburban landscapes can be managed for both human satisfaction and ecosystem stabilization. Join Ms. Altobelli as she explores how, through observation, experimentation, and practical applications, you can learn to manage carbon in order to increase the health of the soil, and therefore the health of plants and the planet.

Kristen DeAngelis
Keeping Carbon in the Ground: A Scientific Exploration of Climate Change and Soil Health
Soils rich in carbon are healthy soils. However, climate change and poor management practices can degrade soil carbon stores and, consequently, the soil itself. Ms. DeAngelis will explain why keeping carbon in the ground is important, and how carbon sequestration factors into maintaining healthy soils. She will also discuss the changes that were observed over a 26-year period in a long-term climate change field experiment in which soils were heated 5 degrees C above ambient temperatures. Along with a look at the science, Ms. DeAngelis will suggest ways in which we can make changes in our practices to increase carbon storage in the soil.

Randi Eckel, PhD
Landscaping for Plant Diversity
What is the role of diversity in the garden and what do we gain by increasing diversity in our gardens, fields, and forests?  Despite the wealth of native plant species at our fingertips, we rely too heavily on too few species.  By using the great diversity of plants that are native to a region, we can beautify the landscape, minimize inputs, support wildlife, and do away with the ecological deserts created in seas of mulch and functionally sterile lawns.

Adrian Ayres Fisher
Backyard Carbon Sequestration
Landscapers and gardeners have long known that soil is not simply the stuff that props up plants. But not everyone knows that organic and native plant gardening practices can help mitigate climate change by building and protecting soil health. This presentation will review the characteristics of healthy soil, how plants and soil life work together to store carbon below ground, and how gardeners and landscapers can make a difference in the fight against climate change.

Steven N. Handel, PhD
The Challenges of Restoring Urban Native Habitat
Patches of native habitat in urban and other degraded areas provide important ecological services. A design team developed and tested a series of plantings that attempted to restore ecological connections between fragmented and degraded remnant habitats in large, urban areas. Old, urban landfills were planted with woodland patches of various sizes to determine how quickly mutualisms, including seed dispersal and pollination, occurred. Focusing on Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and Orange County Great Park in California, where complex habitat was integrated with civic needs, Dr. Handel will explore how these types of ecological solutions can be applied to many urban designs.

John Hayden
Farming on the Wild Side: Regenerative Production Practices Based on Multifunctional Perennial Plantings
This session will emphasize the ecology and the positive benefits of regenerative farming practices (carbon sequestration, water quality improvement, wildlife and pollinator habitat), and the plants that make for an economically viable system.  Mr. Hayden will explain how his family’s farm has evolved over the years, how their edible landscape and conservation plant nursery fits into the model, and how they apply biodiversity in their farm-scape to get the results that conventional growers attain using fertilizers and pesticides. He will cover how multi-functional perennial plants like elderberry, aronia, willow, and dogwoods are an important part of the farm income and ecology.  Ideas for creating nesting and food habitat for pollinators, insectaries for beneficial insects, and bird habitat for biological control of pests will also be shared.

Dan Jaffe/Mark Richardson
Why Mulch if You Can Plant!
Why are we so attached to mulch? Yes, it is helpful in suppressing weeds and preventing soil erosion, but it’s costly, time-consuming, difficult to spread, and frankly, drab and boring. You know what works better than mulch? Plants! Mr. Jaffe and Mr. Richards will discuss a variety of native plants, from mat forming herbaceous perennials to low growing shrubs, which can be used to eliminate the need for yearly applications of mulch in our landscapes. These plants not only provide ecosystem services, but also make our landscapes less costly to maintain and more attractive.

Rebecca Lindenmeyr
Nature Integration – The Future of Design
Learn how a fundamental shift in demographics, social consciousness, and science is changing how nature is integrated into the design of our buildings and landscapes and how that will affect the future of the green industry.  Ms. Lindenmeyr will focus on the challenges of transforming how we approach design as well as our relationships with our employees and our clients; discuss how to maximize the opportunities that will be coming over the next 5-10 years; and provide an overview of Nature Attention Restoration Theory, biophilic design (including common features such as green walls and creating views of complex nature), WELL certified Buildings, forest bathing, and biomimicry.

Emily May
Managing Land for Pollinators and Conservation Biocontrol
Conservation biological control is a science-based pest management strategy that seeks to integrate beneficial insects back into the landscape for natural pest control, ultimately reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for pesticides. Join Ms. May, Pollinator Conservation Specialist for the Xerces Society, for an overview on conservation biological control and beneficial predators and parasitoids that attack insect pests. Participants will learn how different management practices can impact pollinators and other beneficial insects and how to assess and create habitat for beneficial insects.

Darrel Morrison
Design Inspired by Music
In this presentation, Professor Morrison will develop a conceptual landscape design for a real site in Amherst which is “assigned” to him on the spot, and for which he has not previously done a design. Then, using music he has selected as being useful for evoking landscape form and patterns, he will, using chalk pastels, create a “first draft” of a design for the site.  This will be followed by a discussion of the sequence of steps in refining the landscape design.

Tao Orion
Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration
This presentation will focus on developing a whole systems-based understanding of invasive species as a foundation for holistically managing their populations. Invasive species are often viewed as the drivers of ecosystem change, and the practice of landscape management often focuses on their removal to improve ecosystem function and enhance biodiversity. A more holistic view of invasive species places them within a larger social, economic, and ecological context as symptoms, rather than causes, of changing ecosystems. Factors including climate change, historic changes in land use and management, and even our modern concept of nature and wilderness contribute to the status of ecosystems we live in today, many of which are declining in health and productivity. Landscapers and land managers have an important role to play in accounting for and mitigating these forces as they make plans for increasing biodiversity, beauty, and ecosystem function over the long term.

David Seiter
Designing a Patchwork Ecology in Urban Ecosystems
Mr. Seiter will investigate the role of wild plants in the urban ecosystem by profiling a cross section of weeds. By comparing the principles of urban ecology with those of aesthetic design, Mr. Seiter challenges contemporary concepts and cultural perceptions about the value of weeds. His intent is to stimulate a discourse between ecologists, landscape architects, and policy-makers that explores societal perceptions of weeds and questions the stigmas that surround them.

Eric Toensmier
Carbon Mitigation Through Soil & Plant Management
Climate change mitigation may be the great challenge for humanity in the 21st century. Land management plays an important role in reducing emissions and sequestering excess atmospheric CO2. This presentation will review the process of sequestration in soils and biomass, and introduce a range of mitigation practices suited to farms and landscapes in the Northeast.

Toby Wolf
Authentic, Whole, and Alive: Design Lessons from Wild Landscapes
What if designed landscapes could inspire, challenge, and delight us in some of the same ways that wild places do? Mr. Wolf will explore the experiential qualities that we value in natural landscapes and look at the elements that give rise to those qualities.  Using examples from his designs for public spaces and private homes, he will demonstrate how designers and horticulturalists can bring a sense of wildness into the designed landscape, whether urban or suburban, large or small, planted or paved.

Dr. Christopher Woodall and Dr. David Bloniarz
Capturing Carbon with Trees
This two-part presentation will focus on carbon sequestration and the ecosystem services that are provided by trees. In Part one, Dr. Woodall will look at how forested rural area carbon assessment is done in the US. He will discuss how these assessments suggest that forests currently offset over 10% of carbon dioxide associated with fossil fuel emissions every year. Because forests and trees in developed landscapes sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide through growth and expansion, their preservation could play an important role in the ability of the United States to reach net zero emissions. Part two will examine the importance and value of trees in developed areas and how they play a critical role in making cities healthier for residents and more resilient to climate change pressures. Dr. Bloniarz will provide examples of several completed i-Tree (a software analysis and reporting tool developed by the US Forest Service) studies and discuss how trees address carbon sequestration, stormwater interception and energy usage. An overview of how users of i-Tree software can easily calculate the structure, function and value of trees in developed landscapes will also be presented.


Heather McCargo
Understanding and Sowing Native Seeds
The seeds of wild plants have a different set of requirements than those of garden and vegetable species. In this talk and demonstration, Ms. McCargo will describe the reproductive life cycle of different types of native plants and explain how we can change our practices to help support wild plant reproduction, and by extension, pollinators and other wildlife. Ms. McCargo will discuss native seed sowing and demonstrate simple outdoor propagation techniques that anyone can do. Growing native plants from seed is a way to interact with our native flora and is an inexpensive means of producing a lot of plants.

  1. Pest Panel – Details coming soon
  2. Ecological Score Card: How Do Your Landscapes Measure Up?  – Details coming soon
  3. Final Idea Exchange Session – Details coming soon