UrbEnNet: An Urban Environmental Network to understand the impacts of urbanization on our environment

2019/2020 Urban Challenge Progress

How urbanization shapes the physical and living environment of cities

Urban areas are the fastest growing ecosystem on Earth, with 82% of Canadians and 55% of the world’s population living in urbanized areas. Urbanization rapidly changes environments, but the magnitude, consistency and extent of these effects are poorly understood. Moreover, the consequences of urban environmental change for ecological and evolutionary processes, human well-being, conservation of rare species, and the control of pests, requires active investigation. The focus of this Urban Challenge Grant is to address these knowledge gaps. Together, we seek to answer the question: How does urbanization shape the physical and living environment of cities at local, regional and global scales?

To answer this question, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will be a model for understanding how urbanization affects the environmental characteristics of land, air, water and life in cities. We will create an Urban Environmental Network (UrbEnNet), in the form of a widespread and high-density real-time monitoring system of the environmental effects of urbanization throughout the GTA. UrbEnNet will also include detailed experiments and analyses that complement and validate real-time environmental data, advancing our understanding of how urban environmental change affects the physiology, behaviour, ecology and evolution of all life. The stage I meetings will be used to build collaborations and partnerships aimed at data collection, experiments, analyses, communication of our results and engagement with the public.

Don Valley in Toronto looking northwards. Fall foliage is visible and there is haze in the air


Past Events

May 2019: UrbEnNet I ; UrbEnNet II

June 2019: UrbEnNet III ; UrbEnNet IV

August 2019: UrbEnNet V

September 2019: UrbEnNet VI




Team Lead 

  • Marc Johnson, Associate Professor, Director, Centre for Urban Environments, CRC-II, Biology (UTM) 

Team Members

  • Matthew Adams, Assistant Professor, Geography (UTM)
  • Spencer Barrett, Professor Emeritus, FRSC, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Katharina Braeutigam, Assistant Professor, Biology (UTM)
  • Marc Cadotte, Professor, TD Chair, Connaught Scholar, Biology (UTSC)
  • Steven Chatfield, Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream), Biology (UTM)
  • Tenley Conway, Professor, Geography (UTM)
  • Timothy Duval, Assistant Professor, Geography (UTM)
  • Marie-Josee Fortin, Professor, CRC-I, FRSC, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Megan Frederickson, Associate Professor, FRSC, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Ben Gilbert, Associate Professor,  Interim Director, KSR, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Eliana Gonzales-Vigil, Assistant Professor,  Biology (UTSC)
  • Monika Havelka, Associate Professor (Teaching Stream), Geography (UTM)
  • Yuhong He, Professor, Chair of Biology, Geography (UTM)
  • Sanja Hinic-Frlog, Associate Professor (Teaching Stream),  Biology (UTM)
  • Marney Isaac, Associate Professor CRC-II, Physical & Environmental Sciences (UTSC)
  • Donald Jackson, Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)    
  • Peter Kotanen,  Professor,  Biology (UTM)        
  • Scott MacIvor, Assistant Professor,  Biology (UTSC)
  • Nicholas Mandrak, Associate Professor, Director, UTSC Conservation and Biodiversity Grad Programs; COSEWIC; President, Canadian Aquatic Resources Section of Am Fisheries Society,  Biology (UTSC)
  • Liat Margolis, Associate Professor, Director, Master of Landscape Architecture, Associate Dean, Research, Daniels Faculty (UTSG) 
  • Patricia McCarney, Associate Professor, Director, Global Cities Institute, Political Science (UTSG)
  • Shannon McCauley, Assistant Professor, Biology (UTM)
  • Bailey McMeans, Assistant Professor, Biology (UTM)
  • Carl Mitchell, Associate Professor, Associate Graduate Chair, MScEnvSci BITAS Program Director, Physical & Environmental Sciences (UTSC)
  • Kent Moore, Professor, Vice-Principal, Chemical & Physical Sciences (UTM) 
  • Barbara Murck, Professor, Geography (UTM)
  • Robert Ness, Assistant Professor, Biology (UTM)        
  • John Ratcliffe, Associate Professor    CRC-II, Biology (UTM)
  • Christoph Richter, Associate Professor, Biology (UTM)
  • Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Steven Short, Associate Professor, Biology (UTM)    
  • Myrna Simpson, Professor, Associate Director Environmental NMR Center, Physical & Environmental Sciences (UTSC)
  • Andre Simpson, Professor, Director Environmental NMR Center,  Physical & Environmental Sciences (UTSC)
  • Sandy Smith, Professor, Forestry (UTSG)
  • John Stinchcombe, Professor, Director, KSR, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
  • Helene Wagner, Associate Professor, Biology (UTM)
  • Ken Welch, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, Research, Biology (UTSC)