Thank you to everyone who has spoken with us about their experiences! Our findings will be published soon in the Journal of Urban Ecology. We currently have a pre-print of our article available at PeerJ: https://peerj.com/preprints/26457/.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email or Twitter (@_kdyson) if you have questions about private property research!


Research taking place on private property is essential to the future of urban ecology. However, much of what we know about urban ecosystems is based on remotely sensed data (e.g. [1], [2], [3]), or public parks (e.g. [4]). When researchers have looked at private property on the ground, they frequently limit their study to publicly view-able front yards on single family residential property (e.g. [5]), despite research showing that front and back yards differ [6]. Other types of private property, including multi-family residential, commercial, and industrial, lack representation in the literature.

This gap is particularly problematic for urban ecology research addressing ecosystem function and processes. Most of the land management decisions that impact ecosystem function and processes are made at the parcel level, and most of the land in urban systems is in private ownership--but this is precisely where we are most blind.

Performing more urban ecology research on private property is the best way to address this gap in our knowledge. Many ecologists avoid working on private property because of the additional complications involved [personal communication]. This workshop was put together to address these concerns. The workshop's goal is to provide suggestions and lessons learned for ecologists considering conducting urban ecology research on private property. The workshop is aimed at urban ecologists who have research questions about private property but are unsure or hesitant about how to practically approach private property research.

Key Points

This workshop covers three key points for managing urban ecology research on private property. They are:

  1. The need to adapt your research (particularly sampling and research design) to the reality of working on private property;
  2. The importance of communication with property owners from first contact (for permission) to post-data collection; and
  3. That every researcher on private property will run into problems at some point. The researcher should anticipate issues and adapt when they occur.

The selection of these three points is based on personal experience and discussions with other researchers that have successfully completed private property research.


Please note that this workshop does not address certain topics because they are outside the scope and/or good information is available elsewhere. These topics include:

  1. How to come up with a good research question.
  2. Survey design. Many guides for designing surveys already exist; e.g. [8], [9].
  3. Citizen science and volunteer management. While these approaches overlap, other resources exist; e.g. [10], [11].
  4. Rural private property, including farm and forest plots. Research in these areas use many of the same approaches, but they have their own unique problems.