Rewilding The Urban University Campus

By: Xiaojun(Gwen) Xu

The purpose of Gwen Xu’s experiment was to create a more environmentally, and socially sustainable university campus. She wants to figure out the best possible strategies to help re-wild campuses in California. She begins to talk about when an area is undergoing urbanization; there is an alteration of landscapes, urban development, exploitation of species, toxic contamination of the environment, and climate change. She defines re-wilding as restoring nature and bringing wildlife back into urban areas. A university campus is considered a micro city due to the high-density population, complex infrastructure, and limited nature resources. Xu focuses on demonstrating just how difficult it would be to apply the process in a downtown city area because of the high level of civic advancement; it is much easier to complete this procedure in a more rural area. There are many benefits that are associated with re-wilding an urban setting. One of those benefits being that it helps protect biodiversity, and sustain a healthy functional system. It restores wild nature back into developed urban areas by adding natural landscaping such as cultivating native plants, to create a habitat for local wildlife. Through this process people can use natural resources with multiple benefits, and value. It also lends itself to recreation, relaxation, and education by allowing people to observe, and study wild species. Another positive note about re-wilding is that it can increase people’s interest in wildlife. She also addresses some of the limitations of the process like how it is not easy to apply to any corner of the city, or how competition of native plants and invasive species might play out. Also re-wilding has also destroyed or modified the habitats of many local species. It also has to be taken into consideration of human being’s use; the modified environment should be safe, and comfortable for humans and not bring back harmful wildlife. Gwen chose three universities for her case studies. Two of them were considered urban, and one was labeled a suburban campus. The campuses chosen were The University of California, Davis (suburban) California State University, Sacramento University, and The University of California in Berkeley. She conducted 39 surveys on these re-wilded campuses to analyze what were some of the most and least attractive parts of the area, and how people reacted to this process. The results were pretty positive in the fact that most people enjoyed that balance of going to school in an urban setting, but still having a natural feel to it. With the surveys and all of her observations, she went on to test the possibility of re-wilding another university campus at California State University, San Francisco. She made notes on the school, and the possible challenges that included re-wilding the campus such as the non- native trees that are widely spread around the area. With her research she was able to come up with a plan that would modify the area, and help restore nature back onto the campus. Gwen concludes that this is a process of creating a natural system that provides a suitable habitat for wildlife in an urbanized setting. It is also a method to seek a balance between nature and human dwelling.

I learned a lot about re-wilding in urban areas through Gwen’s case studies, and her own research that she conducted. It is important to understand the benefits and limitations of the area because that would project if you will be able to complete the process. Her guidelines also serve as a template that can really help when wanting to alter the urban area to make it more natural. It is constructed that all parties involved can be content. This also goes to show that re-wilding an urban university campus is beneficial for both the wildlife, and urban dwellers, and it can lend itself to communal expansion.

– Alejandro Vinueza

Skip to toolbar