Start receiving our award-winning magazine today!

Subscribe

Our Scientists

Robert McDonald


Robert McDonald

Lead Scientist, Global Cities

Dr. Robert McDonald is Lead Scientist for the Global Cities program at The Nature Conservancy. He researches the impact and dependences of cities on the natural world, and helps direct the science behind much of the Conservancy’s urban conservation work.He holds a PhD in Ecology from Duke University and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and a recent book, entitled Conservation for Cities.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, he was a Smith Conservation Biology Fellow at Harvard University, studying the impact global urban growth will have on biodiversity and conservation. He also taught landscape ecology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, helping architects and planners incorporate ecological principles into their projects.

Download Rob's CV

Read Robert McDonald's Full Biography

Blogs by Rob

Farming, Adapting to Climate Change & the Limits of Imagination

A new study from Conservancy scientists says irrigation needs are going to increase significantly under future climate change projections. Can farmers be equally radical in how they respond to these drier conditions?

Studies by Rob

Rob in the News

Publications

Studies by Rob

Conservation Solutions Can Improve Water Quality for More Than 700 Million People Around the World

A study by Rob finds that investing in watershed conservation is cost-effective for one in four cities. Reuters reports.

Climate Change Could Leave 1 Billion Urbanites High and Dry by 2050

Scientific American reports on Rob's research into how climate change and rapid urban growth will impact water security.

Study Warns of Energy Sprawl

The New York Times quotes Rob on the future of energy sprawl in the United States.

2016

McDonald, R.I. (2016). Putting biodiversity and ecosystem services into urban planning and conservation. In: The Routledge handbook on urbanization and global environmental change (eds. Seto, K.C., Solecki, W. & Griffith, C.A.). Taylor & Francis, Okon, UK.

2015

McDonald, R.I. (2015). Conservation for cities: how to plan & build natural infrastructure. Island Press.

McDonald, R.I. (2015). The effectiveness of conservation interventions to overcome the urban–environmental paradox. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1355, 1–14.

McDonald, R.I., Guneralp, B., Zipperer, W. & Marcotullio, P. (2015). The future of global urbanization and the environment. Solutions, 6, 60–69.

Reddy, S.M.W., McDonald, R.I., Maas, A.S., Rogers, A., Girvetz, E.H., Molnar, J., Finley, T., Leathers, G. & DiMuro, J.L. (2015). Industrialized watersheds have elevated risk and limited opportunities to mitigate risk through water trading. Water Resources and Industry, 11, 27–45.

Reddy, S.M.W., McDonald, R.I., S. Maas, A., Rogers, A., Girvetz, E.H., North, J., Molnar, J., Finley, T., Leathers, G. & L. DiMuro, J. (2015). Finding solutions to water scarcity: incorporating ecosystem service values into business planning at The Dow Chemical Company’s Freeport, TX facility. Ecosystem Services, 12, 94–107.

2014

McDonald, R.I. & Shemie, D. (2014). Urban water blueprint: mapping conservation solutions to the global water challenge. The Nature Conservancy, Washington, D.C.

 

McDonald, R.I., Weber, K., Padowski, J., Flörke, M., Schneider, C., Green, P.A., Gleeson, T., Eckman, S., Lehner, B., Balk, D., Boucher, T., Grill, G. & Montgomery, M. (2014). Water on an urban planet: urbanization and the reach of urban water infrastructure. Global Environmental Change, 27, 96–105.

 

Tallis, H. & Lubchenco, J., R.I. McDonald, and 237 more co-authors. (2014). Working together: a call for inclusive conservation. Nature, 515, 27–28.

2013 

Elmqvist, T., Fragkias, M., Goodness, J., Guneralp, B., Marcotullio, P.J., McDonald, R.I., Parnell, S., Schewenius, M., Sendstad, M., Seto, K.C. & Wilkinson, C. (eds.). (2013). Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem service: challenges and opportunities. Springer Netherlands.

Elmqvist, T., Fragkias, M., Goodness, J., Güneralp, B., Marcotullio, P.J., McDonald, R.I., et al. (2013). Stewardship of the biosphere in the urban era. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 719–746.

Güneralp, B., McDonald, R.I., Fragkias, M., Goodness, J., Marcotullio, P.J. & Seto, K.C. (2013). Urbanization forecasts, effects on land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 437–452.

McDonald, R.I. (2013). Implications of urbanization for conservation and biodiversity protection. In: Encyclopedia of biodiversity (ed. Levin, S.). Academic Press, Waltham, pp. 231–244.

McDonald, R.I. & Girvetz, E.H. (2013). Two challenges for U.S. irrigation due to climate change: increasing irrigated area in wet states and increasing irrigation rates in dry states. PLoS ONE, 8, e65589.

McDonald, R.I., Marcotullio, P.J. & Güneralp, B. (2013). Urbanization and global trends in bodiversity and ecosystem services. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 31–52.

2012 

Christensen, J., McDonald, R. & Denning, C. (2012). Ecological urbanism for the 21st Century. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Girvetz, E.H., McDonald, R., Heiner, M., Kiesecker, J., Davaa, G., Pague, C., Durnin, M. & Oidov, E. (2012). Eastern Mongolian grassland steppe. In: Climate and conservation (eds. Hilty, J.A., Chester, C.C. & Cross, M.S.). Island Press/Center for Resource Economics, pp. 92–103.

McDonald, R.I., Olden, J.D., Opperman, J.J., Miller, W.M., Fargione, J., Revenga, C., Higgins, J.V. & Powell, J. (2012). Energy, water and fish: biodiversity impacts of energy-sector water demand in the United States depend on efficiency and policy measures. PLoS ONE, 7, e50219.

Vaux, H., Balk, D., Cook, E., Gleick, P., Lau, W., Levy, M., Malone, E., McDonald, R.I., Shindell, D., Thompson, L., Wescoat, J., Williams, M., Matthew, R., Walser, M., Helsabeck, L., Majmundar, M. & Freeland, S. (2012). Himalayan glaciers: climate change, water resources, and water security. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

2011 

McDonald, R. (2011). The coming global urbanization: what it means for freshwater provision. Journal of the American Water Works Association, 103, 20–21.

McDonald, R.I. & Boucher, T.M. (2011). Global development and the future of the protected area strategy. Biological Conservation, 144, 383–392.

McDonald, R.I., Douglas, I., Revenga, C., Hale, R., Grimm, N., Grönwall, J. & Fekete, B. (2011). Global urban growth and the geography of water availability, quality, and delivery. AMBIO, 40, 437–446.

McDonald, R.I., Green, P., Balk, D., Fekete, B.M., Revenga, C., Todd, M. & Montgomery, M. (2011). Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. PNAS, 108, 6312–6317. (Media coverage: Agence France Presse, EFE, Xinhua, El Pais, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Scientific American)

McDonald, R. & Marcotullio, P. (2011). Global effects of urbanization on ecosystem services. In: Urban ecology (eds. Breuste, J.H., Elmqvist, T., Guntenspergen, G., James, P. & McIntyre, N.E.). Oxford University Press, pp. 193–205.

2010 

Denning, C.A., McDonald, R.I. & Christensen, J. (2010). Did land protection in Silicon Valley reduce the housing stock? Biological Conservation, 143, 1087–1093.

McDonald, R.I., Forman, R.T.T. & Kareiva, P. (2010). Open space loss and land inequality in United States’ cities, 1990–2000. PLoS ONE, 5, e9509.

2009

McDonald, R. (2009). P. F. Downton: Ecopolis: architecture and cities for a changing climate. Landscape Ecol, 24, 849–850.

McDonald, R.I. (2009). Ecosystem service demand and supply along the urban-to-rural gradient. Journal of Conservation Planning, 5, 1–14.

McDonald, R.I. (2009). The promise and pitfalls of systematic conservation planning. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106, 15101–15102.

McDonald, R.I., Fargione, J., Kiesecker, J., Miller, W.M. & Powell, J. (2009). Energy sprawl or energy efficiency: climate policy impacts on natural habitat for the United States of America. PLoS ONE, 4, e6802. (Media coverage: New York Times, NPR, Bloomberg News. The term was picked up in the Congressional debate on climate change, and was the subject of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.)

McDonald, R.I., Forman, R.T.T., Kareiva, P., Neugarten, R., Salzer, D. & Fisher, J. (2009). Urban effects, distance, and protected areas in an urbanizing world. Landscape and Urban Planning, 93, 63–75.

2008

McDonald, R.I. (2008). Global urbanization: can ecologists identify a sustainable way forward? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 6, 99–104.

Mcdonald, R.I., Kareiva, P. & Forman, R.T.T. (2008). The implications of current and future urbanization for global protected areas and biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation, 141, 1695–1703.

McDonald, R.I., Motzkin, G. & Foster, D.R. (2008). Assessing the influence of historical factors, contemporary processes, and environmental conditions on the distribution of invasive species. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 135, 260–271.

McDonald, R.I., Motzkin, G. & Foster, D.R. (2008). The effect of logging on vegetation composition in Western Massachusetts. Forest Ecology and Management, 255, 4021–4031.

Minor, E.S., McDonald, R.I., Treml, E.A. & Urban, D.L. (2008). Uncertainty in spatially explicit population models. Biological Conservation, 141, 956–970.

2007

Forman, R.T.T. & McDonald, R.I. (2007). A massive increase in roadside woody vegetation: goals, pros, and cons. In: Road Ecology Center. Presented at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, pp. 229–38.

Kareiva, P., Watts, S., McDonald, R. & Boucher, T. (2007). Domesticated nature: shaping landscapes and ecosystems for human welfare. Science, 316, 1866–1869.

McDonald, R. (2007). E. Freyfogle, The land we share: private property and the common good. Landscape Ecol, 22, 1107–1108.

McDonald, R. (2007). E. Freyfogle, Why conservation is failing and how it can regain ground. Landscape Ecol, 23, 373–374.

McDonald, R.I. (2007). A world of the city, by the city, for the city. In: Taking sides: clashing views on global issues (eds. Harf, J.E. & Lombardi, M.O.). McGraw-Hill, New York.

McDonald, R.I., Halpin, P.N. & Urban, D.L. (2007). Monitoring succession from space: a case study from the North Carolina Piedmont. Applied Vegetation Science, 10, 193–203.

McDonald, R.I., Yuan-Farrell, C., Fievet, C., Moeller, M., Kareiva, P., Foster, D., Gragson, T., Kinzig, A., Kuby, L. & Redman, C. (2007). Estimating the effect of protected lands on the development and conservation of their surroundings. Conservation Biology, 21, 1526–1536.

McKnight, M.W., White, P.S., McDonald, R.I., Lamoreux, J.F., Sechrest, W., Ridgely, R.S. & Stuart, S.N. (2007). Putting beta-diversity on the map: broad-scale congruence and coincidence in the extremes. PLoS Biol, 5, e272.

Soininen, J., McDonald, R. & Hillebrand, H. (2007). The distance decay of similarity in ecological communities. Ecography, 30, 3–12.

2006

McDonald, R. (2006). Sustainable development as freedom. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 13, 445–447.

McDonald, R.I. (2006). Rates of environmental problem generation: thoughts on a new research direction. Environmentalist, 26, 221–225.

McDonald, R.I., Motzkin, G., Bank, M.S., Kittredge, D.B., Burk, J. & Foster, D.R. (2006). Forest harvesting and land-use conversion over two decades in Massachusetts. Forest Ecology and Management, Perspectives on Site Productivity of Loblolly Pine Plantations in the Southern United States, 227, 31–41.

McDonald, R.I. & Urban, D.L. (2006). Edge effects on species composition and exotic species abundance in the North Carolina Piedmont. Biol Invasions, 8, 1049–1060.

McDonald, R.I. & Urban, D.L. (2006). Spatially varying rules of landscape change: lessons from a case study. Landscape and Urban Planning, 74, 7–20.

Urban, D.L., McDonald, R.I., Minor, E.S. & Treml, E.A. (2006). Causes and consequences of land use change in the North Carolina Piedmont: the scope of uncertainty. In: Scaling and uncertainty analysis in ecology (eds. Wu, J., Jones, K.B., Li, H. & Loucks, O.L.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 239–257.

2005

Mansfield, C., Pattanayak, S.K., McDow, W., McDonald, R. & Halpin, P. (2005). Shades of green: measuring the value of urban forests in the housing market. Journal of Forest Economics, 11, 177–199.

McDonald, R., McKnight, M., Weiss, D., Selig, E., O’Connor, M., Violin, C. & Moody, A. (2005). Species compositional similarity and ecoregions: do ecoregion boundaries represent zones of high species turnover? Biological Conservation, 126, 24–40.

Taverna, K., Urban, D.L. & McDonald, R.I. (2005). Modeling landscape vegetation pattern in response to historic land-use: a hypothesis-driven approach for the North Carolina Piedmont, USA. Landscape Ecol, 20, 689–702.

2004

McDonald, R.I. & Urban, D.L. (2004). Forest edges and tree growth rates in the North Carolina Piedmont. Ecology, 85, 2258–2266.

2003

McDonald, R. I., Peet, R. k. & Urban, D. l. (2003). Spatial pattern of Quercus regeneration limitation and Acer rubrum invasion in a Piedmont forest. Journal of Vegetation Science, 14, 441–450.

2002

McDonald, R.I., Peet, R.K. & Urban, D.L. (2002). Environmental correlates of oak decline and red maple increase in the North Carolina Piedmont. Castanea, 67, 84–95.

Dr. Robert McDonald is Lead Scientist for the Global Cities program at The Nature Conservancy. He researches the impact and dependencies of cities on the natural world, and helps direct the science behind much of the Conservancy’s urban conservation work.He holds a PhD in Ecology from Duke University and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and a recent book, entitled Conservation for Cities (Island Press) which documents the role green infrastructure can play in the well-being of urban residents.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Rob was a Smith Conservation Biology Fellow at Harvard University, studying the impact global urban growth will have on biodiversity and conservation. He also taught landscape ecology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, helping architects and planners incorporate ecological principles into their projects. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Contact

Matt Miller
Media Contact, Director of Science Communications
Phone: 208-350-2203
E-mail: m_miller[at]tnc[dot]org

Areas of Expertise

  • Conservation for Cities
  • Urban Sustainability
  • Water Use

We’re Accountable

The Nature Conservancy makes careful use of your support.

More Ratings

x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.