My research focuses on the application of ecology to study and build safe, environmentally sustainable, equitable, and resilient urban ecosystems. Using a socio-ecological framework, I apply both quantitative and qualitative tools to study plants, animals, humans and their combined interactions with the natural and built environments. Across the globe, urban areas are growing at unprecedented rates. The impacts of urbanization on plants, wildlife, and natural resources will continue to intensify and need to be thoughtfully studied and managed in the coming decades.
My ecological research focused on the plant ecology of green roofs, or vegetated rooftops. Green roofs can help mitigate negative environmental impacts of urbanization, such as excess stormwater run-off, the urban heat island effect, and habitat fragmentation. Specifically, I used a novel experimental design to partition the effects of local and regional influences on survivorship of native plant species (Aloisio et al. 2017). This research also explored plant assembly dynamics on green roofs and the competitive interactions between introduced and native plant species, under varying biotic and abiotic conditions (Aloisio et al. 2020, Aloisio et al. 2019). Additionally, I’ve explored the impacts of plant selection and growing medium properties on green roof ecosystem function, such as stormwater run-off (Aloisio et al. 2016). My research indicates that plant selection and microclimate are particularly important factors to consider when designing green roofs and can have long-term implications on community structure and function.
Place-based research mentoring and science education
My research on Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology), a summer urban ecology research mentoring program for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, has clearly demonstrated that undergraduates have the capacity to simultaneously develop an independent research project and mentor high school students (Aloisio under-review). My research indicates also that high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields adore their undergraduate mentors (near-peer mentors) and experience increases in self-efficacy and science identity (Aloisio et al. 2018), each key predictors of long-term success in STEM careers. Finally, high school and undergraduate participants of Project TRUE ubiquitously report the experience opened their eyes to the hidden complexity of nature and catalyzed a deeper appreciation and connection to nature.