Patrick T. Hurley, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Chair
Ursinus College
PO Box 1000
Collegeville, PA  19426

phurley AT

I am an environmental social scientist who is interested in human-environment interactions and trained in human geography methods. I teach several courses in the Environmental Studies Program that examine the social-ecological dimensions of environmental change, conservation, and management. Students in my courses explore the complexities of the urban-rural continuum on places and their ecologies.  This includes places both within the developed and developing worlds. Project-based learning is a key feature of these classes, with selected interested students often working with me on research projects.


  • B.A. German Language, University of Maryland, 1994
  • B.A. Government and Politics, University of Maryland, 1994
  • M.S. Environmental Studies, University of Oregon, 2001
  • Ph.D. Environmental Science, Studies and Policy, University of Oregon, 2004

  “[W]e need much subtler tools for distinguishing a range of human impacts on natural systems, some negative, some neutral, some positive, all judged by values that cannot help but be anthropogenic even as we strive to make them less anthropocentric.”

Cronon, W. 2000. "Resisting monoliths and tabulae rasae" Ecological Applications 10(3): 673-675

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"We cannot afford to see people as opponents—especially not those who oppose us. The conservation community can't afford to draw lines in the sand. Seeing people as enemies distorts them into something both bigger and smaller than they really are. We must embrace our enemies, look into their eyes long enough to see ourselves. Then we can begin talking. Some people make this easy; others, difficult. Some of those who make it difficult are on our side. The barriers have to go. In a world of hurt and need, what choice is there?" 

Nichols, W.J. and C. Safina. 2004 Page 36 in "Lunch with a Turtle Poacher" Conservation in Practice Fall: 30-3


In addition to core courses in environmental studies, my teaching focuses on the social-ecological dimensions of environmental change and management. A key feature of several of the "synthesis courses" I teach is the mix of interdisciplinary literature and project-based, experiential learning assignments.

  • ENV 100 - Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • ENV 332 - Globalization and the Environment
  • ENV 338 - Forests and People
  • ENV 342 - Urbanization and the Environment (Project focus)
  • ENV 366 - Ecological Change in Historical Perspective (Project focus)
  • ENV 368 - Political Ecology
  • ENV 454W - Sustainability in Urbanizing Watersheds  (Capstone, Project focus)


My research examines the implications that changes in politics, land-use, and landcover associated with urbanization have for natural resource-based livelihoods (practices), conservation efforts, and environmental governance.  My research draws on diverse theoretical threads within environmental geography and the subfield of political ecology. I rely primarily on a mixture of ethnographic and GIS methods.  Findings have implications for land-use policy and planning, biodiversity conservation practice, and urban forest and greenspace management.

Currently, I am working on several collaborative projects that explore:

  1. NonTimber Forest Product foraging practices in urbanized and urbanizing environments in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area as well as beyond (in New York City with Dr. Marla Emery (U.S. Forest Service) as well as in Seattle with Dr. Rebecca McLain, IFCAE, and Dr. Melissa Poe);
  2. Exurbanization and land conservation in southeastern Pennsylvania;
  3. The role that amenity migrants play in shaping land-use and conservation in the Kaz Dağı (Ida Mountains) region of western Turkey (with Dr. Yılmaz Arı of the University of Balikesir); and
  4. The consequences of urbanization for sweetgrass basket-making communities in the greater Mt. Pleasant area of South Carolina.

In the past, I have examined the politics of planning in California's Sierra Nevada (Hurley and Walker 2004) as well as the ways that peoples' visions about appropriate land-use shape planning practices in the State of Oregon's much celebrated statewide planning system (Walker and Hurley 2010). I am drawn particularly to case studies where amenity migration shapes both uses of the environment and the places that are either developed or conserved.

Students are active participants in my research, including working on suburban foraging and NonTimber Forest Product management in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. Students are also actively engaged in examinations of exurban Philadelphia as well as occasional documentation of the historical geography and emergent social dynamics of urban greening in West Philadelphia.

Selected Publications

  • Hurley, P., M. Emery, R. McLain, M. Poe, B. Grabbatin, and C. Goetcheus. Forthcoming. Whose urban forest? The political ecology of gathering urban Non Timber Forest Products (uNTFPs). In Sustainability in the Global City. Isenhour, C., M. Checker, and G. McDonogh (editors). Cambridge University Press.
  • Poe, M., J. LeCompte, R. McLain, and P. Hurley. 2014. Urban foraging and the relational ecologies of belonging. Social & Cultural Geography
  • McLain, M., P. Hurley, M. Emery, and M. Poe. 2014. Gathering "wild" food in the city: Rethinking the role of urban foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management. Local Environment 19 (2): 220-240
  • Poe, M., R. McLain, M. Emery, and P.T. Hurley. 2013. Urban forest justice and the rights to wild foods, medicines, and materials in the city. Human Ecology 41: 409-422.
  • Hurley, P.T. 2012. Whose 'sense of place': A political ecology of amenity development in Central Oregon. In Place-based conservation: Perspectives from the social sciences. Stewart, W., D. Williams, and L. Kruger (Editors). Springer.
  • Hurley, P.T., B. Grabbatin, A. Halfacre, and C. Goetcheus. 2012. Gathering, Buying, and Growing grass: Urbanization and Social Networking in the Sweetgrass Basket-Making Industry of Lowcountry South Carolina. In African Ethnobotany in the Americas, Robert Voeks and John Rashford (editors). Pp. 153-174. New York: Springer Publishers
  • Hurley, P.T. and Y. Arı. 2011. Mining (Dis)Amenity: The political ecology of mining opposition in the Ida Mountain region of western Turkey. Development and Change. 42(6): 1393-1415.
  • B. Grabbatin, P. Hurley, and A. Halfacre. 2011. "I still have the old tradition": The co-production of sweetgrass basketry and coastal development. Geoforum 42: 638-649
  • P.A. Walker and P.T. Hurley. 2011. Planning paradise: Politics and visioning of Land Use in Oregon. University of Arizona Press: Tucson, AZ.
  • Hurley, P.T. and A. Halfacre. 2011. Dodging alligators, rattlesnakes, and backyard docks: A political ecology of sweetgrass basket-making and conservation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, USA. GeoJournal 76(4): 383-399
  • Hurley, P.T. and E. Carr. 2010. Introduction: Why a Political Ecology of the US South? Southeastern Geographer 50(1)

Selected Conference Presentations (Including Student Presentations)

  • Maccaroni, M.* and P. Hurley. "Exurban Forest Metabolism? A Political Ecology of Material Landscape Transformations in Southeastern, PA "  Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers in Tampa Bay, FL. April, 2014.
  • Hurley, P., M. Dzuna*, M. Emery, L. Brody*, A. Schwemin*, and B. Satmary*. “Hidden resources, illegal harvests: 'Wild’ plant gathering and the role of parks and protected areas in the Philadelphia, PA Metro Area” Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, March 2014.
  • Hurley, P. "Engaging Urban Greening: The Role of Student-Led Oral History in Assessing the Success of Urban Tree Connection in the Haddington Neighborhood of West Philadelphia" Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Dombay, M.* and P. Hurley. "Analysis of Suburban Forest Species Composition in Land-Use Policies in Montgomery County, PA" Poster at the Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Dzuna, M.* and P. Hurley. "Suburban NTFP Gathering in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area" Poster at the Annual Meetings of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, Burlington, VT, June 2011.
  • Brody, L.* and P. Hurley. “Gathering in the Neighborhood: NTFPs in the suburbs of Philadelphia.” Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, DC. April, 2010.

       *Student presenter

Last Updated 04/04/2014 05:19 PM