Hixon Center Urban Conference

Hixon Center Urban Conference

Urban Forests: Solutions for a Changing Climate

September 15, 2023


About the Conference

The 10th annual Hixon Center Urban Conference is jointly convened by the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology, the USDA Forest Service, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Natural Areas Conservancy.  This hybrid event will be on Zoom and at the Yale School of the Environment’s Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect St. New Haven, CT 06511.

There is mounting evidence that trees in cities hold an important role in ameliorating the impacts of climate change and addressing environmental injustices. Last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concludes with confidence that extreme urban heat waves will occur more frequently in the future. The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme heat events is both a physical and mental health hazard. This is especially harmful for Environmental Justice communities, who often have unequal access to tree cover and the associated environmental benefits that trees provide. Urban forestry efforts can help address these challenges. The Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act has created historic levels of funding to support the expansion of urban forestry practices and programs. This conference brings together researchers and practitioners to highlight the latest urban forestry research and innovative management examples to help meet this significant funding opportunity.

Schedule of Events


Light Breakfast and Check In (for in-person registrants only)



Karen Seto, PhD, Yale School of the Environment

Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science; IPCC Working Group III Coordinating Lead Author

Opening Keynote

Beattra Wilson, USDA Forest Service

Assistant Director for Cooperative Forestry

Panel 1: Transformative Leadership - Decision Makers at the Forefront of Change

Mayors have proven crucial in addressing the climate crisis as they make bold decisions and enact effective change in their cities. Around the world, mayors are assuming leadership in implementing innovative urban forestry solutions that mitigate the effects of climate change and improve local conditions for residents. This panel features mayors and vice mayors who embody these transformative leadership qualities.

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE , Freetown, Sierra Leone


Matúš Vallo, Bratislava, Slovakia


Ioannis Anastasakis, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Vice Mayor of Technical Projects, Urban Green Space & Daily Affairs

Justin Elicker, City of New Haven


Jessica Seddon, PhD, Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs

Senior Fellow

Coffee Break


Panel 2: Protecting Threatened Natural Forests in Cities

The focus on planting and managing street trees remains critically important to city residents, who derive direct benefit from the trees planted right outside of their homes. However, managing the natural forests of the city is essential, too, as natural areas account for about two-thirds of all tree cover in cities. Panelists in this session will include researchers exploring key threats to these urban forests and practitioners sharing their management strategies to care for tree canopy found in natural areas.

Richard Hallett, PhD, USDA Forest Service

Research Ecologist

Clara Pregitzer, PhD, Natural Areas Conservancy

Deputy Director of Conservation Science; IPCC Working Group III Contributing Author

Amy Witt, Forest Park Forever

Park Ecologist

Kelli Ondracek, City of Houston

Natural Resources Manager

Mark Bradford, PhD, Yale School of the Environment

Professor, Soil Systems and Ecology



Panel 3: Urban Tree Canopies to Mitigate Heat

It is well understood that tree canopy cover provides cooling via shade and evapotranspiration. Panelists in this session present the implications of the Urban Heat Island effect. Researchers share their latest findings on health impacts, and land surface temperatures trends. Urban forestry practitioners share their management approaches to use tree cover to mitigate rising temperatures.

Ariane Middel, PhD, Arizona State University

Associate Professor

Matthew Browning, PhD, Clemson University

Associate Professor, Director, Virtual Reality and Nature Lab

Sharon Danks, Green Schoolyards America

Founder and CEO

Brian Knox, City of Tampa, Florida

Senior Urban Forester

Jordana Vasquez, Resilient Cities Network

Senior Manager, Climate Resilience & Equity

Panel 4: Innovative Strategies to Increase Canopy Cover - From Local to National

Federal and state government leaders drive government policies and allocation of resources that will shape urban forestry management opportunities across the United States. The network of state urban foresters supported by the USDA Forest Service are essential agents who understand the capacity needs and challenges faced by different regions, as well as emerging innovations.

Danica Doroski, PhD, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

State Urban Forester

Ben Thompson, WA State Department of Natural Resources

Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager

Kalaia Tripeaux, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Tree Equity Specialist

Danielle Gift, USDA Forest Service

Regional Urban & Community Forestry Program Coordinator

Closing Keynote

Nancy Grimm, PhD, Arizona State University

Regents Professor