Joan Iverson Nassauer


M.L.A. Landscape Architecture, 1978, Iowa State University

B.L.A. Landscape Architecture, 1975, University of Minnesota

Joan Iverson Nassauer is Professor of Landscape Architecture in the School of Natural Resources and Environment. She was named Fellow by the American Society of Landscape Architects (1992), Fellow of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (2007), and Distinguished Practitioner of Landscape Ecology in the US (1998) and Distinguished Scholar (2007) by the International Association of Landscape Ecology. She focuses on the cultural sustainability of ecological design in human-dominated landscapes.  Her research offers knowledge and strategies for basing ecological design on cultural insight, strong science, and creative engagement with policy. Her teaching and recent projects apply this approach to brownfields, vacant property, exurban sprawl, and agricultural landscapes.

Awards and Grants:
Nassauer has served as PI or co-PI managing more than 25 externally funded research projects with federal, state, and foundation support. She directs social science research innovation in the NSF-funded national socio-environmental synthesis center (  Recent projects include support by the Graham Institute to investigate cues to care in Detroit's most vacant neighborhoods; by the Genesee Institute to investigate Vacant Land as a Natural Asset in Flint, MI; NSF support for a series of Coupled Human and Natural Systems investigations of homeowners' preferences related to ecosystem services of exurban landscapes; and EPA and USDA Forest Service support for investigations of alternative agricultural landscape scenarios for the Upper Mississippi River Basin. 

Research Interests:
Human preferences and behavior in relation alternative landscape patterns and management.regimes and associated ecosystem services.

Design techniques for contributing to transdisciplinary research and policy development.

Current/Recent Research:
Professor Nassuer works with colleagues in ecology, civil engineering, forestry, and hydrology to develop and implement ecosystem management plans for rural landscapes, for urban watersheds, and to retrofit cities to improve their ecological health. Currently, she is working on:

Retrofitting cities - particularly brownfields and vacant property - for ecological function and water quality,

Design and perception of ecologically beneficial alternatives to sprawl, and

Using alternative policy scenarios and futures to anticipate and affect  landscape change.

Her  work involves  a) developing normative scenarios and measuring perception of alternative landscape futures in web-based surveys, and b) conducting design action research with stakeholders.

Teaching Interests:
Teaching focuses on landscape ecology and landscape perception, with applications in design and planning of agricultural and metropolitan watersheds.

Selected Publications:

  • Nassauer, J. I. 2011. Care and stewardship:  From home to planet. Landscape and Urban Planning. 100: 321-323.
  • Nassauer, J. I., J. A. Dowdell, Z. Wang, D. McKahn, B. Chilcott, C. L. Kling and S. Secchi.  2011. Iowa farmers' responses to transformative scenarios for Corn Belt agriculture. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 66:18A-24A.
  • Nassauer, J. I., and Opdam, P. 2008. Design in science: Extending the landscape ecology paradigm. Landscape Ecology 23: 633-644.
  • Nassauer, J. I., Santelmann, M. V., Scavia, D. 2007. From the Corn Belt to the Gulf: Societal and Environmental Implications of Alternative Agricultural Futures. Resources for the Future Press, Washington, D. C.
  • Gobster, P.H. , Nassauer, J. I., Daniel, T.C., Fry, G. 2007. The shared landscape: What does aesthetics have to do with ecology? Landscape Ecology 22: 959-972.
  • Nassauer, J. I., 2007. Cultural Sustainability: Aligning Aesthetics and Ecology. In Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism. A. Carlson and S. Lintott, eds., Columbia University Press, New York. pp.363-379. Reprinted from Placing Nature, J. I. Nassauer (ed.) 1997.
  • Nassauer, J. I. 2002. Messy Ecosystems, Orderly Frames. Pp.196-206. Reprinted from Landscape Journal, 1995. In Theory in Landscape Architecture: A reader. S. Swaffield, ed. University of Pennsylvania Press, 265 pp.
  • Nassauer, J. I. 2002. Agricultural landscapes in harmony with nature. pp. 189-193. (Revised and reprinted from Visions of American Agriculture, Wm. Lockeretz, ed. 1997) In Fatal Harvest, Douglas Tompkins, ed. Island Press, Washington, D. C. 384 pp.
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1999. Ecological Retrofit. Landscape Journal, 17:2, pp. 15-17.
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1995. Culture and Changing Landscape Structure. Landscape Ecology. 10:4, pp. 229-237.
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1993. Ecological Function and the Perception of Suburban Residential Landscapes. In: Managing Urban and High Use Recreation Settings. Gobster, P.A., ed. General Technical Report, USDA Forest Service North Central Station.
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1992. The Appearance of Ecological Systems as a Matter of Policy. Landscape Ecology. 6:4, 239-250..
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1988. The Aesthetics of Horticulture: Neatness as a Form of Care. HortSci. 23:6.
  • Nassauer, J.I. 1986. Caring for the Countryside. University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. St. Paul. AD-SB-3017.
  • Nassauer, J. 1979. Managing for Naturalness in Wildlands and Agricultural Lands. Our National Landscape. USDA General Technical Report PSW-35, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Berkeley, California