Richard T. T. Forman
Research Professor, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Education and Scholarly Evolution

Professor Forman received his bachelor’s degree in biology at Haverford College and Ph.D. in botany at the University of Pennsylvania, after which he served two years as an American Friends Service Committee volunteer in Guatemala and Honduras.  His early scholarly career focused on moss, avian and forest ecology.  This led in overlapping sequence to research in landscape ecology, road ecology, and urban ecology.  Currently his research and writing highlight simple spatial models and changing land mosaics, conservation and land use planning, built-and-greenspace patterns in cities, towns,  netway system to replace roads-and-cars, and, more broadly, linking science with spatial pattern to optimally mesh nature and people on the land.  While the discovery and development of ecology principles remain central, he increasingly integrates these with other fields for society.  He is associated with Harvard’s FAS Environmental Science and Public Policy concentration, Harvard University Center for the Environment, and The Harvard Forest.


Forman taught at the Escuela Agricola Panamericana (Honduras), University of Wisconsin, Rutgers University, and several field stations.  At Harvard, he was the PAES Professor of Landscape Ecology, teaching graduate ecology courses for the Graduate School of Design’s Landscape Architecture Department and a junior-senior course in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  Classes often included 2-to-7-day intensive field-study trips in areas from Maine to New Mexico, the Caribbean, and Venezuela.  He served as advisor for 11 doctoral students and 21 masters and senior-thesis students.  Forman was a finalist for the Levenson Outstanding Teacher Award in Harvard College three times, was voted Harvard College Class of 2011 Favorite Professor, and received the Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching.  He loves teaching and student learning, often urging students to use the principles for improving the land around us.  Currently he teaches Harvard’s graduate urban and town area ecology course.

International Honors

Professor Forman has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia, CNRS Chercheur in France, Miegunyah Fellow at the University of Melbourne, CRES Fellow at Australian National University, and Founding Vice President of the International Association for Landscape Ecology.  He received medals from the Faculty of Science of Charles University (Prague) and the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Florence (Italy).  He served as Consultant to the President and Minister of Natural Resources of Costa Rica, the Mayor and Chief Architect/Planner of Barcelona, and the Chinese Academy of Transportation Sciences, Ministry of Transport.  He is a Member of Clare Hall (University of Cambridge), an Honorary Member of the Italian Society of Landscape Ecology, and in China an Honorary Professor at Inner Mongolia University and the Academia Sinica Institute of Applied Ecology.

Honors in the USA

Dr. Forman has received honorary degrees from Miami University (Doctor of Humane Letters), Harvard University (Master of Arts), Conway School of Design, and Florida International University (Doctor of Science).  He served as Vice President of the Ecological Society of America and President of the Torrey Botanical Society.  He established the Ecological Society of America’s first Washington Office, overseeing its initial policy and practices.  In addition to directing university graduate programs, for twelve years he directed a small ecological research center at Rutgers, the Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center.  Forman has been a Member of the Editorial Board of six scientific journals, and has served on three National Research Council/TRB committees.  He has written Forewords for sixteen published books.  His board memberships included The Trustees of Reservations and The Nature Conservancy-Massachusetts Chapter.  He was named Distinguished Landscape Ecologist by IALE, received the Pine Barrens Hall of Fame Award, and was elected Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Early Career

Professor Forman’s scholarly roots are in plant, avian and forest ecology.  An early experimental study, using a “micro-phytotron” constructed in the lab, explained the hierarchical distributions of a species, an approach that proliferated with the subsequent spread of growth chambers.  Other early research included moss ecology, tropical rainforest, and community structure.  In an era before ecologists focused on spatial pattern and heavy-human-imprint areas, he used old-growth woods in an agricultural landscape for the first rigorously designed test of the effect of patch size on biodiversity, a subject explored in thousands of subsequent studies.  Immediately thereafter he spearheaded a then-rare multidimensional analysis and book for an entire landscape, including its patch-corridor pattern (Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape).

Landscape Ecology

These last two steps galvanized the idea of landscape ecology, and with colleagues from several fields, Forman began to build the foundations for a field of study.  The ecological corridor concept was elaborated, and much used thereafter.  A pioneering landscape-wide modeling study emerged as a key for the subsequent logging-and-owls controversy in the USA Pacific Northwest.  His co-authored book (Landscape Ecology) was the first synthesis of modern landscape ecology, and elaborated the patch-corridor-matrix model for understanding and improving land use pattern, now a much-used conceptual foundation.  A more definitive book (Land Mosaics: The Ecology of Landscapes and Regions) extended the vision to include regions, and catalyzed landscape ecology’s widespread growth.  A small much-used book highlighted applications for society (Landscape Ecology Principles for Landscape Architecture and Land-Use Planning).  Later he used landscape ecology to understand coastal and urban regions.

Road Ecology

In 1995, challenged by the paradox of conspicuous road systems in the landscape and hardly any ecological understanding of them, Dr. Forman began collaborating with the transportation community and wildlife biologists to build foundations for a field of road ecology.  His early articles provided syntheses and ideas that led to spearheading a volume co-authored by 14 leading ecologists, hydrologist, and transportation experts (Road Ecology: Science and Solutions).  As the first comprehensive book on the ecology of roads and vehicles, the book effectively jump-started the field’s coalescence.  Both basic research and implementation of mitigation and design solutions have expanded worldwide.

With a transportation leader, Forman then outlined the netway system (replacing roads and cars) to recover and reconnect the land for nature and us.  Other major societal goals are addressed:  improves safe and efficient mobility; uses renewable energy and no fossil fuel; emits no unhealthful pollutants or greenhouse gas; and enhances market gardening and recreational trail networks near cities and towns.

Urban Ecology  

Professor Forman’s interest in urban ecology coalesced in a planning project and book for the Barcelona (Spain) Region, highlighting natural systems and their uses, plus some novel solutions (Mosaico territorial para la region metropolitana de Barcelona).  Further dimensions evolved in a local ecological and planning analysis for a suburban town, and in global-scale studies.  These foundations led to a big-picture spatial environmental analysis of 38 large-to-small urban regions (Urban Regions: Ecology and Planning Beyond the City).  Then, burrowing into cities worldwide produced a pioneering, richly illustrated state-of-the-science elaboration of urban ecology, tying together organisms, built structures, and the physical environment where people are concentrated (Urban Ecology: Science of Cities).

Other Experience

Biological Aide, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland.  Member, Committee of Examiners for GRE Advanced Test in Biology, Educational Testing Service.  Consultant and collaborator with The Nature Conservancy in protection of natural areas.  Presenter of four workshops/sessions on landscape ecology and its applications, Florence, Italy.  Invited presentations (>250) at institutions in United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Turkey, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China.  Numerous invited talks at Forman’s home university and papers presented at professional meetings.  Commencement address, “Choose a place, at any scale; make it better, for nature and us,” Florida International University.  Service on diverse task forces, committees and boards for local and state agencies plus statewide non-profit organizations, focusing on land-use planning, open space protection, conservation, recreation, and historic preservation.



Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA


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