Angela Liu is an alumna of UBC Geography.
She completed her BA Environment and Sustainability in 2022, and is now pursuing an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford
While at UBC, her research focused on how natural ecosystems can help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Can you tell us a little about your research?
I worked on a Directed Studies project to study and quantify a select suite of ecosystem services provided by urban trees on the UBC Vancouver campus. These services are specifically aimed at mitigating climate change effects, and include carbon sequestration and storage, air pollution removal, and building energy reduction. I conducted fieldwork in the summer of 2020 and used a benefit assessment model to produce an estimation of the amount of carbon stored, air pollutants removed, and energy saved by buildings. I then used GIS to visualize the carbon storage potential geospatially and provide advice for future campus planning initiatives.
How does your research relate to climate change, and why is that connection important?
I studied ecosystem services particularly targeted at mitigating climate change effects because I think it is important for the university to invest more resources in the natural pathways of carbon removal to offset current emissions.
Why does working on climate change feel important to you?
The effect of climate change on urban centres, and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities is a growing concern. Cities are predicted to continue increasing in population density, and conditions will continue to escalate if no pivotal action takes place. We need to provide communities with resilience-building tools and resources to protect the health and livelihoods of citizens. Ecosystem services provided by urban forests and urban biodiversity are a critical nature-based solution. I believe they are an important asset that city developers should invest in to create sustainable and healthy urban environments.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your area of research?
Everybody is familiar with the carbon storage potential of trees, which definitely provide an incredibly important terrestrial carbon sink; however, the other ecosystem services provided by urban forests are often undermined. Even my research only touches on a small selection of urban tree ecosystem services, and other properties such as stormwater filtration and their ability to improve mental well-being are not widely known.
How do you hope your research will effect change?
My research was a client-oriented study written for SEEDS and Campus + Community Planning at UBC, so the results will help inform UBC’s future urban forestry initiatives. I do hope to pursue my interests in graduate studies and eventually contribute knowledge to this field.
Are you involved in any climate advocacy?
I am currently an assistant policy analyst with the British Columbia Council for International Collaboration working on a briefing paper to inform key decision-makers within cities such as municipal councillors about ways to integrate climate justice into their climate action plans. I am also a research assistant for several faculty members in the Department of Geography to study different species responses to climate change.
Conversations about climate change always feel urgent, and sometimes the scale and nature of the crisis seem overwhelming. What have you learned or seen in your work that makes you feel hopeful about tackling climate change?
I feel fortunate and quite privileged that I have so many resources and baseline studies to reference when constructing my research proposal and methodologies – which is indicative of the increasing awareness around issues such as urban ecosystem services and their climate change mitigation potential. I hope that alarmism doesn’t veil the positive steps forward by cities in their climate change responses and distort the complex literature behind climate change.