Rob McDonald

Dr. Robert McDonald is Lead Scientist for the Global Cities program at The Nature Conservancy. He researches the impact and dependences of cities on the natural world, and helps direct the science behind much of the Conservancy’s urban conservation work. He holds a PhD in Ecology from Duke University and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and a recent book, entitled Conservation For Cities.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, he was a Smith Conservation Biology Fellow at Harvard University, studying the impact global urban growth will have on biodiversity and conservation. He also taught landscape ecology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, helping architects and planners incorporate ecological principles into their projects.


Conservation for Cities

Flörke, M., Schneider, C. & McDonald, R.I. (2018). Water competition between cities and agriculture driven by climate change and urban growth. Nature Sustainability, 1, 51.

McDonald, R.I. (2016). Urban ecology for the urban century. Ecosyst Health Sustain, 2, e01221.

McDonald, R., Kroeger, T., Boucher, T., Longzhu, W. & Salem, R. (2016). Planting healthy air: a global analysis of the role of urban trees in addressing particulate matter pollution and extreme heat. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.

McDonald, R.I. (2016). Putting biodiversity and ecosystem services into urban planning and conservation. In: The Routledge handbook on urbanization and global environmental change (eds. Seto, K.C., Solecki, W. & Griffith, C.A.). Taylor & Francis, Okon, UK.

McDonald, R.I. (2015). Conservation for cities: how to plan & build natural infrastructure. Island Press.

McDonald, R.I. (2015). The effectiveness of conservation interventions to overcome the urban–environmental paradox. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1355, 1–14.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2015). The future of global urbanization and the environment. Solutions, 6, 60–69.

Elmqvist, T., Fragkias, M., Goodness, J., Guneralp, B., Marcotullio, P.J., McDonald, R.I., Parnell, S., Schewenius, M., Sendstad, M., Seto, K.C. & Wilkinson, C. (eds.). (2013). Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem service: challenges and opportunities. Springer Netherlands.

Elmqvist, T., Fragkias, M., Goodness, J., Güneralp, B., Marcotullio, P.J., McDonald, R.I., et al. (2013). Stewardship of the biosphere in the urban era. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 719–746.

Güneralp, B., et al. (2013). Urbanization forecasts, effects on land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 437–452.

McDonald, R.I. (2013). Implications of urbanization for conservation and biodiversity protection. In: Encyclopedia of biodiversity (ed. Levin, S.). Academic Press, Waltham, pp. 231–244.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2013). Urbanization and global trends in bodiversity and ecosystem services. In: Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities (eds. Elmqvist, T., et al.). Springer Netherlands, pp. 31–52.

Christensen, J., et al. (2012). Ecological urbanism for the 21st Century. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

McDonald, R. (2011). The coming global urbanization: what it means for freshwater provision. Journal of the American Water Works Association, 103, 20–21.

McDonald, R.I. & Boucher, T.M. (2011). Global development and the future of the protected area strategy. Biological Conservation, 144, 383–392.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2011). Global urban growth and the geography of water availability, quality, and delivery. AMBIO, 40, 437–446.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2011). Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. PNAS, 108, 6312–6317. (Media coverage: Agence France Presse, EFE, Xinhua, El Pais, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Scientific American)

McDonald, R. & Marcotullio, P. (2011). Global effects of urbanization on ecosystem services. In: Urban ecology (eds. Breuste, J.H., Elmqvist, T., Guntenspergen, G., James, P. & McIntyre, N.E.). Oxford University Press, pp. 193–205.


Vogl, A.L., Goldstein, J.H., Daily, G.C., Vira, B., Bremer, L., McDonald, R.I., Shemie, D., Tellman, B. & Cassin, J. (2017). Mainstreaming investments in watershed services to enhance water security: Barriers and opportunities. Environmental Science & Policy, 75, 19–27.

McDonald, R.I. (2016). Ecologic — The Watershed Conservation Screening Tool: A Resource for Large Water Users. Journal – American Water Works Association, 108, 18–20.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2016). Estimating watershed degradation over the last century and its impact on water-treatment costs for the world’s large cities. PNAS, 201605354.

Reddy, S.M.W., et al. (2015). Industrialized watersheds have elevated risk and limited opportunities to mitigate risk through water trading. Water Resources and Industry, 11, 27–45.

Reddy, S.M.W., et al. (2015). Finding solutions to water scarcity: incorporating ecosystem service values into business planning at The Dow Chemical Company’s Freeport, TX facility. Ecosystem Services, 12, 94–107.

McDonald, R.I. & Shemie, D. (2014). Urban water blueprint: mapping conservation solutions to the global water challenge. The Nature Conservancy, Washington, D.C.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2014). Water on an urban planet: urbanization and the reach of urban water infrastructure. Global Environmental Change, 27, 96–105.

McDonald, R.I. & Girvetz, E.H. (2013). Two challenges for U.S. irrigation due to climate change: increasing irrigated area in wet states and increasing irrigation rates in dry states. PLoS ONE, 8, e65589.

McDonald, R.I., et al. (2012). Energy, water and fish: biodiversity impacts of energy-sector water demand in the United States depend on efficiency and policy measures. PLoS ONE, 7, e50219.

Vaux, H., et al. (2012). Himalayan glaciers: climate change, water resources, and water security. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

Rob's posts