Research of the PLACES working group aims to advance theories and methods for the environmental analysis and planning to support transformations of metropolitan regions towards attaining the goals of sustainable development. In particular, the PLACES focusses on developing an enhanced understanding of the environmental conditions of coupled human-environment systems, integrating diverse environmental information in ways useful for decision-support, and co-generating viable solutions to sustainability challenges of metropolitan regions in the 21st century. Our research is organized in two domains: Environmental Analysis and Environmental Planning. Each domain is further structured into three research topics (fig 1).

Within the domain of Environmental Analysis, the research topic Effects of Landscape Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services contributes to advancing scientific understanding of the complex interactions between coupled social, ecological and technological systems in from local to regional levels in metropolitan regions. Effects of Landscape Change on Human Health focuses on the contributions of green spaces on the well-being of citizens as well as the impacts of impairments. Environmental Sensors and Data in Planning addresses applications of novel methods for assessing spatial data on biodiversity and ecosystem services in real time.

With respect to Environmental Planning, the research topic Advancing Theories, Methods and Instruments explores how strategies for the sustainable development of metropolitan regions can best be generated and implemented in cooperation with diverse knowledge- and stakeholders. Novel Approaches to Communication in Planning investigates methods for using geospatial and user-generated information from social media, for directly involving citizens in plan making (e.g. through participatory GIS or GeoDesign), and for visualizing planning proposals.  Evidence-based Planning concerns questions of planning impacts and opportunities for improvement.

Our research is inherently transdisciplinary, involving various scientific cooperations, for example colleagues at the Institute of Geography, the Faculty of Geological Sciences, other faculties at Ruhr University Bochum and the Competence Field Metropolitan Research of the University Alliance Ruhr). We intensively collaborative with experts from planning practice such as the consortium partners of the Living Lahn project. Last but not least, we engage in diverse networks, including the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) and the International Association of Landscape Ecology, and contribute to major international research initiatives such as the Global Land Project (GLP), the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).