Steven Handel studies the potential to restore native plant communities, adding sustainable ecological services, biodiversity, and amenities to the landscape. He has explored pollination, seed dispersal, population growth, ecological genetics, and most recently, problems of urban and heavily degraded lands. Working with both biologists and landscape designers, he is improving our understanding of restoration protocols and applying this knowledge to public projects and to environmental education initiatives.
He serves on the faculty at Harvard and Rutgers Universities. Previously, he was a biology professor and director of the Marsh Botanic Garden at Yale University. He was also Director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology, an initiative of Rutgers, dedicated to teaching graduate students and professionals, and conducting research on rebuilding urban native habitats and their biotic improvement. In 2006, he also was awarded an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. He was Visiting Professor of Ecology at Stockholm Univ., Sweden in 2009, and at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in 2012.
Dr. Handel is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow and a Certified Senior Ecologist of the Ecological Society of America, and is the Editor of the professional journal Ecological Restoration. For his scientific achievements, he has been named as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), of the Australian Institute of Biology, and of The Explorers Club. In 2007, he was elected an Honorary Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) for "national or international significant achievements… to the profession." In 2011, he received the Society for Ecological Restoration's highest research honor, the Theodore M. Sperry Award, "…for pioneering work in the restoration of urban areas." He has led national workshops for the U.S. EPA to train environmental specialists in ecology. He also was on the State of New Jersey Invasive Species Council, recommending new public policies to halt habitat degradation.
He has been a lead member of landscape design teams doing ecological restoration in urban areas, including residential sites as well as the Fresh Kills landfill and Brooklyn Bridge Park in NYC, The Duke Farms Foundation 2,700 acre holdings and the Great Falls State Park in NJ, the landscape for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Summer Games, and the new 1,450 acre Orange County Great Park in California. Recognition for this work includes 2008 and 2009 ASLA National Awards of Honor for Analysis & Planning, 2009 and 2015 ASLA National Honor Awards for Research, 2015 ASLA National Honor Award for Communications, 2009 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Award in Regional & Urban Design, and the 2009 American Planning Association National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Regional Planning. The U. S. National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, and private foundations have supported his research. Handel has been an invited lecturer at over 200 universities and meetings throughout the world, to teach his concepts for improving the natural environment in urban degraded land.