Expertise: Human-environment interactions; GIS; Geospatial technologies; Urban sustainability; Geodesign; Urban heat island; Quality of life; Energy-water nexus; Climate
Darren M. Ruddell, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Spatial Sciences in the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
The overarching focus of Ruddell’s research is climate and society, an expanding area in global change studies, which incorporates socio-ecological interactions across multiple scales of analysis. Ruddell is particularly interested in the dynamic relationship between human development and the modification of native landscapes which are altering physical processes, as witnessed in rising global temperatures and urban heat islands (UHI), and the subsequent impacts that changing environmental systems pose on human health, well-being, and urban sustainability. While a changing climate can offer more favorable conditions for human development, changes in natural processes have also been found to stress local social and systems.
Changes in climate not only present significantly different challenges to communities depending on geographic, economic, and political contexts, but vulnerability to climate change is also tightly coupled with urban form which can help mitigate or exacerbate local impacts. Sustainable urban design (i.e., Geodesign) can simultaneously reduce the UHI effect, improve local air quality, revitalized ecosystem health, and reduce fossil fuel dependency; all fundamental elements of a resilient city.
Ruddell teaches courses in the Spatial Sciences Institute undergraduate residential general education and Geodesign programs as well as the online GIST Graduate Programs. He has developed expertise in geographic information science and associated technologies to acquire, organize, analyze, model, and visualize spatial data. As an educator, he seeks to help students develop the critical and spatial thinking skills required to effectively manage and deploy these technologies in diverse settings to produce spatially-informed and scientifically sound results. He has been on the forefront of developing curriculum and pedagogical approaches in the field of geodesign, a forward-thinking, interdisciplinary, and iterative process that aims to build a better world by promoting harmony between human and ecological systems. Ruddell is active in service and faculty governance where he served as the Chair of the USC Academic Senate Sustainability Committee which advances sustainability initiatives at USC. He has served as president of the USC Dornsife College Faculty Council. He also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Sustainable Land Use and Urban Planning. He is certified as a Geographic Information Science Professional (GISP) by the Geographic Information Science Certification Institute (GISCI).