Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Geoscience



Major Advisor

Jodi Brandt, Ph.D.


Shawn Benner, Ph.D.


Nancy Glenn, Ph.D.


Jen Schneider, Ph.D.


Rebecca Som Castellano, Ph.D.


Urbanization poses complex challenges for balancing sustainable environmental management with human well-being. Many areas of the western US are experiencing rapid urbanization as people move to the region for a high quality of life. However, urbanization has major impacts on ecosystem services (ES), and therefore human well-being, making it important for decision-makers to understand the consequences and trade-offs that occur with urbanization. Given recent urbanization, the Boise Metropolitan Area, Idaho is a useful case study to explore a) differences in demand for ES between socio-demographic groups, b) perceptions of urbanization impacts to ES supply, and c) how those ES may change with future urbanization.

In chapter one of this thesis, we quantified the impacts of projected urban growth to highly valued land use-land covers in the region and disseminated results in various forms to reach a broader audience. This was a collaborative effort between researchers from several different departments, including Geoscience, Economics, Public Policy & Administration, and Human-Environment Systems. We built scenarios to characterize plausible urban growth up to 2100. The Economics department built the urban growth model, which was applied by the Geoscience and Human-Environment Systems departments to quantify potential impacts. The Public Policy & Administration, and Human-Environment Systems departments worked together to format results in shareable formats: 1. A white paper for interested stakeholders, 2. A story map for the general public, and 3. Raw data for academic circulation. The story map generated widespread interest gaining over 1,300 views. The white paper has been utilized by local media, non-profit organizations, and special interest groups. Additionally, members of the Human-Environment Systems department presented results at several meetings, including the Eastern Idaho-Oregon Seed Association (over 100 people), the Ag Forum (over 300 people), and the NW-GIS conference.

In chapter two of this thesis, we explored perceptions of ES by conducting face-to-face surveys with over 400 people. We compared perceived impacts to the supply of ES between urban land and agriculture and found that people perceive higher overall negative impacts to ES by urban land than agriculture. Urban areas are associated with positive impacts to local identity and recreation, while agriculture is positively associated with cultural heritage and food production. Both urban land and agriculture are negatively associated with water quality, air quality, and habitat for species with urban land having greater, negative impacts. We also measured whether perceptions differ between the general public and experts. Experts and the general public generally agreed on ES trends, except for habitat for species and climate regulation – the majority of experts agreed they were decreasing whereas approximately half of the general public perceived them as decreasing. We found significant differences regarding perceived importance of ES. The general public places higher importance on food production and alternative energy while experts place higher importance on water quality and recreation. These observed differences indicate a need to incorporate social demand in order to appropriately address diverse perspectives in planning to ensure policy resilience. Our social survey approach can be applied in other study areas to illuminate potential conflicts in demand for ES across a variety of contexts where urbanization is the dominant land use change dynamic.