The People, Nature, Place (PNP) research program focuses on urban human-nature relationships, how these are understood, and their impacts on people and sustainability. In particular it seeks to develop, sustain and promote impactful research on the complexities of achieving the tri-fold goals of sustainability, nature protection and human flourishing in cities. This interest encapsulates urban greening, placemaking, edible cities, and other enhancements. PNP takes a broad definition of what nature(s) and associated representations encompass, including plants, animals, ecosystems, air, soil, water and fire. PNP will seek to strengthen the research capacity for exploring these topics from an environmentally-engaged social science perspective.

As greening and placemaking activity multiplies globally, and is supported through initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals and nature-based solutions, the PNP program creates a dedicated hub on urban human-nature relations. As well as an emphasis on relations, PNP will draw on theories and approaches of placemaking, and incorporate innovative mapping and spatial technologies to understand and document human-nonhuman interactions over space and time. Through a focus on the diversity of ‘non-humans’ like animals and plants that are enrolled in the making and planning of cities and the human-environmental relations that produce urban places, PNP brings together multiple disciplines interested in these topics, including planning, urban design, geography, the humanities, environmental studies, and ecology.


  • Connect PNP with a growing national and international research agenda on human-environmental relations in a range of disciplines including planning, geography and environmental studies
  • Develop theoretically informed yet empirically grounded applied research, with a key objective to translate new theoretical insights on changing urban human-nature relations into practical solutions, and think through the governance and policy implications for urban and urbanising environments
  • Provide an opportunity to connect current and emerging activity into a coherent form that would enable interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation, mutually beneficial sharing and growing of resources and knowledge across research, community, industry and government
  • Bring both people and nature into shared focus through use of a range of methods and approaches, including: critical social science, urban political ecology, environmental justice, equity and mapping/digital technologies


Tarnagulla Community Resilience Action Plan


This project aims to develop a Resilience Action Plan with and for the Tarnagulla community.

Network of Integrated Study Sites

2018 (ongoing)

This project aims to establish a network of integrated urban greening study sites to understand, quantify and qualify the multiple benefits of urban greening, including for biodiversity outcomes and for human health and wellbeing.

Key People

Lead researchers

Dr Cecily Maller

Dr Cecily Maller

Convener of People, Nature, Place Program

Dr Benjamin Cooke

Dr Benjamin Cooke

Convener of People, Nature, Place Program

Program Researchers

Higher Degree Research Students

Related Content

News & Blog

What’s your favourite animal? Researchers want to know

As part of efforts to bring back nature into our cities, researchers are asking people across the globe about their favourite animals to determine which creature is ahead of the pack.

Meet the women helping plan the cities of tomorrow

As Melbourne grows, we need to better plan how we build healthy, equitable and liveable cities. Here four RMIT researchers talk about how their work is helping deliver better cities.

Living ‘liveable’: this is what residents have to say about life on the urban fringe

Recent studies show Melbourne’s and Sydney’s fast-growing outer suburbs lag behind other parts of the city in access to urban design, employment and amenities and services that foster liveability.

Embracing the chaos

By transcending disciplinary boundaries researchers can reconceptualise human-nature relations. Issues of the scale of mass species extinctions or climate change are never going to be solved by a single discipline acting alone. 

New book calls for policy to branch out to nature for healthier cities

Dr Cecily Maller’s new book challenges how we create healthy liveable cities and calls for planners and urban policymakers to integrate ways for humans to live better with nature and other life forms.

CUR academic joins editorial board of new international journal

Senior Research Fellow at the RMIT Centre for Urban Research Dr Cecily Maller has been selected as a lead editor for the new international journal People and Nature.

How tree bonds can help preserve the urban forest

Great cities need trees to be great places, but urban changes put pressure on the existing trees as cities develop. As a result, our rapidly growing cities are losing trees at a worrying rate. So how can we grow our cities and save our city trees?

How do we turn a drain into valued green space? First, ask the resident

The green infrastructure of our cities includes both publicly owned, designed and delineated areas and less formal, unplanned areas of vegetation — informal green spaces.

We’re investing heavily in urban greening, so how are our cities doing?

Governments at all levels invest a lot in greening Australian suburbs. Yet, in a recent report, we show that the greening efforts of most of our metropolitan local governments are actually going backwards.

New bus route improves well-being and social connection in Melbourne’s new communities

Research exploring the impact of a bus route a new housing development on Melbourne’s south-east growth corridor has revealed the positive effects on community well being with the early delivery of bus services in new greenfield developments.

Writing retreats: Academic indulgence or scholarly necessity?

It’s not uncommon for academics to attend conferences that cost thousands of dollars and require time away from our usual place of work.

The Panopticons are coming! And they’ll know when we think the grass is greener

Does a walk in the park during your lunch break make you feel relaxed? Does lush greenery or a glint of sunlight on running water catch your eye and allow you to stare and rest your brain?

Japan offers us many lessons in embracing longevity

Japan’s experience makes it an interesting example to learn from in the area of aged care.