Assaf Shwartz

Associate professor – head of the research group

Assaf is a conservation biologist who specializes in theoretically-grounded applied research into how to promote environmental stewardship and human well-being. His main drive is to find sustainable solutions for planning and managing of human-dominated and pristine environments for the mutual benefit of people and biodiversity. He leads empirical research aiming to integrate humans into ecological research, by braking traditional disciplinary boundaries and exploring various ecological and social costs and benefits of different interventions. Assaf graduated in Biology and Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he continued to do his MSc in Ecology, studying urban ecology and invasion biology. He gain his PhD in urban ecology at the Sorbonne University and Natural History Museum, in Paris, France. From 2012, he was a postdoctoral research associate working on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services (Natural History Museum) and then large scale conservation initiatives at DICE, University of Kent (UK). He formed his Human and Biodiversity research group at the end of 2014 in the Faculty Architecture and of Town Planning, Technion, Israel.

More about Assaf


Ronit Cohen-Seffer

Lab manager and Postdoctoral research associate

Ronit is the lab manager and postdoctoral research associate. Her PhD was about “The Paleogeography of the Southern Carmel Coastal Plain during the Late Pleistocene – Holocene” (submitted to the University of Haifa). She did her Post Doc at the GLOWA-JR project and contributed to the “Urban Ecology” chapter at the “Assessing the state of Israel’s Nature” HAMAARAG.


Whitney round

Whitney Fleming

Postdoctoral Fellow

Whitney is a postdoctoral fellow studying how subjects respond to environments containing different nature-based solutions in order to identify the extent and quality of nature needed to reduce detrimental impacts of urbanization on people’s quality of life. She has a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science focusing on environmental psychology from Oregon State University, a MPA in Environmental Policy from the University of Washington, and a B.S. in Environmental Science and Energy Policy from Western Washington University. She is also a fellow in the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program.


Dror Denneboom

Ph.D. student

Dror Is a PhD student studying methods for conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and landscapes. His current research focuses on planning optimal mitigation measures to reconnect fragmented habitats and to establish ecological networks. He has a B.Sc. degree in Environmental Sciences from the College of Tel-Hai, and an M.Sc. degree in Environmental Quality Sciences from the CEE Faculty at the Technion.


Lior Ventura

Ph.D. Student

Lior is a Ph.D student studying the effects of urban planning scenarios and nature-based solution implementation in cities on biodiversity and species distributions. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and her M.Sc. in Dryland Ecology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and has worked as an ecological & environmental consultant to planners and architects.

Michal round

Michal Handel

Ph.D Student

Michal is a Ph.D. student studying animal movement in ecological corridors. Her research focuses on tracking the movement of animals to identify the factors that influence these movements within the agroecosystem, and understand how to improve the design and management of effective ecological corridors. She has a B.Sc. degree in Biology from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and an M.Sc. from Tel-Aviv University where she studied Egyptian fruit bat foraging behavior.


Nitzan Dan Rakedzon

Ph.D. student

Nitzan is a Ph.D student studying the experience of nature in protected areas. She believes careful designs of open areas in protected areas can enhance meaningful human-nature interactions. By using different tools, both qualitative and quantitative, she hopes to create a framework for Landscape Architects which strengthen the connection between human and nature. The research is focused on protected areas with waterscapes where you can find rivers, lakes or swamps. Nitzan earned her BLA in Landscape Architecture from the Technion. Nitzan's research is co-supervised by Assoc. Prof. Nurit Lissovsky, a leading expert in the design of protected areas and cultural landscapes.


Lee Gafter

Ph.D. student

Lee Gafter is an applied statistician specializing in quantitative modelling schemes of latent phenomena. Her main research interests include dimensionality reduction, development of reliable and validated scales for psychometric purposes, growth models, and the study of spatial networks. Lee published articles in top journals including Tourism Management and Cities. She took part as a lead statistician in several competitive grants from agencies including Horizon 2020 and The Israeli Science Fund. Lee also served as a data advisor for several of these grants. Lee strongly believes in harnessing the power of statistical tools to improve our perception of the mutual effects between humans and the natural environment, as well as other social and economic aspects of human behavior. Lee's research is co-supervised by Dr. Anat Tchetchik, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Geography and Environment, Bar Ilan University.


Yulia Furshik

Ph.D. student

Yulia is a Ph.D. student studying the effects of nature-based solutions on human mental health and wellbeing in an urban context. She received her BSc in Biology and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University and a MA (summa con Laude) in Geography specializing in urban planning and design from the same establishment. Prior to joining the lab, she worked as an urban planner mainly on large-scale policy projects and statutory planning.


Hamutal Friedman

Ph.D. student



Orni Ben-Sasson

M.Sc. student

Orni is a M.Sc. student studying human-nature interactions through design.  Her research focuses on the added value of direct sensory experiences of nature in human-nature interactions, in comparison to a cognitive connection. Avisors:  Dr. Daniel Metcalfe and Prof. Assaf Schwartz. She has a B.Sc in Industrial Design from the Hadassah Academy College in Jerusalem where she studied inclusive design.

Eli round

Eli Finarov

M.Sc. student

I am trying to examine whether management methods affect the abundance and behavior of the common myna in protected areas. This applied research focuses on mitigating mynas' presence and activity inside protected areas, as well as developing practical management tools for managers and rangers. The research is co-supervised by Dr. Uri Roll (Ben Gurion .University) and Prof. Shai Meiri (Tel Aviv University)


Yoel Hassin

M.Sc. student

Yoel is an M.Sc. student in the School of Environmental Studies. His research focuses on soundscape mapping and analysis. In his study, he analyses the different effects of soundscape characteristics on the behavior of birds in the city. By using multiple recorders and automatic sound recognition, he hopes to show how the changes in the urban soundscape that were caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns, affected the birds signaling patterns. The study is done under the supervision of Prof. Yossi Yovel (TAU) and Prof. Assaf Shwartz (The Technion). Yoel earned his B.Sc.Agr. in Agro Ecology from the Hebrew University Of Jerusalem.



Agathe Colléony

Postdoctoral Fellow – Environmental psychology

Agathe is a Postdoctoral Fellow studying ways to counteract both the biodiversity crisis and the so-called ‘extinction of experience’ (i.e. people’s growing disconnection from the natural world), by achieving more sustainable cities that benefit both people and the environment. Her research projects focus on (1) studying the complex relationship between biodiversity and human well-being, and (2) identifying ways to enhance meaningful interactions with nature on its complexity.

More about Agathe


Hila Segre

Ph.D. student

Hila is a former Ph.D. student in our lab. She is an agroecologist interested is the mutual effects of biodiversity and farming. Her Ph.D. research focused on the implementation of agro-ecological schemes at the landscape scale to promote ecological corridors. She has a B.Sc. in Life Sciences from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an M.Sc. in Ecology from The department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After completing her Ph.D., she was a postdoctoral research associate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Volcani center (ARO), and Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands). In 2022 she started the Agroecology & Nature Conservation lab in the department of natural resources, Volcani center (ARO), Israel.

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Yael Teff-Seker

Postdoctoral Fellow

Yael Teff-Seker is a researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and at the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Conflict Studies from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem (2013) and studies the social and political aspects of environmental conflict and cooperation. Her previous research includes environmental planning, public participation and environmental education. Her current projects include cultural ecosystem services assessment, environmental conflict and cooperation and social-psychological aspects of agro-ecological practices. She teaches environmental planning, environmental mediation, environmental education, and environmental conflict and cooperation.

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Gal Geisler

M.Sc. student

Gal is a M.Sc candidate studying the effect of campsites on biodiversity in the Negev desert, trying to find the optimal campsite who will minimize the damage it causes to nature while maximizing the benefits human beings earn from it. He has a B.Sc degree in Biology from the University of Haifa,Oranim.


Raz Simon

M.Sc. student

Raz is a M.Sc. student in the field of agroecology and landscape ecology. In her study, she builds a model to evaluate how biodiversity and landscape values are influenced by the intensity levels of agro-ecological systems. The study is focused on olive-grove cultivation systems, as they offer the opportunity for conservation within agriculture areas across Israel. Raz earned her B.Sc. in Environmental Sciences from the Academic College of Tel-hai.


Danielle Bashan

Ph.D. student

Danielle is a P.h.D. candidate studying human-environment relationships. How urban ecology can provide benefits both to humans and conservation properties. She has a B.Sc. degree from the School of Marine Sciences and marine environment, Ruppin and a M.Sc. degree in the department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Haifa University.

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Brian Isaac Rizowy

Project manager

Brian enjoys managing projects that help students and researchers maximize their use of novel technologies to achieve their goals. As a psychologist and educator, he is concerned with understanding how our environments affect how we learn, how we change, and whether we thrive.  He joined the lab in 2019 and his research focuses on how urban dwellers interact with nature and how cities can use biodiversity to improve residents health and wellbeing. Brian was raised in the urban jungles of Chicago and New York City before moving to Haifa, Israel. Brian holds a BA and MA in Biological Psychology and an MSc in Science and Technology Education. Brian is delighted to have found a place where he can combine his many passions.


Benjamin Usha

Research intern

Benjamin is a research intern at the lab through Masa Israel Journey. His goal is to proactively pursue environmental sustainability for current and future generations of people, plants, and animals. He studied at DePaul University in the United States where he completed a B.A. in psychology with a concentration in community and a certificate in geographic information systems. In his role in the lab, he has contributed in conducting ecological field work in the desert, creating maps for usage by the lab, supporting ongoing psychosocial research projects, developing a psychometric assessment tool for future socio-ecological research, and assisting in administrative tasks.


Maya Tzunz

M.Sc. student


Hagit Zimrony

M.Sc. student