Postdoctoral Scholar Receives Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Dissertation Award

The work of a Kent State University Biological Sciences doctoral graduate recently received recognition from green roof experts from across North America who are looking to address contemporary environmental challenges, especially in urban environments.

Katie Manning headshot
Katie Manning, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar, ESDRI

Katherine (Katie) McNamara Manning, Ph.D., currently a postdoctoral scholar in research development at the Kent State Environmental Science and Design Research Institute (ESDRI), was recently honored with the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' (GRHC) Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award of Excellence. Her research work, studying intricate ecosystems on green roofs, was also recently published in the international research journal Urban Ecosystems.

The award was given for Manning's novel doctoral dissertation work in urban landscape ecology and its future application into the field of sustainable green infrastructure design and biodiversity conservation. Through the Jeffrey I. Bruce Awards of Excellence, the GRHC recognizes emerging professionals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and potential in the field of green infrastructure and will shape the future of the industry.

At the awards ceremony, Manning thanked the selection committee and said, “It’s pretty awesome to be honored for something that I’ve spent the last five years doing.”

Manning was encouraged to apply and submit her dissertation for consideration for the award by her Ph.D. advisor Christie Bahlai, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and co-director of ESDRI, and Reid Coffman, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, who served on her dissertation committee.

Novel jar ramp trap sampling insects on the Cleveland Metropark's Edgewater beach house green roof (credit: Katie Manning)

“I’m so proud of all the work Katie’s accomplished,” said Bahlai. “Not only does her work bring new understanding to how urban biodiversity uses the habitats we build, but it also unveils the importance of thorough and thoughtful sampling in these environments if we want to get a complete environmental picture.”

Her dissertation, titled "Evaluating Biases in Biodiversity Sampling of Insects in Managed Environments," delved into various managed landscapes around the Great Lakes region and explored the effect of frame-of-reference on insect community observations.

In her green roof research, despite expectations, her findings revealed similar insect communities between two different types of green roofs. The roofs that were intentionally designed for biodiversity using native plants for habitat did not differ from those designed for stormwater management and energy reduction using non-native plants in the insect community metrics used in her study - suggesting that beneficial insects could make use of spaces, even if they weren’t specifically designed for them. Her research also compared insect communities (focusing on the beneficial insects, pollinators and natural enemies) on green roofs to similarly structured ground-level habitats.

Tiger beetles (family Carabidae) are predators which can benefit humans by eating pest insects (credit: Katie Manning)

“We found greater insect richness at the ground level, but both habitats had similar diversity,” Manning said. “We also noted how different sampling and processing methods can impact the results that you are finding. Overall, the findings aligned with the existing literature, confirming that green roofs support beneficial insects, providing ecosystem services to the urban landscape.”

About Katie
Manning earned her doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in August 2023. Her research in the Bahlai Lab of Applied Computational Ecology has focused on biodiversity ecology in managed systems with an interest in investigating the effect of frame-of-reference on scientific findings. She’s gained experience in the research areas of beneficial insects, native bees, insect biodiversity, living architecture, community and urban ecology.

While pursuing her doctoral research and teaching biology courses at Kent State, Manning also enjoyed taking on roles within the university to advocate for fellow grad students, serving on the university’s Graduate Student Senate and the department’s Biology Graduate Student Council and Graduate Studies Committee.

Prior to joining Kent State, Manning worked as a research technician in several labs at Michigan State University while earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and zoology, and as a staff entomologist and public educator at The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World.

Future work
Looking ahead, Manning remains optimistic about the opportunities and challenges ahead and envisions her future intertwined with research, education, advocacy and public outreach as the field of green roofs and environmental science continues to evolve. Her current role as a postdoctoral scholar in research development at ESDRI exemplifies this commitment to bridging science with community engagement—a fusion that Manning finds deeply fulfilling.

As a newly certified Green Roof Professional with a background in biology and ecology, Manning envisions continuing to utilize her expertise to assess insect communities on green roofs, providing valuable insights for ecological health and urban sustainability. She’s committed to bridging science with community engagement for a greener, healthier future.

Katie on the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes green roof (credit: Tim Niepokny)

“Cities implementing green roof mandates is an exciting development, promoting green space expansion,” Manning said. “Ongoing studies on plant selections for various environments, as well as striving for a holistic understanding of green roofs ecosystems, are crucial. Accessibility of green roofs to people, integrating them into urban spaces for recreation and gardening, holds promise. The field is evolving, with more attention given to design and construction processes to include green infrastructure seamlessly.”

For more information about Katherine Manning's work and research, please visit her website:

About Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
The GRHC serves as a hub for research, education, and advocacy, fostering collaboration and innovation within the field of green infrastructure.

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Media Contact:
Jim Maxwell, 330-672-8028,

POSTED: Friday, February 16, 2024 04:22 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024 12:50 PM
Jim Maxwell