UCL Department of Geography


Mikaël Maes

Research Title

Connecting science and policy for sustainable development of urban ecosystems

More about Mikaël

Professional experience

  • 2016 – 2021, Ph.D. Researcher at University College London (UK)
  • 2020 (3 months), Visiting Ph.D. Researcher at Yale University (USA)
  • 2017 – 2021, Visiting Ph.D. Researcher at Imperial College London (UK)
  • 2018 (3 months), Secondee at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, London (UK)
  • 2014 – 2016 (2 years), Environmental Consultant at Environmental Resources Management, Brussels (BE) and Frankfurt am Main (DE)
  • 2015 – 2016 (4 months), Trainee at the European Commission, Brussels (BE)


  • 2016 – 2021, University College London, London (UK), PhD in Environmental Science
  • 2013 – 2014, King’s College London, London (UK), MSc in Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Management
  • 2011 – 2013, Ghent University, Ghent (BE), MSc in Biology
  • 2008 – 2011, Ghent University, Ghent (BE), BSc in Biology
  • Maes, M. J. A., Pirani, M., Booth, E. R., Shen, C., Milligan, B., Jones, K. E., and Toledano, M. B. (2021) Benefit of woodland and other natural environments for adolescents' cognition and mental health. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00751-1
  • Maes, M. J. A., Jones, K. E., Toledano, M. B., and Milligan, B. (2020). Accounting for natural capital has cross-cutting relevance for UK public sector decision-making. Ecosystem Services, 44, 101127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2020.101127
  • Northridge, E., Maes, M. J. A. and Milligan, B. (2020). Publicly available data sources to compile an urban natural capital account according to the SEEA EEA: A London case study. UCL Open: Environment Preprint. https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444/000055.v1
  • Maes, M. J. A., Jones, K. E., Toledano, M. B., & Milligan, B. (2018). Mapping synergies and trade-offs between urban ecosystems and the Sustainable Development Goals. Environmental Science & Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.12.010
  • Maes, M. (2016). An exploration of the relationships between landscape metrics and tree diversity in urban forests. In: Francis, R. A., Millington, J. D. A. and Chadwick, M. A. ed. Urban Landscape Ecology: Science, Policy and Practice, pp. 75-90.
Research Interests

Cities have a variety of green structures that are either adjacent to or part of the built urban environment. These green structures—collectively called green infrastructure—conserve natural ecosystems and provide ecosystem services to urban residents. Our understanding of the benefits and disadvantages of green infrastructure is poor.

Studies have shown associations between green infrastructure and air quality, physical activity, mental and social health. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms that provide better health outcomes. How is urban nature perceived by citizens? Are there important non-visual pathways through which citizens receive better health outcomes? To answer some of these questions, I research associations between children’s mental health and cognitive development, and green infrastructure in Greater London in collaboration with Imperial College London.

Building on these findings, I assess the barriers and opportunities for accounting for health benefits—in particular mental health—of green infrastructure into policy instruments to better understand how nature can be accounted for across government departments and improve the integration of scientific evidence into the policy cycle.

This policy work involves a collaboration with DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). This project is highly interdisciplinary, combining elements from several disciplines such as ecology, health sciences and environmental policy- and decision-making.

Research Grants, Prizes and Awards
  • 2020, 3 month award from the Yale-UCL Collaborative Student Exchange Programme (UK)
  • 2016, 4 year scholarship from the London NERC DTP (Natural Environment Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership) (UK)
  • 2013, 1 year student support from club Rotary District 1620 (BE)