Chair's Message

Welcome to Human Ecology

Often, people wonder, what is Human Ecology? The formal academic answer is that Human Ecology is a multidisciplinary applied field that focuses on the interrelationships between people and their near environments with the goal of enhancing quality of life and well-being. The near environments we focus on in our education and research programs are the social environment of family and the material environments of textiles and clothing, and other forms of material culture like built environments - all set within broader contexts of culture, communities, and policies.

But what does the formal academic description really mean? What it means is that in Human Ecology, we are interested in contemporary topics and issues that are relevant and important to people in their everyday lives. We are interested in things that really matter to people.

  • Topics and issues in the near social environment of family, about which people care deeply: positive family relationships, being a good parent, successfully juggling paid work and unpaid family responsibilities, ensuring parents and grandparents are well cared for and have a good life as they age, and stable, affordable accessible housing.
  • With respect to the near material environment, most of us would agree that having comfortable and safe clothing is important -- whether it's our everyday clothing, protective workplace clothing, or recreational and sport clothing. Other aspects of our near material environment, such as the design of the places we live and work, also matter to people.


The near social and material environments that we focus on in Human Ecology matter to people because they influence quality of life and personal, family, community, and global well-being. Our work has positive social impacts because a human ecological perspective enables awareness and understanding of - as well as the ability to address multiple interrelated factors and conditions that characterize the complexities of the human experience.

As you will read about elsewhere on our website, we offer undergraduate and graduate programs that provide students with opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills related to their interests in clothing and textiles, material culture, aging, and family well-being. In our undergraduate programs, experiential learning plays a key role, a centerpiece of which is the practicum that students complete in their last term with a non-profit organization, government ministry, or business.

Areas of Interest

In our graduate programs and research, we are guided by a commitment to linking science, policy, and practice. Some of our current studies focus on:

  • intimate couple relationship formation, development, and maintenance
  • childcare experiences for employed parents of preschool children
  • how couples negotiate their relationships across different roles, dimensions, and contexts
  • empowerment of marginalized youth and families
  • family transmission processes of values, behaviours, and health outcomes
  • intersection of caregiving and employment
  • assistive technologies for caregivers
  • historic and contemporary fashion
  • development and retention of odour in textiles
  • clothing comfort and protection in the workplaces
  • designing for/with people who are disabled
  • inspirational sources in the design process
  • relationships among objects, language, and personal, social, and cultural identity

Research and Application

I think you will also be interested to learn about our unique research facilities and resources, including the Clothing and Textiles Collection, the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility (PCERF), and the Textile Analysis Service.

The Department of Human Ecology has much to offer. I invite you to check us out through our website, or come for a visit. We would love to meet you, learn about your interests, and tell you more about who we are and what we do.

Dr. Deanna Williamson, Department Chair