Tilly’s research explores the ecological and socio-cultural importance of damaged urban landscapes, particularly the Los Angeles River in California. 

Her doctoral thesis – A Field Guide to Love and the Los Angeles River – is currently in development as a book. It builds a new definition of place-based intimacy using extensive archival and oral history research. Tilly maps how people love complicated landscapes and argues that doing so is essential to living well in an urbanized world. 

Acclaimed environmental historian Professor Char Miller describes Tilly’s work as “so deft, so fluid…[and] a powerful case for the academic field of environmental history…a full-on analysis and open-ended immersion…that is unusual in the field…luminous, liberating [and] beguiling”

Through collaborations with Pomona College, UCLA, and the California Lutheran University Tilly’s research and public engagement inspires environmental studies students. Her Instagram curatorial projects I Am the LA River and LA River X have galvanized extensive public engagement with the river by community members, photographers, artists, nonprofits, and local government. 

Tilly has been a guest speaker at Creative Neighbors as well as the Los Angeles Breakfast Club, engaging audiences to explore the Los Angeles River as well as the art of good conversation, and she’s a docent at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles.

Currently, her research is exploring botanical materials, foraging, place connection, and Los Angeles.