Urban ecology is a field encompassing multiple disciplines and practical applications and has grown rapidly. However, the field is heterogeneous as a global inquiry with multiple theoretical and conceptual frameworks, variable research approaches, and a lack of coordination among multiple schools of thought and research foci. Here, we present an international consensus on how urban ecology can advance along multiple research directions. There is potential for the field to mature as a holistic, integrated science of urban systems. Such an integrated science could better inform decisionmakers who need increased understanding of complex relationships among social, ecological, economic, and built infrastructure systems. To advance the field requires conceptual synthesis, knowledge and data sharing, cross-city comparative research, new intellectual networks, and engagement with additional disciplines. We consider challenges and opportunities for understanding dynamics of urban systems. We suggest pathways for advancing urban ecology research to support the goals of improving urban sustainability and resilience, conserving urban biodiversity, and promoting human well-being on an urbanizing planet.