An important part of the climate system is the interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land surface. Through complex processes and feedbacks, changes to the land surface and oceans can influence the atmosphere. I am interested in how land use and land cover changes can directly influence the atmosphere through biophysical and biogeochemical processes. I use general circulation models and dynamic global vegetation models to study how land cover changes can affect the regional climate by way of changes to the fluxes of water, carbon, energy, and momentum. I am also interested in understanding how changes to the land surface can affect the larger scale climate system by altering the general circulation and dynamical processes of the climate. For example, large-scale deforestation in the tropics has been shown to decrease precipitation and weaken deep convective activity. The reduction in deep convection can be linked to anomalous planetary wave propagation that affects the climate in the extratropics. A local or regional change (deforestation in Amazonia) can have unintended consequences for other parts of the globe (Eurasia). Much of my research focuses on how feedbacks can amplify or reduce the climate effects of land use and land cover change. Using comprehensive coupled atmosphere-biosphere models, I have studied the effects of land use and land cover change around the globe. Some of my current research includes understanding how CO2-induced Arctic warming and the advancement of vegetation is amplifying global warming, understanding how land management of agro-ecosystems can influence droughts and the large scale climate system, and quantifying the effect of tropical deforestation on the extratropical climate.
Through my interdisciplinary research, I have been fortunate to collaborate with many scientists from other disciplines such as plant biology, geography, and the hydrologic sciences. As an affiliate in the departments of Plant Biology and Geography, as well as my affiliation in the Center for Water as a Complex Environmental System, prospective students have the opportunity to enroll in Masters or PhD programs in either Atmospheric Sciences, Plant Biology, or Geography. As the nature of my research is quite interdisciplinary, students will obtain a rigorous and diverse education and experience in atmospheric science, climatology, ecology, and numerical modeling. My students will be expected to publish and present their results at scientific conferences. My ultimate goal in academia is to educate my graduate students to be top-notch scientists, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners in keeping our planet healthy and sustainable.