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Departments & Programs


Research Groups

More information on research in ESS can be found in these sites. These websites are created and maintained by the faculty, students and staff involved with each group.

Kevin Arrigo Group

Ocean Biogeochemistry
The overall research theme of our group is the cycling of carbon and other materials within marine ecosystems and its exchange with the atmosphere. We combine laboratory studies and field research with data collected using satellite remote sensing techniques. These research results are synthesized within numerical models which gives us a better understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes. We can then use these tools to simulate potential effects of for example iron fertilization, global change and stratospheric ozone depletion.

Karen Casciotti Group

Page Chamberlain Group

Terrestrial Paleoclimate
Our research is focused on the terrestrial paleoclimate of Earth. Our efforts are to understand the links and feedbacks between the ancient biosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere with specific emphasis on the Cenozoic time period. We use a combination of stable isotope measurements, coupled with field studies, and numerical models in order to build an understanding of the Earth’s past climate. We are particularly focused on studying past climates to understand how the Earth’s climate may behave in the future as greenhouse gases increase in our atmosphere. Field sites include western North America, north-central Asia, and Europe.

Noah Diffenbaugh Group

Climate & Earth System Dynamics Group
Our interests are centered around the mechanisms and impacts of environmental change. We use a variety of numerical tools, including global and regional climate models, to understand the processes that govern the behavior of the climate system. These processes are characterized both by observations of the present state of the system and by records of past changes. By combining climate model experiments with direct and proxy observations, we seek to understand the mechanisms that shape, and have shaped, known expressions of the climate system.

Robert Dunbar Group

My group specializes in high resolution studies of climatic and oceanic variability during modern times as well as over the past 50 to 12,000 years. Our most productive archives for this work include the skeletons of long-lived corals from the tropics and the deep sea, as well as sediments from lakes and marine environments. We use chemical, isotopic, and morphological measurements of these materials to investigate the timing and rates of change associated with past solar and C cycle excursions. Current field areas include the Galápagos Islands, Antarctica, the Line Islands, Kenya, Easter Island, Chile, Patagonian Argentina, Tierra del Fuego, and Palau. We are also well into a multi-year effort to collect deep sea corals to better understand their ecology as well as their self-contained records of change in the deep sea. We do this work using deep diving research submersibles in the Gulf of Alaska and the central tropical and north Pacific.

Scott Fendorf Group

Soil and Environmental Biogeochemistry
In our research we seek to define processes (chemical, biological, and hydrological) that control the cycling of elements ranging from iron to carbon to to arsenic within soils, sediments and surface waters. Much of our research examines reactions influencing the element availability to plants and animals, and their propensity to migrate in the environment.

Chris Field Group

Global Ecology
The Field Lab focuses on basic ecological research from the ecosystem scale to the global scale. Emphases include climate-change impacts, ecosystem responses to multi-factor global changes, the terrestrial carbon cycle, biosphere/atmosphere interactions, and biogeochemical consequences of changes in species composition. We use experiments, models, and satellite data for a synthetic perspective.

Chris Francis Group

Francis Molecular Microbial Ecology Group
My research interests center on the molecular, biochemical, and ecological aspects of themicrobial geochemical cycling of nitrogen and metals in the environment. I am particularly interested in determining the key organisms, functional genes, and molecular mechanisms underlying these biogeochemical processes through both laboratory and field studies.

Steven Gorelick

Hydrogeology and Water Resources
Our research interests span a range of topics including the scientific basis for water resources management, hydroecology / ecohydrology, surface - groundwater interactions, groundwater allocation policy, fluid flow and solute transport processes, innovative simulation techniques, and cutting-edge technologies in hydrogeophysics and remote sensing in hydrology.

David Lobell Laboratory

 We study the interactions between food production, food security, and the environment using a range of modern tools. The work is motivated by questions such as: What investments are most effective at raising global crop yields, in order to increase food production without expansion of agricultural lands? Will yield gains be able to keep pace with global demand for crop products, given current levels of investment? And what direct or indirect effects will efforts to raise crop productivity have on other components of the Earth System, such as climate? Answering these requires an understanding of the complex factors that limit crop yields throughout the world, and the links between agriculture and the broader Earth System. Current work focuses on three main areas of research.

Pam Matson Group

Matson Biogeochemical Group
Our group studies biogeochemical and ecological processes in forest and agricultural systems. In particular, much of our research focuses on the effects of land use change and other human caused changes on biogeochemical processes and trace gas exchanges in tropical ecosystems. In the past, most of our work was at the interface between terrestrial ecology, soil science and atmospheric science. For example, we used our knowledge of variations in soils and forest ecosystem processes to develop an ecologically based global budget for the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and we carried out research showing how land use change and agricultural intensification in the tropics contributes to the increasing atmospheric concentration of trace gases.

Roz Naylor Group

This research group focuses on the environmental and equity dimensions of intensive food production. They have been involved in a number of field-level research projects throughout the world concerning issues of aquaculture and livestock production, high-input agricultural development, biotechnology, climate-induced yield variability, and food security.

Leif Thomas Group

Our group studies the physics of the ocean circulation. Specifically, we seek to understand the dynamics of highly energetic, time-variable flows such as ocean fronts, vortices, and eddies. Such flows efficiently exchange heat, salt, nutrients, and dissolved gases between the surface of the ocean and the ocean interior and hence play an important role in the Earth’s climate and the oceanic sequestration of carbon. We use theory, computer modeling, and field observations to characterize the fundamental physics of the ocean circulation with the goal of improving the oceanic component of computer models used to predict future climate change.

Paula Welander Group

Research in our group is focused on understanding the biosynthesis and physiological function of lipid biomarkers, primarily hopanoids and sterols, in modern bacteria.  Organic geochemists have long had an interest in these lipids as they are readily preserved in ancient rocks and have the potential to function as molecular signatures of ancient microbial life.  Yet very little is known about the evolutionary history and function of these molecules in extant bacteria, making it difficult to properly interpret their occurrence in the rock record. As microbiologists trained in molecular biology, we bring a unique perspective to this geologically relevant problem, and hope our research will provide some insight into what these biomarkers are telling us.

Gregory Asner Group

Laboratory for Regional Ecological Studies
We study how ecosystems and the services they provide to people are changing at regional levels. Our group consists of ecologists, remote sensing specialists, biogeochemists and land-surface modelers, working together scientifically to support conservation, management, and policy developmen

Ken Caldeira Group

Laboratory for Regional Ecological Studies
The Caldeira Lab conducts research to try to improve the science base needed to allow human civilization to develop while protecting our environmental endowment.

Anna Michalak Laboratory 

Global Ecology
Our research interests focus on characterizing complexity and quantifying uncertainty in environmental systems with the goal of improving our understanding of these systems and our ability to forecast their variability. Our current research interests focus on atmospheric greenhouse gas emission and sequestration estimation, water quality monitoring and contaminant source identification, and use of remote sensing data for earth system characterization. The common theme of our research is the development and application of spatiotemporal statistical data fusion methods for optimizing the use of limited in situ and remote sensing environmental data. We are also interested in the environmental policy, economic and legal impact and applicability of environmental research.

Vitousek Group

Biogeochemistry Lab