Program Overview

What is Terrestrial Biogeoscience?

Biogeoscience is the study of the processes in and interactions among the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. There are two key elements in the study of terrestrial biogeosciences: (1) biogeophysics, the processes associated with the movement of water, mass, and energy within and across ecosystems, and (2) biogeochemistry, the processes related to the cycling of elements within and across ecosystems. The field of terrestrial biogeoscience therefore provides the scientific basis for understanding the role of terrestrial processes in some of today’s most pressing environmental issues including climate change, deforestation, eutrophication of lakes and rivers, and the effect of sea level rise on coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Examples of research in the biogeosciences include, but are not limited to, the effect of vegetation and deforestation on the Earth’s climate and energy balance, the ability of terrestrial ecosystems to store rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the role of soil microorganisms in regulating nutrient supplies that fuel terrestrial productivity.

venn3colorThe field of biogeosciences has emerged as one of the most important new areas for interdisciplinary research. In response, the two major scientific organizations in this area, the Ecological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union, have introduced new Sections that foster community interaction and research in this new and rapidly developing field. National research priorities, as reflected by new funding programs initiated by federal agencies, are increasingly focused on interdisciplinary themes related to terrestrial biogeosciences. Such funding programs provide excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary Ph.D. research and the Boston University Terrestrial Biogeosciences Program is specifically designed to leverage and target these opportunities for students.

Terrestrial Biogeoscience at Boston University

The field of terrestrial biogeoscience is driven by a diverse set of experimental, observational and modeling approaches. To advance, this field needs to develop interdisciplinary cooperation – training and collaboration – across these traditional disciplines. By virtue of its’ unique faculty composition, Boston University is able to provide a one-of-a-kind research and training program focused on interdisciplinary terrestrial processes. Specifically, faculty in the departments of Geography & Environment, Biology, and Earth Sciences have unique strengths in biophysical interactions and biogeochemical processes at the land-ocean and land-atmosphere interfaces, making BU a natural home for a program of this nature. The goal of Boston University’s Terrestrial Biogeoscience program is to integrate faculty and student research interests across these departments.

Slide2Research and teaching in terrestrial biogeosciences at Boston University is centered on ecosystem processes at the land-atmosphere and land-ocean interfaces. Taken as a whole, BU faculty interested in terrestrial biogeoscience bring a depth and breadth of expertise that is unrivaled at other institutions in the United States. The department of Biology has faculty expertise in ecosystem science, terrestrial biogeochemistry and plant biology. The department of Earth Sciences includes faculty expertise in biogeochemistry, hydrology and the geomorphology of land and coastal systems. The department of Geography & Environment provides expertise in the physics of land-atmosphere interaction, physiological ecology, and remote sensing. By integrating existing strengths in biogeochemistry with biogeophysics, global-scale modeling, and remote sensing, Boston University is able to offer a Ph.D. research and training program that is unique both nationally and internationally. The Terrestrial Biogeosciences Program at Boston University fills a distinct, national-scale niche: a truly interdisciplinary research and teaching program in terrestrial biogeoscience.