Boston University Arts & Sciences

CAS News

Exploring Earth From All Angles

In this decade, the field of biogeoscience has emerged as one of the most important new areas for interdisciplinary research. Biogeoscience is the study of the processes in and interactions among the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.

In January 2013, CAS will begin offering the only PhD degree program in the United States in this exciting new field. “We expect this to be a watershed moment for Boston University, bolstering our already growing crop of top-rated PhD students, post-doctoral scholars, and visiting faculty,” says Professor of Biology and Director of the CAS Program in Terrestrial Biogeosciences Adrien Finzi.

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. Accordingly, the field of terrestrial biogeoscience provides the scientific basis for understanding and addressing some of today’s most pressing environmental issues, including climate change, deforestation, land-use change, and eutrophication. 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.

The CAS Program in Terrestrial Biogeosciences has been developing highly qualified PhD candidates for years. By creating a platform for PhD education spanning the departments of Biology, Earth Sciences, and Geography & Environment, the goal of the program is to formalize interdisciplinary training in an area of research at the cutting edge of global change science. PhD students enroll into individual departments and receive their PhDs from their home department, but by participating in common coursework and jointly sponsored research activities, the students develop the interdisciplinary skills required to successfully complete their PhD research and compete effectively for the expanding number of employment opportunities in academic settings, as well as in governmental and private sectors.

“The Terrestrial Biogeosciences Program at Boston University is a great example of the wonderful research and education that takes advantage of our interdisciplinary strengths,” says Dean of Arts & Sciences Virginia Sapiro. “It is one of the real highlights of our work in the earth and environmental sciences.”

The work of the professors in the program is also being recognized for excellence. Assistant Professor of Biology Pamela Templer and Assistant Professor of Geography & Environment Lucy Hutyra recently received prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Awards for their work on winter climate change and the carbon metabolism of urban environments, respectively. The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award, intended to support junior faculty who excel in both research and teaching. By providing five years of stable funding, the award provides recipients with a foundation upon which to build an integrated program of education and research. The award is a major step in the development of our most outstanding junior faculty to become leaders in their fields. 

“Looking toward the future, we see BU as a leader in the field of biogeoscience,” says Finzi. “With a large research-active faculty and a growing crop of PhD students and post-doctoral associates, Boston University is on the map.”

Return to the February 2012 Newsletter

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