Category: January-14

Ranga Myneni coauthors an article in the journal “Nature”

January 30th, 2014 in 2014, 2014, Faculty, January-14, Publications, Ranga Myneni

Department of Earth and Environment Professor Ranga Myneni coauthored a paper in the journal Nature.

The paper, “A two-fold increase of carbon cycle sensitivity to tropical temperature variations,” was published online on January 26th, 2014 and is a collaborative activity between researchers in China, France, UK, and USA.

The paper reports the finding that the sensitivity of carbon dioxide growth rate in the atmosphere to tropical temperature interannual variability has increased by a factor of 1.9 ± 0.3 in the past five decades.

Ranga Myneni’s publications can be found at or on our department listings of publications.

Members of the Department Celebrate The Lunar New Year

January 30th, 2014 in 2014, Events, Graduate students, January-14, Pictures, Researchers

As the Lunar New Year of the Horse approaches, members of the Department of Earth and Environment gathered together to celebrate the traditional holiday.

Graduate students, friends, and alumni work on making dumplings at the Lunar New Year Party.

Graduate students, friends, and alumni work on making dumplings at the Lunar New Year Party.


Held this past Saturday, January 25th 2014, the Department’s Lunar New Year Party featured traditional food, drink, and a dumpling wrapping contest.

Participants of the Dumpling Pageant work to make their best dumpling creations.

Participants of the Dumpling Pageant work to make their best dumpling creations.


The dumpling wrapping contest featured four winners: the cutest dumpling, the scariest, the most out-of-shape, and the ugliest dumpling.


The offerings in the Dumpling Pageant

The offerings in the Dumpling Pageant


Participants and spectators voted, and the winners were announced.

The winners of this years Dumpling Pageant. From left to right, Mary Farina, Bahareh Sanaie-Movahed, and Zhe Zhu. Not pictured is also winner Rita Cabral.

The winners of this years Dumpling Pageant. From left to right, Mary Farina, Bahareh Sanaie-Movahed, and Zhe Zhu. Not pictured is also winner Rita Cabral.


The party was a hit, and the winning–and losing–dumplings were cooked and enjoyed by all!

The contest winners--and losers--were cooked and enjoyed.

The contest winners–and losers–were cooked and enjoyed.

Mike Dietze coauthors newly published paper

January 30th, 2014 in 2014, 2014, Faculty, January-14, Michael Dietze, Publications

Department of Earth and Environment Assistant Professor Michael Dietze coauthored a paper recently published in the journal New Phytologist.

The paper, “Evaluation of 11 terrestrial carbon-nitrogen cycle models against observations from two temperate Free-Air CO2 Enrichment studies,” was published online on January 28, 2014. The paper will be in print later this year.

For more information on publications by Asst. Prof. Dietze, see his list of recent publications, or check out his list of current grants.


Yufei He to give talk today as part of TBGS Seminar

January 29th, 2014 in 2014, Department Seminars, January-14, Researchers, Talks

University of Virginia PhD Candidate Yufei He will be on campus today to give a talk as part of the weekly Terrestrial Biogeosciences Seminar Series.

He’s talk, titled “Feedback between shrub encroachment and local climate in the Southwestern US,” will begin at 3:30 today; it will be held in the Graduate Student Lounge, Room 442. Department of Earth and Environment Professor Guido Salvucci will host the event this week.

Refreshment will be served following the lecture.

To learn more about the Terrestrial Biogeosciences Seminar Series, visit their website, or view our calendar of upcoming events in the Department of Earth and Environment.



Pontus Olofsson to speak at GFOI workshop on forest monitoring in Thailand

January 23rd, 2014 in 2014, Faculty, January-14, Pontus Olofsson, Talks, Trips

Scientists and policymakers from across the global will gather together in Chiang Mai, Thailand next week to attend the “First Regional Workshop on Forest Monitoring” as part of the of Technical SE Asia Initiative of GEO/GFOI. The Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI) was established  by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to assist countries in producing reliable, consistent, and comparable reports on change in forest use and associated anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions or removals. The first regional workshop in SE Asia is planned with an overall aim to support the development of a data plan to fit the needs of the participating countries in the context of UN-REDD+.

Assistant Research Professor Pontus Olofsson has been invited to present the “Methods & Guidance” document of the GFOI on the estimation of greenhouse gas emissions and removals; he will also give an invited lecture on time series-based monitoring of forest change.



Mark Friedl awarded new grant from NASA

January 22nd, 2014 in 2014, Curtis Woodcock, Faculty, Graduate students, Grants, January-14, Mark Friedl

Department of Earth and Environment Professor Mark Friedl was recently awarded funding from NASA for his new project, “Using Three Decades of Landsat Data to Characterize Changes and Vulnerability of Temperature and Boreal Forest Phenology to Climate Change.”

Friedl and his team will use Landsat data collected over the past 30 years to analyze the growing season of temperate and boreal forests in North America. Their goal is to use the data to better understand how these forests have responded to climate change. Working with Friedl as Co-investigators on the project will be Department of Earth and Environment Professor and Chair Curtis Woodcock and current Ph.D. student Eli Melaas.

The project will begin this spring and take place over the next three years.

For more information on Professor Friedl’s work check out his publications and grants, or visit his website.


A detailed abstract of the project is as follows:

“Climate change is creating well-documented impacts on terrestrial ecosystems. Among the best known of these impacts are changes to the growing season of temperate and boreal forests. Changes in phenology provide useful diagnostics of climate change impacts in these biomes, influence coupled biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and also affect regional-to-global carbon budgets. Extreme events and climate variability complicate the response of ecosystems and increase vulnerability by inducing large phenological responses that affect ecosystem function at seasonal (and longer) time scales. Studies using in-situ measurements have suggested that the growing season of temperate and boreal ecosystems is changing, and remote sensing-based research using time series imagery from coarse resolution sensors appear to confirm this trend. Specifically, studies using AVHRR NDVI data have documented changes in growing season NDVI that indicate widespread perturbations to boreal and temperate forests in response to climate change.  However, the coarse spatial resolution and other limitations of AVHRR data constrain the types of inferences that can be drawn from these data.  Sub-pixel contamination of AVHRR time series by snow and disturbance events introduce sources of variation unrelated to phenology, and challenges associated with instrument calibration, atmospheric correction, and geo-location uncertainty further reduce the utility of these data for long-term phenology studies. In this proposal we describe research to address these challenges using Landsat data. Specifically, we propose to use a new methodology that exploits dense time series of Landsat images to quantify spatio-temporal patterns in North American temperate and boreal forest growing season dynamics. Our proposed methodology uses a sampling strategy designed to capture geographic variation in temperate and boreal forest properties, and focuses on regions of overlap between adjacent Landsat scenes, thereby significantly increasing the temporal sampling of Landsat images. Because temperate and boreal ecosystems are characterized by frequent disturbance and have snow on the ground at times of the year that are especially important for detecting changes in phenology, our methodology will exploit datasets related to fire disturbance such as the Canadian and Alaskan Large Fire databases, and will include strategies to screen and remove snow-contaminated pixels. Results from this research will yield methods and datasets for retrospective characterization of changes to temperate and boreal forest growing seasons spanning 30+ years at 30-meter spatial resolution. In doing so, this research will (1) dramatically improve information about how temperate and boreal forests have changed in response to climate change, and (2) improve understanding regarding the sensitivity and vulnerability of these forests to climate change.”

Nathan Phillip’s expands gas leak testing into DC; work featured in new scientific article, news story

January 17th, 2014 in 2014, 2014, Faculty, January-14, Nathan Phillips, News, Publications

Department of Earth and Environment Professor Nathan Phillips‘s work on exposing natural gas leaks has expanded into DC.

A new article out in Environmental Science & Technology titled “Natural Gas Pipepline Leaks Across Washington, DC” highlights the “5893 natural gas leaks” Phillips and a team of researchers, led by Robert Jackson of Duke University, discovered this past January in Washington DC.

The problems with DC’s infrastructure revealed by the study have also garnered the attention of mainstream media. The Washington Post featured the team’s findings in a recent article by Lenny Bernstein.

Phillips’s work in DC is an expansion on his previous work done collecting data on gas leaks in Boston that has been featured on BUToday as well as in scientificnational, and local media.



Mike Dietze project receives funding from NASA

January 15th, 2014 in 2014, Faculty, Grants, January-14, Michael Dietze

Department of Earth and Environment Assistant Professor Mike Dietze‘s project, “Assimilation of imaging spectroscopy data to improve the representation of vegetation dynamics in ecosystem models,” was recently awarded funding by NASA.

The project will span three  years and will be the product of the collaboration of Dietze and two other Principle Investigators, Shawn Serbin and Phil Townsend. Serbin (a former Dietze Lab post-doc), Townsend, and projector collaborator Ankur Desai are based at the University of Wisconsin. Tristan Quaife at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom will also collaborate on the project.

For more information about currently funded research by Asst. Prof. Dietze and other members of the Department of Earth and Environment see the grants section of our website.


A summary of the project is as follows:

The ability to seamlessly integrate information on forest function across a continuum of scales, from field to satellite observations, greatly enhances our ability to understand how terrestrial vegetation-atmosphere interactions change over time and in response to anthropogenic and natural disturbances. This project focuses on the use of field and high-spectral resolution remote sensing observations (i.e. imaging spectroscopy, IS), within an efficient model-data assimilation framework, to improve the characterization of vegetation dynamics in terrestrial ecosystem models. This effort comes at a crucial time because the experimental, remote sensing, and modeling communities have entered into an increasingly data-rich era; however the tools needed to make use of the numerous but disparate data for model improvements are currently lacking. For example, remote sensing can provide detailed spatial and temporal information on a number of important biophysical and biochemical properties of ecosystems. State-of-the-art dynamic vegetation ecosystem models, such as Ecosystem Demography (ED2.2) model (Medvigy et al., 2009), a physiologically-based forest community model, can potentially use this information to improve model representation of vegetation dynamics. ED2 is especially relevant to these efforts because it contains a sophisticated structure for scaling ecological processes across a range of spatial scales: from tree- level physiology to stand demography to landscape heterogeneity to regional carbon, water, and energy fluxes, which allows for the direct use of remotely sensed data at the appropriate spatial scale. The project leverages extensive field and imaging spectroscopy (IS) data that have been collected by Co-PI’s Shawn Serbin and Phil Townsend within the upper Midwest, US, directly within an ecosystem modeling framework. We are working to utilize a radiative transfer modeling (RTM) module being developed by Serbin and Dietze for use with the ED2 model and Predictive Ecosystem Analyzer (PEcAn, LeBauer et al., 2013) workflow system ( to enable efficient assimilation of spectral reflectance observations from imaging spectroscopy data (and eventually any optical remote sensing observations, such as Landsat and MODIS/VIIRS). Through this open-source workflow system we will facilitate direct assimilation of spectral observations rather than derived products. This will improve the models parameterization of canopy optical properties and the surface energy balance. Through state-variable data assimilation we will fuse AVIRIS, flux towers, forest inventories, and model projections to reconcile estimates of vegetation composition and carbon pools and fluxes. The resulting data product will be analyzed to better understand the drivers of spatial and temporal variability in the carbon cycle and the sources of uncertainty in these estimates. This project would be an important step toward the operational capacity to assimilate reflectance observations, uniformly, within sophisticated ecosystem models with the goal to accurately constraining model projections of carbon pools and fluxes of terrestrial ecosystems.

E&E Grad Student Connor Gately wins Award at AGU

January 14th, 2014 in 2013, 2014, Awards, December-13, Faculty, Graduate students, Ian Sue Wing, January-14, Lucy Hutyra, Talks

Department of Earth and Environment Graduate student Conor Gately was awarded an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) for his work in Atmospheric Sciences at the recent American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.

Gately is a 5th year PhD candidate in Geography advised by Earth and Environment Professor Ian Sue Wing with the assistance of Earth and Environment Assistant Professor Lucy Hutyra.

The Outstanding Student Paper Awards are given out to the top 3 to 5% of students in each area of focus at AGU (OSPA).



Ethan Baxter guest edits, publishes two articles in current edition of Elements

January 14th, 2014 in 2014, 2014, Ethan Baxter, Faculty, January-14, Publications

Department of Earth and Environment Associate Professor Ethan Baxter recently served as a guest editor for Elements magazine.

Along with other guest editors Mark J. Caddick and Jay J. Ague, Baxter participated in editing Volume 9 number 6,  “Garnet: Common Mineral, Uncommonly Useful,” of Elements. 

In addition to his role as guest editor, Baxter also published two separate articles in the magazine. Baxter was lead author on the title article, “Garnet: Common Mineral, Uncommonly Useful,” and lead author on “Garnet Geochronology: Timekeeper of Tectonometamorphic Processes.”

To learn more about Associate Professor Baxter’s other publications, see his recent publications.