Lucy Hutyra

Faculty Research Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Earth & Environment

Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition Throughout the Greater Boston Area

Human activities have altered the global nitrogen cycle through emissions from electrical power plants, automobile exhaust, and fertilizer applications. However, much of the scientific and policy focus has been on reducing nitrogen emissions and atmospheric deposition at large geographic scales that do not consider urban hotspots. This work demonstrates that atmospheric deposition rates of nitrogen are not only elevated in cities, but are just as variable as the range of values that span entire urban to rural gradients, such as that from Boston to Harvard Forest, MA. This project builds upon ongoing urban biogeochemistry research to monitor rates of atmospheric deposition at several sites across Greater Boston, partition sources of nitrogen emissions and deposition throughout the Greater Boston area, and include these research and community engagement efforts in training of graduate students in the BU URBAN Graduate NRT Program. Together, these activities will help determine the causes of excess nitrogen with the goal of helping the City of Boston and other localities reduce nitrogen inputs to local waterways and the atmosphere.

Mitigation of Boston Heat Island Effect with Urban Canopy

The frequency and duration of extreme heat waves are projected to continue to increase in urban areas throughout the world, leading to higher risks of heat related deaths. Increasing urban canopy is a key strategy for mitigating excess urban heat by creating a cooling microclimate via shading and evapotranspiration (transpiration and evaporation). However, our ability to predict the mitigation effect of urban vegetation is limited by existing approaches that assume urban trees behave like their rural counterparts. Transpiration rates are known to vary by tree species, climatic conditions, and nutrient availability – factors known to vary between urban and rural environments. This project will develop new estimates of urban transpiration by: 1) empirically quantifying rates in both urban and nearby rural trees; 2) integrating field estimates of transpiration into the advancement of urban heat island models; and 3) applying the newly improved model to identify and test the efficiency of urban canopy mitigation approaches.


Ph.D., Harvard University


Lucy Hutyra is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth & Environment at Boston University. She received her PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences in 2007 from Harvard University for her thesis “Carbon and Water Exchange in Amazonian Rain Forests.” In 1998 she received BS in Forest Ecology and Management from the University of Washington.

Professor Hutyra’s current research interests center on characterization of the urban carbon cycle, including quantifying the affects of urbanization on vegetation structure and productivity, developing urban greenhouse gas monitoring systems, and refining fossil fuel emissions estimates. Hutyra is an Investigator on several large NASA research projects linking remote sensing, atmospheric observations, field measurements, and models to study the urban carbon cycle. She was the recipient of an NSF CAREER award in 2012, serves on the North American Carbon Program Scientific Steering Group, and has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles on various aspects of the carbon cycle.