Our interdisciplinary team investigates climate and human impacts on landscapes and ecosystems at multiple scales across the fields of molecular biology, microbiology, plant physiology, ecology, hydrology, geomorphology and climate modeling.

What We Do

Analysis, prediction and manipulation of epigenetic regulatory processes in multiple organisms including:

  • 3D chromosome structural rearrangements and chromatin conformation assays 
  • Genome-wide DNA methylation and histone modification assessments 
  • Gene expression changes and chromatin remodeling dynamics 
  • Epigenetic bioengineering and biomanipulation
  • Systems: Bacteria, Viruses, Algae, Plants, Mammals (including human)

Isotopic, bio-and geochemical, molecular and cellular characterization of water, soil, microbiomes and vegetation:

  • Analysis of ecosystem nitrogen and carbon cycles
  • Natural stable isotope analyses
  • Isotope labeling

Controlled environmental manipulations at laboratory scale:

  • Greenhouse experiments with and without radiological materials
  •  Climate controlled growth chambers
  • Experimentation with plant pathogens

Plant physiological measurements:

  • Gas exchange
  • Sapflow
  • Photosynthetic capacity
  • Root morphology

Ecosystem-scale field experiments, observations and climate manipulations:

  • Temperature-controlled, open-top chambers 
  • Precipitation exclusions
  • Rainfall simulator 
  • Weather stations
  • Landscape characterization

Insitu- to satellite-based remote sensing:

  • In situ hyperspectral measurements
  • Terrestrial and drone-based LiDar
  • Photogrammetry
  • Image analysis

Landscape evolution modeling

Data-driven modeling and remote sensing techniques: 

  • Multi-scale, geospatial data fusion and analysis
  • Machine learning, deep learning, and AI for analysis, classification, prediction, and optimization
  • RivGraph: software for extracting river channel networks from imagery
  • rabpro: software for watershed delineation and characterization
  • Insect modeling: 
  • IMAP- Insect mortality and phenology model
  • TDIA- tree defense and insect attack model
  • Stand- to global-scale dynamic vegetation and climate modeling: 
    • FATES, E3SM

Primary Expertise

  • Molecular and cellular biological assays
  • Bioinformatics analyses including epigenomics, structural genomics, annotation and protein prediction
  • Genome-wide and gene-specific epigenetics and expression analyses
  • Prediction and manipulation of behavior 
  • Molecular and cellular dynamics 
  • Drought impacts at plant and ecosystem scale
  • Pathogen infestation impact evaluations at plant and ecosystem levels
  • Predictions of climate impacts on pathogen outbreaks
  • Host-mediated microbiome engineering to improve plant resilience
  • Hydrology observations and modeling
  • Water resource evaluations and modeling
  • Dynamic vegetation modeling
  • Climate/stress effects on live fuel moisture and fire behavior
  • Mortality mechanism
  • Ecosystem response
  • Fuel structure characterization 
  • Plant functional and stress tolerance enhancement
  • Land management solutions for increased carbon sequestration
  • Testing of impacts of soil amendments on ecosystem greenhouse gas emissions
  • Optimization of plant cultivation systems
  • Permafrost observations and modeling
  • Permafrost impacts to landscape dynamics and infrastructure

Featured Projects

Using (wet-bench) experimental and computational methods, including machine learning, to understand the mechanisms of stress resiliency in multiple systems in response to climate change impacts ranging from abiotic (e.g., drought, warming) to biotic (e.g., pathogen) stresses. Processes of interest and investigation include dynamic gene-by-environment interactions, functional genomics, genomic structure-function relationships, chemical modifications to the genome (epigenetics) and chromatin modifying machinery expression and function. 

Contact: Christina Steadman

Leveraging the global distribution of plants and their interactions with the environment to develop methods for detecting signatures of anthropogenic activities. 

Contact(s): Sanna Sevanto, Turin Dickman, Christina Steadman

Using observation, experimentation, and remote sensing to 1) determine and develop methods to mitigate the fate of terrestrial ecosystems under abiotic (e.g., drought, warming) and biotic (e.g., pathogen) stress, including implications for carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions, water, food and energy resources; 2) understand the role of vegetation structure and function in mitigating climate risk (e.g., flooding, fire); and 3) leverage ecosystem interactions (e.g., microbiome) to improve system resilience. Projects range from greenhouse to ecosystem-scale experiments and observations. 

Contact(s): Sanna Sevanto, Turin Dickman

Improving the representation of plant physiology and vegetation dynamics within the Department of Energy’s land surface model, to quantify the vegetation changes in grassland, shrub land, wetland, forest land and crop land in response to climate changes (e.g., warming, carbon dioxide enrichment, sea level rises, and extreme events such as heat waves and droughts), their interactions with wildfire, soil water dynamics, microbial and nutrient dynamics, diseases and insects, and the resulting feedback to landscape evolution, regional and global climate.

Contact: Chonggang Xu

NGEE Arctic, which seeks to understand the climate-sensitive processes of rapidly evolving landscapes at high-latitudes and carbon stored in permafrost in Alaska. NGEE Tropics, which aims to fill the critical gaps in knowledge of tropical forest-climate system interactions. 

Contact(s): Joel Rowland, Chonggang Xu 

Combining data and predictions derived from field observations, remote-sensing and numerical models to understand the geohydrological interactions that govern landscape response in the Arctic. Projects utilize satellite imagery, LiDAR, historical documentation and meteorological observations to study geomorphology, terrestrial carbon fluxes, riverbank erosion, wildfire and ground temperature in response to landscape disturbance and erosion by retrogressive thaw slumps.

Contact(s): Joel Rowland, Jon Schwenk

Developing a next-gen data fusion platform that assimilates global, geospatial river-centric datasets into a fast and flexible platform called Veins of the Earth (VotE). This platform represents a new way to link disparate datasets, providing a more comprehensive and cohesive view of the Earth’s river systems as a “living atlas.” VotE is designed to rapidly provide a wide range of data types and formats for seamless integration into data-driven modeling experiments that address a wide range of problems including streamflow prediction, wildfire hydrology, human impacts to watersheds, reservoir control and optimization, and more.

Contact: Jon Schwenk