Research Interests

I am interested in explaining the distribution and abundance of plant species, carbon and nutrient cycling, and the interactions between the biosphere and climate. Vegetation is remarkably predictable; a trained person can look anywhere at the vegetation and accurately infer details about the climate, local carbon and nutrient cycling, and the nature of species turnover during succession. Over the past twenty years, I have built mathematical models that translate understanding at the small spatial scales and short time scales, where measurements are practical, to the large spatial scales and long time scales of interest. These take the form of spatial simulation models that simulate the fates of millions of individual plants throughout their life cycles, and macroscopic equations that make the scale translation analytically with moment approximations for the stochastic process in the individual-level simulators. I have also built models of the terrestrial carbon cycle from the moment equations that are used in global climate prediction. I am most interested right now in understanding the two-billion metric ton sink for atmospheric carbon in the terrestrial biosphere and in a simple theory for characteristics of plants along rainfall gradients.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology