Ruth S. DeFries

Columbia University

Primary Section: 64, Human Environmental Sciences
Secondary Section: 63, Environmental Sciences and Ecology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2006)

Research Interests

My work investigates the relationships among human transformation of the land surface and the biogeochemical and ecological processes that regulate the Earth's habitability. Using satellite imagery as a lens to examine changes in the land surface over large areas, one aspect of my work aims to quantify the implications of these changes for climate through carbon and other fluxes to the atmosphere. Observations of the Earth from space have transformed the ability to identify changes in forest cover, urbanization, and other anthropogenic processes and to develop models that capture fluxes of water, energy, and gases between the land and atmosphere. More recently my work has focused in the tropics and has included the relationship between land use change and biodiversity. The overall thrust of my work is to develop underlying science for balancing the needs of human society to transform the landscape for food production, settlements and other requirements while maintaining long-term habitability of the planet.

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