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Research


The Department of Environmental Sciences encourages and supports student research. Undergraduate students may begin exploring research as early as their first year with faculty in the department. Resources to support undergraduate research are available through departmental funding (Lester and Turner Funding Grants).  

Our thesis-based master’s program in ENVS requires students work directly with their ENVS advisor to produce an original research project. Prospective students in the MS/ENVS program are required to identify faculty who have similar research interests when applying.

 

Faculty Research

Professor Emily Burchfield

Lab Website

Publications

Research Statement: My research integrates social and environmental data to understand the distributional consequences of changing climate on humans and the environment.  I rely heavily on geospatial programming and analysis, but also integrate survey and qualitative data in my research. 

I am interested in methodological approaches that merge “big” spatiotemporal data with “deep” qualitative data to understand and support socio-environmental sustainability.

Professor Emily Burchfield

Professor Julie Clennon

Google Scholar

Research statement: I am an eco-epidemiologist with research interests focused on the spatial ecology and epidemiology of infectious diseases.   I work extensively with geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, spatial statistics (especially cluster detection) and landscape modeling.  I have worked on a variety of research projects examining the spatial and ecological associations of tropical diseases (e.g., schistosomiasis, malaria, Buruli ulcer, leprosy, Chikungunya, dengue) with environmental factors.  I, also, have experience working on issues related to urban areas such as novel infections within disadvantaged populations and adverse birth outcomes associated with industrial installations.

Professor Julie Clennon

Professor Shaunna Donaher

Research statement: We study the atmospheric boundary layer using observational data to determine how contact with the ground influences atmospheric processes. This includes wind shear, turbulence, vertical mixing, and rapid heating or cooling.

Using real-time and archived data we can understand the impacts of weather events on our local community and look at long-term trends of these impacts.

Professor Shaunna Donaher

Professor Thomas Gillespie

Lab website

Google scholar

Research statement: We examine interactions among anthropogenic environmental change; biodiversity; and the ecology and emergence of pathogens in wildlife, domestic animals, and people using diverse pathogen study systems (eukaryotic parasites, bacteria, and viruses) in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Latin America. This work contributes simultaneously to our understanding of two key issues:

  • Ecology and Epidemiology of Emerging Wildlife-Borne Diseases in the Tropics
  • Pathogen Introduction as a Threat to Endangered Primates
Professor Thomas Gillespie

Professor Lance Gunderson

Google scholar

Research statement: My ongoing research interests are in two major categories: 1) understanding how ecosystem processes and structures interact across space and time scales and 2) how scientific understanding influences resource policy and management. My interests are in the human and institutional dimensions to resource ecology.

Professor Lance Gunderson

Professor Carrie Keogh

Research Statement: My research interests are in disease ecology, marine ecology, and invasive species ecology. I’m broadly interested in how environmental change affects species interactions, and how trade-offs constrain adaptation to changing conditions.

Interactions between parasites and hosts have been a focus of my work, and I use examples from parasite ecology to illustrate a broad range of ecological concepts in my teaching.

Professor Carrie Keogh

Professor Uriel Kitron

Google Scholar

Pub Med

Research statement: My research and teaching programs center around the eco-epidemiology of infectious diseases, with an emphasis on tropical and emerging diseases and environmental risk factors, and on an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges of the Anthropocene. In our global health and development research, we emphasize anthropogenic changes, including issues of climate, urbanization, agricultural practices and conservation.

For diseases such as Dengue, Zika, Malaria, Schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and West Nile virus we have been studying the transmission dynamics and ecology of the insect vectors and the mammalian and avian reservoir hosts, incorporating a strong field component (trapping vertebrates, collecting insects, identifying environmental features), spatial analysis, and laboratory work.

We apply tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing to gather and manage environmental data that can explain the spatial distribution of disease, vectors and risk factors. Following quantitative spatial analysis, maps and models are produced to target further research efforts, as well as in support of surveillance and control efforts by public health agencies.

Current research efforts include studies of dengue, Zika and Chikungunya in in Brazil, of the health impacts of natural disasters in Mozambique, Peru and Australia, and of West Nile virus and eco-epidemiology of disease emergence in urban areas in the U.S., and building a Center for the study of Environment and Society in the Italian Apennines.

Current teaching includes courses and seminars on the Anthropocene, climate change and environmental communication. Training of a diverse group of undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers in the U.S. and globally is a major theme of all of our research projects. Interest in application and communication of scientific information is manifested in our collaborations with Local, State, National and International Public Health and Environmental Agencies.

Professor Uriel Kitron

Professor Eric Lonsdorf

Research statement: The goal of my applied research is to enable a more sustainable society by helping to incorporate the value nature provides to human well-being, also known as ecosystem services, into land management decisions and policy. To achieve this goal, I focus my work on three interrelated topics: 1) developing the ecosystem science necessary to reveal nature’s contributions to people, 2) working to understand how people value those contributions economically and intrinsically, and 3) integrating the value of nature’s contributions into decision-making.

I apply this work to agricultural and urban systems. In agricultural systems, I study the impact of crop management on ecosystem services and how to design policies and incentive programs that increase the adoption of sustainable or regenerative practices without negatively impacting food production or a farmer’s livelihood and profits. In urban systems, I study how to integrate the benefits of greenspace and green infrastructure into urban planning to create more equitable, just, and livable cities.

Professor Eric Lonsdorf

Professor Anthony Martin

Google Scholar

Research statement: My main research interest is ichnology, the study of plant and animal traces, such as tracks, trails, burrows, nests, and feces. I generate research questions such as: How does an organism’s body reflect its potential behavior, versus behaviors implied by its traces? Or, how do traces show behaviors similar to or differing from the few times we might directly observe an organism’s behavior?

Although I am mostly a paleontologist and geologist by training, I also study modern traces. This means using a comparative approach that looks at how traces are made and how they get preserved in the fossil record, and then developing hypotheses about how ancient organisms behaved in their environments. Because of my eclectic approach, I normally do a wide variety of geological and ecological field work, but I also enjoy studying museum specimens of trace fossils.

Professor Anthony Martin

Professor Eri Saikawa

Lab website

Google Scholar

Research statement: I conduct interdisciplinary research on the environment. I have worked on diverse projects that cover: 1) atmospheric chemistry (modeling aerosols and tropospheric ozone); 2) environmental health (assessing the adverse health impacts of air pollution); 3) biogeochemistry (modeling global soil nitrous oxide emissions); 4) climate science (estimating emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases), and 5) environmental policy/politics (analyzing the impacts of environmental standards and trade as well as analyzing policymaking processes).

My main research questions are related to the source and the magnitude of emissions linked to air pollution, ozone depletion and global warming, as well as the impacts of these emissions on humans and on the society. I am also interested in what policy measures are available to reduce these emissions, and how politics play a role in policymaking process.

Professor Eri Saikawa

Professor Debjani Sihi

Google Scholar

Research Gate

Lab Website

Research Statement: I am an environmental biogeochemist with a broad research interest in soil organic matter dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions from natural and managed systems. My research works include both empirical studies and process-based modeling. I use biogeochemical models to evaluate the fate of soil (and ecosystem) carbon (and nutrient) in the face of climate change in systems ranging from the tropics and subtropics to temperate and boreal transition forests.

Professor Debjani Sihi

Professor Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec

Lab website

PubMed

Research statement: Primary research areas at the ProkopecLab are disease ecology, spatial and landscape epidemiology and global health. We aim to understand the mechanisms and processes driving the spatial dynamics of vector-borne and parasitic diseases.

We study the biology and ecology of insect vectors and reservoir hosts and the relationships between vector/human behavior and pathogen transmission. We integrate data derived from field observational or experimental studies with spatially-explicit statistical and mechanistic models of pathogen transmission.

Professor Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec

Professor John Wegner

Research Statement:

  • Green building design--especially using the US Green Building Council's LEED(TM) rating system
  • Urban forest ecology
  • Aquatic ecology
  • Effects of habitat fragmentation on the abundance and distribution of animals
Professor John Wegner