How do ecosystem-atmoshere interactions and their sensitivity and feedbacks to anthropogenic and climatic processes change across temporal and spatial scale? We focus on investigating the influence of spatiotemporal scale, ecology, and micrometeorology on how the atmosphere and surface communicate. Our lab observes and models these micrometeorological, ecological, and biogeochemical interactions of the surface with the atmosphere at regional to global scales, with a focus on anthropogenic influences to these interactions. Major research projects and tools we employ in our research are described below.


Current and recent projects center on several themes focused on understanding emergent ecosystem and atmospheric phenomena at regional spatial scales (100s to 1000s of km) in spatially heterogenous or complex systems.

  • Carbon and water cycling in forests and wetlands: Surface-atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor have been observed for nearly a decade off short and tall towers in the upper Midwest USA by our lab and collaborators to better understand regional land-atmosphere interactions. Ecosystems studied include wetlands, managed forests, and transitions between the two.
    • Ameriflux Core Site Cluster : Influence of management and land cover on mid-latitude fluxes and biogeochemistry (DOE Ameriflux, NEON, ongoing)
    • The Predictive Ecosystem Analyzer (PEcAn) Automated model parameterization, data assimilation, and model analysis for C cycle models (NSF, ongoing)
    • MANDIFORE : MANagement and DIsturbance in FORest Ecosystems (NSF Macrosystems Biology, ongoing)
    • Regional fluxes : Contrasting environmental controls on regional CO2 and CH4 biogeochemistry (NSF, 2009-2014)
    • Wetlands : Improving prediction of climate change impacts on wetland-rich landscapes (DOE, 2007-2010)
    • Forests : Observing carbon fluxes and potential climate change impacts from forest land management (WI Focus on Energy, USDA, DOE LLNL, 2012-2017)
  • Terrestrial-aquatic linkages of carbon, water, and energy: We look at the role of terrestrial transfers of carbon to aquatic systems affects site and regional carbon budgets in lake-rich regions and over the Great Lakes.
    • Lakes : Carbon and energy budgets and fluxes of a north temperate lake district (NSF LTER, ongoing)
    • CyCLeS : Cycling of Carbon in Lake Superior (NSF, 2007-2011)
  • Crop management and ecosystem sustainability
    • Drivers of groundwater levels in Central Sands Wisconsin (WPVGA and WI DNR, 2018-)
    • Ecosystem restoration and dairy farming carbon fluxes (USDA ARS Dairy Forage, 2018-)
    • Carbon budgets of tropical lowland commercial forests (APRIL, 2018-)
  • Drivers of climate variability and carbon cycles in complex terrain: Several field projects have been combined with regional and global scale modeling efforts to better elucidate the impacts of drought, fire, and insect disturbance on carbon cycling in mountain forests, alpine ecosystems, desert shrublands, and grasslands at the diurnal to interannual time scale.
    • Vegetation functional amplitudes along a rainfall gradient in Indian ecosystems using AVIRIS-NG (NASA, ongoing)
    • HyspIRI : Measurement of ecosystem metabolism across climatic and vegetation gradients in California for the 2013-2014 NASA AVIRIS/MASTER airborne campaign (NASA, 2013-2016)
    • Rocky RACCOON : A Regional Atmospheric Continuous CO2 Network in the Rocky Mountains (NOAA, 2008-2011)
    • ACME07 : Airborne Carbon in the Mountains Experiment 2007 (NSF NCAR/EOL + ASP, UW Graduate School, 2007-2011)
  • Boundary layer - land surface interactions: Observations and models of mesoscale structure of convective and stable boundary layers have been studied over the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, and Amazonian forests using a variety of techniques and models.
    • CHEESEHEAD19: Chequamegon Heterogeneous Ecosystem Energy-balance Study Enabled by a High-density Extensive Array of Detectors (NSF, 2018-2021)
    • Storm Track: Influence of winter snow cover extent on North American mid-latitude disturbances (NSF, ongoing)
    • PEGASUS-PBL: A simple global model framework for integrating land use change effects into climate models (NSF, 2008-2012)
    • Integration of Wind Energy Systems into Power Engineering Education Program (DOE, 2009-2011)
    • SGP97 : Land surface influence on atmospheric boundary layer in the Great Plains (DOE ARM, 1998-2006)

Research Tools

  • Tower-based eddy covariance and micrometeorological observations: high-frequency measurements of atmospheric turbulence and fluctuations in scalars to directly observe surface-atmosphere trace-gas and energy exchange on scales of 0.1-10 km. The measurements can be related to biophysical state parameters, remotely-sensed radiative quantities or micrometeorological variables. . We have instrumented sites in northern Wisconsin and Michigan as part of the Chequamegon Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study and other sites in a number of projects, in concert with the [[][]Ameriflux]] program and Fluxnet. We have also worked on developing standardized algorithms to decompose the observed net fluxes into their components: respiration and photosynthesis.
  • Biogeochemical ecosystem models: We employ and modify a number of ecosystem, hydrologic, land surface, and biogeochemical models to better understand carbon, water and energy transport between ecosystems and the atmosphere. We focus on incorporating heterogeneity into these models. Models we have used include Ecosystem Demography model (ED), PEGASUS, SiPNET , Biome-BGC, LANDIS-II, Biocro, SWAT-MODFLOW, NOAH, Ecosys, CLM.
  • Model-data Bayesian parameter estimation: The mathematical technique of Bayesian hierarchical data assimilation can be used to optimally estimate model parameters for a given set of known observations and their uncertainty. We have applied these techniques, particularly Markov Chain Monte Carlo, to many observations we have made to better test hypotheses in non-linear models.
  • Tracer-transport budgets and inversions: Atmospheric tracer mass balance boundary layer budget and top-down transport inversions are used with atmospheric trace gases such as CO2 to constrain regional-scale surface-atmosphere interactions. Observations of trace gases from the surface, tall towers, aircraft, and in situ and spaceborne remote sensing are used with these methods.
  • Simple models of boundary layer structure and dynamics: The structure and dynamics of the lowest layer of the atmosphere, the boundary layer, is strongly controlled by surface exchanges of energy and water vapor. The variability of surface energy fluxes and surface meteorology, in turn, is related to terrestrial state variables, such as soil moisture, elevation/slope, vegetation type and ecosystem dynamics. We have been involved in several field campaigns focused on understanding these controls at the regional scale via airborne active and passive remote sensing and are also involved in modeling these interactions from the site to global scale using simplified prognostic models of boundary layer development and statistical downscaling techniques.

Research Funding

  • Please refer to my CV under section Research Funding for details of active and past grants supporting this work.
Topic revision: r17 - 2018-06-19 - 16:15:17 - AnkurDesai
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