Academic focus: Global carbon cycle and ecosystem sciences
Research summary: My research program has been focused on addressing two key issues: 1) how global change alters structure and functions of terrestrial ecosystems, and 2) how terrestrial ecosystems regulate climate change. To address these issues, we have conducted field global change experiments, developed terrestrial ecosystem models, synthesized extensive data sets using meta-analysis and other methods, integrated data and model using data assimilation techniques, and carried out theoretical and computational analysis.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Hiking is probably my favorite activity. I sometime play ping-pong although I am not good at it.
What are three adjectives people might use to describe you?
I am not sure what the three adjectives would be people might use to describe me. In general, I am quite enthusiastic, positive and try to be helpful.
What (specifically) brought you to Cornell CALS?
I was attracted by CALS’ vision to find collective solutions to climate challenge. I have conducted basic research in the areas of global change biology and land carbon cycle for decades. I am eager to apply my knowledge to solve some of the societally relevant issues.
What do you think is important for people to understand about your field?
My research field in global carbon cycle and ecosystem science is highly relevant to societal challenges on climate change and ecosystem services to humanity. Any advances in our research potentially have ripple effects. While we are eager to use our knowledge to solve societal issues, much more work needs to be done in our field to establish a firm theoretical foundation.
What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered about Cornell and/or Ithaca so far?
Ithaca is not only gorgeous but also offers lots of outdoor activities and hiking trails, although the scenery is very different from the trails I used to hike around Flagstaff, Arizona.
If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?
I have two major issues in my mind to solve. One is non-steady-state biogeochemistry. The other is to apply our knowledge to address societally relevant challenges. Almost all elements are presently cycling at non-steady states due to global change. For example, nitrogen cycle is at non-steady state in crop field due to nitrogen fertilization. Carbon cycle is at non-steady state in land ecosystems because of the directional change in atmosphere CO2 concentration and other factors. We have studied non-steady-state carbon cycle (i.e., dynamic disequilibrium of terrestrial carbon cycle). But the theoretical foundation is not clear yet for understanding non-steady-state nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Moreover, it is yet to explore how manageable the land carbon and nitrogen cycles are to combat climate change, although the nature-based solution to climate change has been very promising.
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