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Lab Members

Giovani Graziosi, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, gg2474@columbia.edufirephoto

Giovani works with E3B faculty members and NASA scientists to assess the interrelations that exist between forest fires, regrowth, and global sustainability. See CV and bio here. Link to E3B Postdoc page here.

Victor Guitierrez-Velez, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, vhg2103@columbia.eduvictorphoto

Victor's current research evaluates the influence of climate variability and human transformation of the landscape on fire propagation and carbon fluxes in the Peruvian Amazon. Historically, fire has been used for land conversion and management throughout much of the Amazon. However, the escape of fires to areas where burning was not intended is a relatively recent phenomenon in the region with pervasive consequences for human health, agricultural production, and nature conservation. His work specifically addresses the extent to which changes in land covers interact with climate to facilitate or inhibit fire proliferation and carbon fluxes. See CV here.

Ming Lee, Research Fellow, tl2504@columbia.edumingphoto

Ming's research examines what makes someone care (or not care) about the environment. He does that by integrating environmental with social survey data at the national and global scale. For instance, he is currently exploring the predictors of pro-environmental behavior and its potential influence on human well-being in urban Chinese across China. He is also trying to compare and contrast the correlates of climate change awareness and threat perception within India and across many other countries. Overall, he takes an interdisciplinary approach to unravel the human dimension of global environmental issues to inform environmental policies, particularly in Asia where it may matter the most in the near future. See CV here. Link to E3B Postdoc page here.

Pinki Mondal, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, pm2658@columbia.edupinkiphoto

Pinki's research interests revolve around examining the relationships between biophysical and socio-economic variables and how these variables contribute towards global environmental change. She is currently engaged in a project to better understand agricultural vulnerability to climate variability in India, where agriculture provides sustenance and livelihood for an estimated 70% of total population. With expected changes in future climate, significant fluctuations in crop yields are projected for near future, leading to serious concerns about food security of the growing Indian population. Pinki is specifically using multi-platform satellite data (TRMM, MODIS, Landsat, World View) along with district-level non-satellite data on irrigation, dominant crop type, crop yield to explore factors associated with changing crop intensity in the central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. See CV here. Link to E3B Postdoc page here.

Meghna Agarwala, Ph.D. Student, ma2902@columbia.edumeghnaphoto

Meghna is interested in the coexistence of humans and wildlife in habitats outside protected areas, with the aim of identifying habitat features that need to be conserved in human-modified landscapes to ensure future coexistence. Her current research maps change in canopy, understory, fire and weed infestation in reserve forests between Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves, in Madhya Pradesh, India, which are used by both humans and wildlife. In mapping these changes, her research also studies forest resilience to human use in an attempt to understand whether these changes constitute degradation. See CV here.

Megan Cattau, Ph.D. Student, mec2201@columbia.edumeganphoto

Megan researches forest dynamics in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia on a failed agricultural project called the Mega Rice Project (MRP). The goal of the MRP was to convert over a million hectares of intact peatswamp forest into rice paddies. The project failed and was abandoned, but the remaining irrigation canals are causing peat soil drainage and subsidence, leaving the area susceptible to fire, a novel disturbance regime in this system. Megan's work evaluates the relative influence of several biophysical and anthropogenic factors in increasing fire probability and explores the determinants of the trajectory of vegetative regrowth in post-burn barren areas. She was awarded a Fulbright Student Research Fellowship and will be in Indonesia 2013-2014. See CV here.

Benjamin Clark, Ph.D. Student, bdc2120@columbia.edubenphoto

Benjamin’s research interests relate to the impacts of agriculture on ecosystem functions in the context of Eastern and Southern Africa. In particular, how land cover change to agriculture as a result of population growth interacts with the water cycle and the impact this has on larger landscape units. Much of Eastern and Southern Africa’s population relies on rain feed crops for their food. It is critical to have a good understanding of agriculture practices’ broader impact on the water cycle to ensure long-term sustainable food production, capable of providing food security for this region. See CV here.

Matthew Fagan, Ph.D. Student, mef2153@columbia.edumattphoto

Matt successfully defended his dissertation in January 2014, and has been named a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. Beginning April 2014, he will be based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Congratulations, Matt! Matt's current research assesses how forest connectivity has changed over the last several decades in the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor (SJLSBC), an agricultural region in northern Costa Rica. In this former deforestation frontier, forest clearing has largely stopped, but like many other rural areas in the humid tropics, the expansion of tree plantations and modern agriculture is changing the landscape around remnant patches of lowland tropical forest. Although the SJLSBC is using payments for environmental services (PES) to promote forest protection and tree planting on private lands, there is intense pressure on productive land. See CV here.

Meha Jain, Ph.D. Student, mj2415@columbia.edumehaphoto

Meha's current research examines the effects of short-term climate variability on agricultural production in northwest India, which will help better identify the possible impacts of future climate change in this region. Specifically, her work uses remote sensing and structured household surveys to identify which farmers are best able to adapt cropping practices and are the least vulnerable to changing monsoon patterns. See CV here.

Miriam Marlier, Ph.D. Student, mem2225@columbia.edumiriamphoto

Miriam successfully defended her dissertation in December 2013, and will be continuing her work with the DeFries' Lab as a post-doctoral fellow. Congratulations! Miriam's current research estimates how fire emissions from land use change impact air quality and public health. Throughout the tropics, fire emissions contribute to increased pollutant concentrations, such as particulate matter and ozone, which are both dangerous for cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Her work combines satellite-derived fire emissions estimates and atmospheric modeling to identify which populations are most susceptible to transported fire emissions and how this might be expected to change in the future. See CV here.

Amrita Neelakantan, Ph.D. Student, an2601@columbia.eduphoto

Amrita studies patterns of change in animal and human communities across forested landscapes that are now dominated by agriculture or pastoral human use. The broader implications of her research are to explore if and what associations between biodiversity communities and human well-being exist. Her research hopes to inform conservation policy decisions in areas of high biodiversity alongside rapid and increasing agriculture intensification. She is currently focusing her project in the central Indian landscape of agriculture and dry deciduous forests. See CV here.