My aim is to understand the co-evolution of human and earth systems in order to inform decision making, planning, and policy related to climate mitigation and adaptation. Science traditionally separates social and economic aspects of the world from “natural” ones, but humans have been an integral component of the earth system for millennia. As such, the resource and environmental challenges society faces today confound traditional analyses that attempt to reduce these challenges to either human drivers or environmental responses. To overcome the limitations of such analyses, I develop and promote methods of scientific inquiry that fundamentally integrate humans into the earth system. Starting from this premise of a “whole” earth system enables me ask questions regarding the feasibility of specific climate mitigation and adaptation strategies in a global context, how extensive they need to be to achieve their desired goals, and what their unintended consequences may be for both humans and the environment.
To address these and related questions, I investigate the effects of scale on our understanding of observed and simulated geographical data; the uncertainties of land, carbon, and water dynamics in earth system and integrated assessment models (and these models coupled together); the influences of changing and managed landscapes on carbon and climate; and two-way feedbacks between human and environmental systems. My diverse toolkit includes numerical modeling, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), statistics, and laboratory and field data.