The Remote Sensing and Ecological Modeling Group’s research interests are remote sensing of environment, ecological modeling and human-environment interactions. We use remotely sensed data to monitor land-cover/land-use change (LCLUC) through time and to extract land surface biophysical parameters as inputs to ecological models to understand the impacts of LCLUC on terrestrial ecosystem functions in the context of global climate change. We also conduct interdisciplinary studies to understand factors driving LCLUC, and feedbacks of changes in terrestrial ecosystem services to the human system. Remote sensing, geographic information systems, ecological models and statistical tools are the primary means of our research. Therefore, we are also interested in developing new algorithms for information extraction from remote sensing data, ecological model development, agent-based modeling as well as integrated systems modeling. Data used in our research include remotely sensed images from multiple sensors, vegetation plots, and household surveys through field campaigns, and existing ground data collected by other projects, governments, or organizations.
Forest ecosystem is the focus of our research. Forests are the most complex ecosystem on the Earth’s land surface, providing vital goods and services to society, including but not limited to, offsetting anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, regulating freshwater resources, soil conservation, and providing shelter to wildlife. Due to global climate change and LCLUC caused by human activities, both forest area and its quality are decreasing rapidly around the world. These changes have profound impacts on the goods and services that the forest ecosystem provides and on the livelihoods for the people living in and around these forests. We characterize both the categorical changes in land-cover/land-use as well as gradual changes in phenology, forest successional stages, and leaf area index, etc.. Feeding the spatio-temporal information of terrestrial ecosystem biophysical properties as inputs to ecological models driven by climate enables us to simulate terrestrial ecosystem functions in the past and to project into the future. The agent-based models simulate how an array of factors that drive the dynamics in the human system. Integrating the ecosystem model with the agent-based model provides a holistic understanding of the dynamics of the integrated socio-environmental systems. These understandings are critical for making policies that aim at sustainable development.