Carnegie researchers are developing new scientific approaches that integrate phylogenetic, chemical and spectral remote sensing perspectives - called Spectranomics - to map canopy function and biological diversity throughout tropical forests of the world.

Mapping the composition and chemistry of species in tropical forests is critical to understanding forest functions related to human use and climate change. However, high-resolution mapping of tropical forest canopies is challenging because traditional field, airborne and satellite measurements cannot easily measure the canopy chemical or taxonomic variation among species over large regions. New technology, such as the Carnegie Airborne Observatory is reaching performance levels that can help in monitoring tropical canopy chemistry and diversity from the air. However, the methods and taxonomically organized spectral-chemical libraries needed to apply the technology are needed.

In collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, World Wildlife Fund, and many other organizations, the Carnegie Institution is surveying tropical forest canopies worldwide. The goal is to develop new approaches that organize forest canopy species based on their leaf chemical and spectroscopic traits. The name Spectranomics expresses this new integration of leaf properties in an explicitly taxonomic approach that will advance airborne and satellite mapping techniques.

The team is developing the world's first Spectranomics Database to link the phylogenetic organization of tropical plants to their spectroscopic and chemical properties. The Spectranomics Database is a critical step required to advance regional and global biodiversity mapping efforts in the coming decades.

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We’ve all seen the photos. Long panel tables full of people from around the globe hashing out the intricacies of how to best fight climate change for endless grueling hours.

But what’s it like to be in the room?

Carnegie’s Geeta Persad will be there and she’ll checking in with us periodically to offer an insider’s look at the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Shutterstock
October 9, 2017

Washington, DC— There is considerable opportunity for generating wind power in the open ocean, particularly the North Atlantic, according to new research from Carnegie’s Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira. Their work is published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Because wind speeds are higher on average over ocean than over land, wind turbines in the open ocean could in theory intercept more than five times as much energy as wind turbines over land. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines. But it was unknown whether the faster ocean winds could actually be converted to increased amounts of electricity.

“Are

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Geeta Persad
September 27, 2017

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Geeta Persad are co-recipients of one of nine National Science Foundation grants for research on how humans and the environment interact. The nine projects were awarded $13 million overall.

The Coupled Dynamics of Natural and Human Systems program “considers humans and the environment as one interconnected system,” said the NSF when announcing the grants. The awardees were selected because they “look at ways in which people deal with environmental processes in a range of settings, including coasts, woodlands, and cities.”

As Carnegie’s grantees, Caldeira and Persad aim to help countries optimize how they meet their commitments

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science,
September 20, 2017

Global biological diversity is under enormous and increasing threat from habitat loss caused by land use and climate change. Responding to this problem requires strategies that integrate elements of governance, economics, human welfare, and other societal factors. It also requires the use of geographically explicit approaches to generate safe havens for biodiversity, both in the long-term and as immediate barriers to the ongoing extinction crisis.

Prioritization of new regions for protection is often undertaken with incomplete and/or outdated information on the geography of biodiversity.  In response, Greg Asner and colleagues have created and utilized a novel capability to map

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Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.

Ken

Chris Field is a co-principal investigator of the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in northern California. The site, designed to exploit grasslands as models for understanding how ecosystems may respond to climate change, hosts a number of studies of the potential effects from elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, elevated temperature, increased precipitation, and increased nitrogen deposition. The site houses experimental plots that replicate all possible combinations of the four treatments and additional sampling sites that control for the effects of project infrastructure. Studies focus on several integrated ecosystem responses to the

Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass over a specific time. Joe Berry was part of a team that took an entirely new approach by using satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis as shown by the artwork.

The plant produces fluorescent light when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll. Satellite instruments sense this fluorescence yielding a direct

Leopoldo Infante became the director of the Las Campanas Observatory on July 31, 2017.

Since 2009, Infante has been the founder and director of the Centre for Astro-Engineering at the Chilean university. He joined PUC as an assistant professor in 1990 and has been a full professor since 2006. He was one of the creators of PUC’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and served as its director from 2000 to 2006. He also established the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) and served as its president from 2009 to 2010.

Infante received his B.Sc. in physics at PUC. He then acquired a MSc. and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada.

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.

Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s inner core structure; core-mantle coupling; tectonic-volatile cycling; orbital migration—how Earth’s orbit moves—and tidal dissipation—the dissipation of tidal forces between two closely orbiting bodies. He is also interested in planetary interiors, dynamos, upper planetary atmospheres and exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars. He uses large-scale numerical simulations in much of his research