The Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), developed by GregAsner, is a fixed-wing aircraft that sweeps laser light across the vegetation canopy to image it in brilliant 3-D. The data can determine the location and size of each tree at a resolution of 3.5 feet (1.1 meter), a level of detail that is unprecedented. By combining field surveys with this airborne mapping and high-resolution satellite monitoring the team has been able to detail myriad ecological features of forests around the world.

As one example, Carnegie scientists with the Peruvian Ministry of Environment mapped the true extent of gold mining in the biologically diverse region of Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon. The team found that the geographic extent of mining has increased 400% from 1999 to 2012 and that the average annual rate of forest loss has tripled since the Great Recession of 2008. Until this study, thousands of small, clandestine mines that have boomed since the economic crisis have gone unmonitored.

The team is also the first to map the carbon stocks in individual countries in high-resolution, which could provide the foundation for future market-based carbon economies. The first such map was for Panama (left), the second was for Perú (right). The carbon maps also reveal the high ecological diversity in these jurisdictions providing critical input to studies of deforestation and forest degradation for conservation, land use, and enforcement purposes. Numerous other studies have been conducted using this technology.

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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Scubazoo
March 19, 2018

Sabah, Malaysia—Degraded forests play a crucial role in the future survival of Bornean elephants. A new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, finds that forests of surprisingly short stature are ideal for elephants.

“Our study indicates that forests with a mean canopy height of 13 meters (about 43 feet) were those most utilized by Bornean elephants. These forests are consistent with degraded landscapes or those recovering from previous logging, or clearance,” noted lead author Luke Evans, a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie and Danau Girang Field Centre. “The study utilized GPS tracking data from 29 individual elephants that were collared across Sabah,

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Aaron Takeo Ninokawa of UC Davis
March 14, 2018

Washington, DC— Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked, according to new research on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef led by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and the California Academy of Sciences’ Rebecca Albright.

Their work, published in Nature, represents the first ocean acidification experiment in which seawater was made artificially acidic by the addition of carbon dioxide and then allowed to flow across a natural coral reef community. The acidity of the seawater was increased to reflect end-of-century projections if carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions are not abated.

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, public domain
February 26, 2018

Washington, DC—Wind and solar power could generate most but not all electricity in the United States, according to an analysis of 36 years of weather data by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, and three Carnegie-affiliated energy experts: Matthew Shaner, Steven Davis (of University of California Irvine), and Nathan Lewis (of Caltech). Their work is published by Energy & Environmental Science. 

Right now, about 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from electricity production, which must be reduced to combat climate change.

The team found that as the amount of electricity produced by solar and wind increases, avoiding major blackouts becomes increasingly challenging.   

December 6, 2017

Washington, DC— The climate models that project greater amounts of warming this century are the ones that best align with observations of the current climate, according to a new paper from Carnegie’s Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira published by Nature.  Their findings suggest that the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on average, may be underestimating future warming.

Climate model simulations are used to predict how much warming should be expected for any given increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“There are dozens of prominent global climate models and they all project different amounts of

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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.


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

Staff member Nick Konidaris joined Carnegie in October 2017. He works on a variety of new optical instrumentation projects in astronomy. He  recently began working on a new development platform for the 40-inch Swope telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory. It is called the Rapid Response Swope Spectrograph and Imager (R2S2I). When operational, it will be a workhorse instrument and development platform.

Prior to Carnegie, he was director of product management at Kairos Aerospace in Mountain View, CA. Konidaris received a B.S. in physics from Carnegie Mellon University, and conducted coursework in electrical engineering before obtaining a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the

Experimental petrologist Michael Walter became director of the Geophysical Laboratory beginning April 1, 2018. His recent research has focused on the period early in Earth’s history, shortly after the planet accreted from the cloud of gas and dust surrounding our young Sun, when the mantle and the core first separated into distinct layers. Current topics of investigation also include the structure and properties of various compounds under the extreme pressures and temperatures found deep inside the planet, and information about the pressure, temperature, and chemical conditions of the mantle that can be gleaned from mineral impurities preserved inside diamonds.

Walter had been at

Guoyin Shen's research interests lie in the quest to establish and to examine models for explaining and controlling the behavior of materials under extreme conditions. His research activities include investigation of phase transformations and melting lines in molecular solids, oxides and metals; polyamorphism in liquids and amorphous materials; new states of matter and their emergent properties under extreme conditions; and the development of enabling high-pressure synchrotron techniques for advancing compression science. 

He obtained a Ph.D. in mineral physics from Uppsala University, Sweden in 1994 and a B.S. in geochemistry from Zhejiang University, China in 1982. For more

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.