Core Research Areas

Biodiversity & Invasive Species

Biodiversity research focuses on the diversity of native species and their genes in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Biodiversity often declines under pressures of urbanization, agricultural expansion, climate change, and pollution. Invasive species are non-native and they often compete for resources with native species or may be vectors of animal and plant diseases and pathogens. Research includes theoretical considerations of how assemblages of genes and species develop spatially in landscapes and in aquatic ecosystems, as well as practical methods for conserving or restoring habitats of native species and controlling the spread of invasive species. Modern genomics offers new methods of studying the diversity of genes within populations of organisms, including microbes, plants, and animals and how spatial and temporal trends in genetic diversity affect ecosystems.

Climate & Energy

Climate change impacts forests, agricultural lands, estuaries, and oceans, and these ecosystems, in turn, also affect the local and global climate. The need for renewable energy technologies creates new challenges and opportunities for biotechnologists, ecologists, geologists and biogeochemists, climate and atmospheric scientists, hydrologists, toxicologists, and environmental economists to help develop those technologies and to study their pros and cons and trade-offs. 

Coastal & Estuarine Science

The vast majority of the world’s population is located along the coast and within coastal watersheds. With greater use of marine and coastal resources and climate changes (including increased temperatures and storm intensity, sea level rise, and ocean acidification) concern is growing that human welfare will be greatly impacted, particularly in vulnerable coastal environments.

Environmental Chemistry & Toxicology

Environmental chemistry seeks to understand the chemical processes that impact the composition of the environment. Crossing traditional boundaries of geology, chemistry and biology, environmental chemists seek to identify and quantify sources, processes and fates of chemicals on land, in water and in the air. Environmental toxicology is a related interdisciplinary field that uses knowledge from environmental chemistry, toxicology and ecology to understand the ultimate fate and effects of man-made pollutants, the mechanisms by which pollutants impact the health of organisms and entire ecosystems, and how those effects may be mitigated or reversed.

Fisheries & Aquaculture

Drawing on the biological, physical, and social sciences, fisheries scientists seeks to understand the reproduction, growth and survival of fish and shellfish, often with the goal of advancing knowledge that leads to the sustainable management of these resources. Their research can range from molecular to ecosystem scales. Aquaculture is a specific subdiscipline that focuses on growing fish and shellfish in tanks and pens for human consumption and to restore endangered species. Such production now accounts for almost half the seafood consumed, thereby increasing food security for human populations around the globe.

Genes & Microbes

A rapidly developing research area focuses on understanding how genetic variation influences organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems and specifically the connections between genetics, gene regulation, species diversity, and ecological and biogeochemical processes. Changes in the genetic composition of foundation species and in gene-environment interactions are becoming more prevalent as a result of biological invasions, anthropogenic pollution, climate warming, and other manifestations of environmental change. These genetic changes have the potential to cascade through interacting systems to affect population viability, community organization, and the flow of nutrients and energy through ecosystems.

Ocean Science

Oceanographers study the physics, biology, chemistry and geology of the marine environment and how they interact with and influence the planet, including humankind. Ocean scientists use a variety of approaches, including satellite remote sensing, computer modeling, research ships, cabled observatories, and state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Restoring & Sustaining Ecosystems

Increasing pressures from population growth and development are degrading the health of ecosystems across the globe. Whether on the land, beneath the sea, or in the air, restoring environmental sustainability is critical to our global future. Ecological restoration seeks to rehabilitate an area to recover a sustainable and resilient ecosystem, including native plants and animals and the biogeochemical processes on which they rely. A central challenge is to identify achievable rehabilitation goals and implementation techniques as well as developing a well-integrated and scientifically rigorous approaches to monitoring whether the goals are reached.

Terrestrial Ecology & Land Management

Terrestrial ecology is the study of land-based ecosystems, their populations and communities of plants, animals, and microbes, their interactions with the atmosphere and with streams and groundwater, and their role in the cycling of energy, water, and the major biogeochemical elements such as carbon and nitrogen. Research approaches include field measurement campaigns and experiments, laboratory analyses, analyzing satellite images to study variation across the landscape and through time, and computer modeling to test our understanding of how populations, communities, and ecosystems function at present and in response to environmental change. Humans affect terrestrial ecosystems through land and water management, pollution, and climate change.  

Water Resources & Watersheds

Watersheds are important landscape features that control the amount and quality of water flowing from the land to the sea. This interdisciplinary field of study focuses on the fundamental processes governing the transport and chemical composition of surface and subsurface waters. Water resource studies include societal impacts of the quality and quantity of water available for drinking water and irrigation and to sustain important ecosystem services, such as forest habitats and fisheries.