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Projects

The longest-running research project in our group is to understand how plant, soil, and microbial attributes influence plant productivity and water and nutrient cycling. Our work has included the first global analysis of plant rooting distributions (e.g., Jackson et al. 1996 Oecologia and subsequent papers) and the first continental-scale measurements of microbial diversity in soils, and the factors predicting them (e.g., Fierer and Jackson 2006 PNAS).

We are studying the carbon and water footprints of hydraulically fractured oil and natural gas and comparing them to other fossil and renewable fuels.  The Jackson lab and colleagues published the first studies of drinking water quality and shale gas extraction, and have examined wastewater disposal and naturally occurring radioactive materials.  We also measure hydrocarbon emissions upstream from wellpads and downstream in cities, producing the first publicly available maps of thousands of natural gas leaks across the streets of Boston, Manhattan, and Washington, D.C. 

We study the effects of management and disturbance on forest ecosystems, including carbon, nutrient, and water cycling. The guiding question of our work is, "How can we use basic science to enhance forest sustainability?" We combine global vegetation and climate models, remote sensing data, and field and laboratory measurements to assess changes in forests and plantations from Brazil to Sweden.

We analyze the global budgets of carbon dioxide and methane.  These studies include the balance of carbon coming from deforestation and land use change compared with fossil fuel emissions.  We also study ways to encourage low carbon and low water technologies through carbon pricing and other levers.  Lab member Rob Jackson directed the DOE National Institute for Climate Change Research for the southeastern U.S., co-chaired the  U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan (2011), and is currently chair of the Global Carbon Project (www.globalcarbonproject.org).