Research on the Environment
Research activities in the environmental sciences occur in every college at Cornell. Students continue to flood our lecture halls to learn about environmental sustainability. And our graduate programs, spanning from Natural Resource Ecology to Science and Technology Studies, are among the most competitive in the world. A hallmark of the Cornell tradition in environmental sustainability is the recognition that natural and managed ecosystems are inexorably linked, themselves, and to the well-being of humans. Indeed, we firmly embrace that healthy ecosystems foster healthy societies. The rich history of agriculture, biogeochemistry and biodiversity studies at Cornell has uniquely positioned us to address tremendous interdisciplinary challenges such as climate change. Examples of continued growth in environmental sustainability range from studies of wildlife conservation, management of water resources, and impacts of land use change, to valuation of ecosystem services, the design and engineering of the built environment, and the history and sociology of environmentalism.
Key Campus Partners: Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Climate Information for Mosquito Control & Public Health Officials, Cornell Plantations, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, Ecology and Evolution of Infections and Disease at Cornell, Institute for Computational Sustainability, Northeast Regional Climate Center, Cornell Climate Change Research
More details can be obtained from the listed individuals, a subset of those engaged, or by contacting Drew Harvell, ACSF's Associate Director for Environmental Programs. This list of topics will grow over time, so we hope you will come back often.
(Return to ACSF Research)
Topics: Biogeochemical Cycles | Built Environment | Carbon Sequestration | Climate Change - Disease
Conservation Genetics | Ecosystem Services Valuation | Impacts of Biodiversity Loss | Invasive Species
Microbial Diversity | Nitrogen Pollution | Climate Models | Sustainable Agriculture | Water Management
The study of the movement, transformation, and biological significance of chemical elements in ecosystems is called biogeochemistry. Cornell’s world renowned program in Biogeochemistry has contributed to our understanding of environmental changes such as eutrophication of surface waters, forest die-back, and global changes in the cycling of atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen compounds.
(Barbara Bedford, Louis Derry, Tim Fahey, Alex Flecker, Christy Goodale, Nelson Hairston, Ian Hewson, Bob Howarth, Cliff Kraft, Johannes Lehmann, Natalie Mahowald, Susan Riha, Jed Sparks)
Several leading research teams investigate aspects of the built environment as it relates to green design and architecture, human health issues, energy efficiency, and the hospitality industry. Research in this area spans several Cornell Colleges and work is conducted locally (using campus buildings as research laboratories) to internationally.
(Jack Elliott, Ann Forsyth, Ying Hua, Alan Hedge, Joseph Laquatra, Mark Milstein, Kevin Pratt, Arturo-Ignacio Sanchez, Stephan Schmidt, Nancy Wells)
Because carbon dioxide emissions are one of the major causes of global climate change, the study of carbon sequestration is a major research emphasis. Cornell researchers are exploring technological solutions to storing excess carbon, biomanipulative approaches to capturing carbon for use as fuel, as well as forest management strategies . Linking the science to the economic viability of each strategy is an area in which we have tremendous strength.
(Beth Ahner, Antonio Bento, Stephen DeGloria, John Duxbury, Tim Fahey, Elizabeth Fisher-York, Christine Goodale, Johannes Lehmann, Jeff Tester)
Cornell is uniquely positioned as world leader in the study of climate change impacts on plant and animal communities, especially as a mediator of disease outbreaks. Current work explores mosquitoes and malaria transmission, coral reef bleaching, amphibian decline, west nile virus, and crop diseases.
(Evan Cooch, Andre Dhondt, Stephen Ellner, Laura Harrington, Drew Harvell, Michael Milgroom, Colin Parrish, Alison Power, Kelly Zamudio)
A remarkably diverse group of faculty explores issues related to the conservation of genetic resources, in natural and agricultural systems, and the impact of genetic diversity on ecosystem properties. Work is conducted on various plants, including grains and cereals, marine estuaries, pollinators, birds, and amphibians.
(Anurag Agrawal, Evan Cooch, Bryan Danforth, Janis Dickinson Matt Hare, Rick Harrison, Steve Kesovich, Irby Lovette, Susan McCouch, Alison Power, Tom Seeley, Adam Siepel, Kelly Zamudio)
The assessment and valuation of ecosystem services in natural, agricultural and industrial systems is increasingly gaining importance in conservation practice and environmental legislation. Faculty members engaged in this group include biodiversity scientists, biogeochemists, economists, environmental sociologists, and microbiologists.
(Anurag Agrawal, Antonio Bento, Bernd Blossey, Toni DiTommaso, Anthony Hay, Louis Levitan, John Losey, Greg Poe, Steven Wolf, Joe Yavitt )
Several leading research teams investigate aspects of community and ecosystem impacts of biodiversity loss, from the dependence of animal species on plant diversity to the impact of biodiversity on soil health.
(Anurag Agrawal, Bernd Blossey, Bryan Danforth, Janis Dickinson, Tim Fahey, John Fitzpatirick, Monica Geber, Harry Green, Kathy Hodge, Bob Howarth, Ruth Ley, Alex Travis, Joe Yavitt, Kelly Zamudio)
Invasive species evolved on another continent and, once introduced, threaten the function and integrity of ecosystems, native species, and agricultural crops. Ecologically sound management of invasive species requires significant improvements in our understanding of the ecological impacts of invasives, as well as the effective management of their populations. Research spanning detection, prediction, and management of invasive species is conducted on plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish and insects.
(Bernd Blossey, Anurag Agrawal, Evan Cooch, Toni DiTommaso, Ann Hajek, Nelson Hairston, Mike Hoffmann, Cliff Kraft, Jim Liebherr, Jan Nyrop, Tony Shelton)
Cornell researchers investigate the role of microbial organisms in removing pollutants from soil and water, and explore the management of diverse microbial communities in order to decontaminate various natural resources.
(Beth Ahner, William Ghiorse, Anthony Hay, Leonard Lion, Janice Thies, Stephen Zinder)
Cornell is a world leader in research on the impacts of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on the health of ecosystems. Nitrogen pollution impacts terrestrial ecosystems via fertilizer runoff, and atmospheric ecosystems via the burning of fossil fuels. A current frontier and strength at Cornell is linking the terrestrial and atmospheric systems, and studies of the feedback between the two. Work in this area spans regional to global scales, in natural, industrial, and agricultural systems.
(James Bisogni, Laurie Drinkwater, Oliver Gao, Christine Goodale, Nelson Hairston, Peter Hess, Bob Howarth, Susan Riha, Jed Sparks, David Wolfe, Max Zhang)
Projections of future climate change are modeled via complex calculations of global and regional climate processes, anthropogenic change, and the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change projections over the 21st Century are essential in preparing adaptive responses or establishing mitigation strategies that will protect human health, agricultural productivity, and natural ecosystems. A core group of distinguished Cornell faculty works collaboratively to model regional and global changes in climate and their consequences.
(Art DeGaetano, Chrisy Goodale, Chuck Greene, Peter Hess, Natalie Mahawald, Dan Wilks, David Wolfe, Max Zhang)
Sustainable agriculture is a primary goal of many research faculty at Cornell, and this approach has been applied for decades locally and internationally across at least 10 Cornell departments. Approaches include soil conservation, biological control, econmic analyses, maximizing a crop's natural defensive systems, disruption of pheromonal communication between pests, etc. Cornell works at the intersection between real world benefits to agricultural sustainability and novel research that identifies mechanisms of ecological interactions.
(Angla Douglas, Laurie Drinkwater, Bill Fry, Miguel Gomez, Mike Hoffmann, Georg Jander, Rick Harrison, Charlie Linn, Greg Loeb, Martha Mutschler, Jeff Scott, Tony Shelton, Christina Smart, Jennifer Thaler, Ping Wang)
Sustainable management of water is critical because it is often used for multiple, often conflicting purposes, including domestic use, irrigation, flood control, power generation, waste water disposal, and fisheries. Cornell has a long-standing multidisciplinary group that studies sustainable water resource management regionally and globally.
(Mark Bain, Wilfried Brutsaert, Todd Cowen, Nelson Hairston, Bob Howarth, Cliff Kraft, Susan Riha , Rebecca L. Schneider, Jery Stedinger, Tammo Steenhuis)