Research

Research Projects & Motivation
Ecosystems and their environments are changing faster than we can measure and understand them. Our goal is to develop and implement tools to measure these systems and attribute changes in their properties to the physical or biological environment. The motivation for this work lies in the need to understand and predict how ecosystems will respond to future climate and land use change and how these changes may feedback to affect future change.

We use tools from forestry, plant physiology, ecology, micrometeorology, dendrochronology, remote sensing, applied mathematics, and biogeochemistry in order to understand ecosystems and ecosystem function. We are particularly interested in questions relating to the response of ecosystems to disturbance, extreme climatic events, and weather variability at leaf to regional spatial scales and from seconds to multi-decadal temporal scales. Understanding these issues will allow for better prediction of the ability of ecosystems to provide important services, such as carbon cycling and climate regulation, in the future.

Research in the Rocha lab currently focused on the Alaskan Arctic, which is experiencing large environmental and ecological change as a result of rapid temperature increases. Our research is based out of the Toolik Lake field station on the North Slope of Alaska and focused on several key issues:

1. Recovery of arctic tundra carbon and energy fluxes from fire

2. Controls on arctic tundra phenology and implications for carbon cycling

3. Understanding controls on photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration in tundra ecosystems

4. Carbon in Arctic Tussock Tundra (CATT) Network