Principal Investigators

Ralph Dubayah

  • Professor
  • (301) 405-4069
dubayah.png Ralph Dubayah is a Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Maryland College Park, and a Fellow at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. His main areas of research are landcover characterization and the land surface energy and water balances. He leads a NASA EOS Interdisciplinary Science Investigation (IDS) on the use of remote sensing for macroscale hydrological modeling. Most recently he is the principal investigator for the Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL), the first NASA Earth System Pathfinder (ESSP) mission, which will measure the three-dimensional structure of the Earth's topography and forests. He serves in various U.S. national organizations, including the Remote Sensing Committee of the American Geophysical Union (chair).

George Hurtt

  • Professor
  • (301) 405-8541
hurtt.jpg Dr. Hurtt is interested in the theory and application of community and ecosystem ecology. He has published on a wide range of topics including: the role of dispersal in the dynamics and structure of plant communities, latitudinal and elevational gradients in biodiversity, and ocean and terrestrial ecosystem models for use in studies of the global carbon cycle and global climate change. Current research is focused on the use of data and models to reduce uncertainties in terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes, the development and application of carbon monitoring systems, and understanding the role of land-use in the global carbon-climate system.

Co-Investigators and Staff

John Armston

  • Assistant Research Professor
  • armston.jpg John received the B.Sc. degree in biology from Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, in 2001. He has since worked for the Queensland Government as a remote sensing scientist, concurrently receiving the B.Sc. (Hons I 2004) and Ph.D. (2013) degrees in geography from the University of Queensland, Australia. His research has been focused on quantitative measurement and mapping of forest and woodland structure, and the development of validated satellite mapping products over large areas to support Government environmental monitoring programs. John joined the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) science team in April 2016.

    Louise Parsons Chini

    • Assistant Research Professor
    • (603) 862-0048
    • chini.jpg Louise was born and raised in New Zealand before coming to the USA for graduate school. After graduating with her Ph.D. from Cornell University, she worked for a mathematical software company for a few years before deciding to return to an academic research environment. She has a broad range of experiences using mathematical and computational methods to study interesting problems such as the foraging behavior of dairy cows, turbulent flows over aircraft wings, nutrient transport in bioreactors, and, most recently, human intereactions with the Earth System. Her current focus is the preparation of a harmonized set of global land-use transitions for the next IPCC Assessment, using Integrated Assessment Model implementations of several Representative Concentration Pathways (see for more info).

      Shannon Corrigan

      • Faculty Specialist
      • (301) 314-6100
      corrigan.jpg Shannon earned a bachelor's degree in Geographical Sciences with a focus in Development and Sustainability from the University of Maryland in 2016 and a master's degree in International Development Policy with a focus in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the University of Maryland in 2018. Shannon works in the GEL Lab to help with project management, logistics, and research coordination.

      Maddie Guy

      • Faculty Specialist
      • (301) 405-3687
      guy.jpg Maddie earned a bachelor's degree in Geographical Sciences with a specialization in Geographic Information Systems and a minor in Global Terrorism Studies from the University of Maryland in 2017. She is interested in studying and researching terrorism from a geospatial perspective. Currently, she is a student in the Masters of Professional Studies in Geospatial Intelligence program. As for her duties in the GEL Lab, Maddie coordinates research and facilitates project communication. She also works with the team to help with project management, logistics, and updating this website.

      Wenli Huang

      • Research Associate
      wenli.jpg Wenli is a Post-doctorate researcher within the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned her PhD in 2015. She also received her B.Sc. in computer cartography from Wuhan University in 2006 and her M.Sc. in remote sensing and geographical information system from the Beijing Normal University in 2009. Wenli is a researcher with strong skills and knowledge within the field of GIS as well as remote sensing. She have been working in the GEL Lab conducting research for Phase I to III study of NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) projects. Her current research focuses on application of remote sensing for environmental sciences in the following fields: 1) Land cover and land use classification using Multi-spectral and SAR remote sensing. 2) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) remote sensing of forest through backscatter and scattering mechanism analysis. 3) Lidar remote sensing for the purpose of obtaining forest vertical structural parameters.

      Ritvik Sahajpal

      • Assistant Research Professor
      sahajpal.jpg Ritvik Sahajpal is interested in assessing whether our current and future needs for food, fuel and fiber can be sustainably addressed while minimizing the negative effects of land-use change. To do this, he uses fine-resolution datasets combined with terrestrial ecosystem models specializing in agro-ecosystems and forests. His background includes a bachelors degree in computer science from India, and a masters and PhD in Geography at the University of Maryland.

      Fernando Sedano

      • Assistant Research Professor
      • (301) 405-0747
      fernando.jpg Fernando is a research assistant professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland-College Park and a project scientist for the Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center (JGC3). Fernando received his PhD. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California at Berkeley (2008). He also completed his BSc. and MSc. in Forestry from the University of Valladolid (Spain). Before joining UMD Fernando worked as postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and at the University of California at Irvine. He also has several years of international working experience as forest consultant and remote sensing specialist in Southern Africa, South America and South East Asia. Fernando's research uses remote sensing to characterize environmental process over time and space. He is particularly interested in understanding and quantifying the controls of dynamic coupled nature-human systems.

      Hao Tang

      • Post-Doctoral Associate
      Hao.jpg Hao is a GEDI postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Geographical Sciences at University of Maryland College Park, where he also received his PhD degree in 2015. Before joining UMD Hao completed his BS in GIS from Nanjing University (China). His primary interests focus on characterizing 3D dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems using different lidar remote sensing platforms. He is also a NASA Earth and Space Science fellow (NESSF) from 2012 ~2015.

      Zhen Zhang

      • Post-Doctoral Associate
      zhang.png Zhen is a Post-Doctoral scientist at Prof. George Hurrt’s group, Department of Geological Sciences. He had worked in Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL and CAREERI, Chinese Academy of Sciences before joining George’s lab. His major research interests lie in understanding the biophysical and biogeochemical changes in wetland methane emissions in Anthropocene. For more details about his work, please check here.


      Jamis Bruening

      • Ph.D. Student
      bruening.png Jamis is a rock climber, musician, and PhD student in the Geographical Sciences department at the University of Maryland, College Park. Working with Dr. Dubayah and the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation team, Jamis will assist in post-launch calibration and validation efforts of the GEDI mission. His science interests within the mission's scope include quantitative physical geography, topoclimatology, and biomass dynamics. New to the field of remote sensing, Jamis arrived at UMD after completing his MSc in Environmental Science at Western Washington University and a two year stint as a social science data specialist for Edelman Intelligence. Jamis's masters research involved climate-driven Great Basin bristlecone pine treeline dynamics in the American southwest and topoclimatogy (the influence of topography on climate near the ground on the scale of meters to kilometers).

      Jennifer Kennedy

      • Ph.D. Student
      kennedy.png Jennifer received a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago and worked as a K-12 teacher before transitioning to geographical sciences. She works jointly between the GEL Lab and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. She is interested in the impacts of climate on agriculture, modeling changes in agricultural land use, and developing climate-model based tools and metrics for agricultural decision support in a changing climate.

      Rachel Lamb

      • Ph.D. Student
      lamb.jpg Rachel's interest is in exploring how climate change governance can better reflect the complex, non-linear and dynamic nature of social-ecological system (SES). Effective climate governance in the context of coupled SES requires decision-makers at all societal levels to demonstrate 1) an intimate knowledge of community-based mechanisms for adaptions, 2) a nuanced understanding of the cultural values and institutions that shape a society’s response to climate science and policy, and 3) a heightened awareness of how natural system function and respond to hazards.

      Lei Ma

      • Ph.D. Student
      ma.jpg Lei received a BS degree in Geographical Information System & Remote Sensing from Sun Yat-sen University in 2009. His thesis used three-dimensional forest light interaction model (FLIGHT) to investigate the impacts of tree stem on reflective properties of canopies. Then he earned his MSc in Remote Sensing at Beijing Normal University in 2016. During the past three years, he has been working on development of new spectral mixture analysis (SMA) algorithms to extract pure endmember spectrum, mitigate collinear effect caused by similar spectrum and to analyze the uncertainty of SMA model. He is also interested in the detection of vegetation phenology and related ecological problems. His current interests are in carbon modelling coupled with novel remote sensing model and data including LiDAR and solar-induced-fluorescence.

      Suzanne Marsells

      • Ph.D. Student
      suzanne.jpg Suzanne earned a master's degree in Earth Sciences at the University of Amsterdam in 2014 and is now extending her work at the University of Maryland. As a graduate research assistant she works in the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Lidar (GEDI) mission. She is highly interested in biodiversity, tropical ecology and vegetation structures. In her PhD she strives to get a better understanding of how to map aspects of these topics with the use of remotely sensed data – main interests in LiDAR data, aiming for a world-wide better understanding of the working of our globe and what to do to preserve her as much as possible.

      Donal O'Leary

      • Ph.D. Student
      oleary.jpg Donal received his M.S. in Geography from Western Washington University and B.S. in Watershed Science from Colorado State University. Topics of his interests include: development of wildfire dynamics within the ED model; modeling biomass fluxes stemming from increased carbon and temperature; bridging the gap between the ED model and environmental engineering/silviculture.

      Wenlu Qi

      • Ph.D. Student
      wenluqi.jpg Wenlu earned her master's degree in Electronics Engineering at the Institute of Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2011. She is now working towards her Ph.D. at the Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland. Her research has been focused on using active remote sensing techniques to study forest structure and biomass mapping. She is especially interested in working with next-generation space-borne Lidar (e.g. GEDI) and InSAR (TanDEM-X) data to improve large-scale mapping of forest biomass and carbon on the Earth.

      Danielle Rappaport

      • Ph.D. Student
      rappaport.jpg Danielle earned her bachelor's degree in International Affairs/Environmental Resources from George Washington University, and her master's degree in Forestry from Yale University, where she focused her studies on tropical forest ecology and restoration. Before starting her doctoral studies, she worked at the University of São Paulo as a Fox Research Fellow where she developed graph-theoretical methods to prioritize forest restoration based on landscape structure and connectivity dynamics. Currently, Danielle is working towards her PhD in Geographical Sciences. A major focus of her research is to understand how forest degradation alters carbon stocks, habitat structure, and biodiversity across Amazon frontier landscapes, and how the synergies between bioacoustics, Landsat time series, and lidar remote sensing can support an improved understanding of these responses across scales.

      Former Members

      Matthew Brolly

      • Lecturer
      brolly.jpg Matthew originates from Great Britain. He received a BSc(Hons) degree in Geophysics from The University of Edinburgh in 2004 before completing an MSc in Archaeological Geophysics at The University of Bradford in 2005. His main research interests are driven by the multitude of possibilities available for the application of Geophysics in a multitude of disciplines. This curiosity led to a job as an Archaeological and Engineering Geophysicists back home in Britain for 2 years upon completion of his Masters. This job included working seasonally as a geophysics consultant on the popular British Channel 4 television show Time Team. The draw of research resurfaced in 2007 when the opportunity to join The University of Edinburgh PhD programme arose and he completed his thesis entitled "Radar backscatter modelling of forests using a macroecological approach" and was awarded the PhD in late 2011. The next step has led to the University of Maryland working as a Research Associate on ecological problems using remote sensing. His current interests are in forest modelling coupled with remote sensing methods, and integrating radar and lidar data. Outside of research Matthew is also a keen sportsman with an interest in playing racquet sports and playing and watching football (soccer). He still maintains a decent skill level from his days playing to a good standard in the English leagues before embarking on an academic career.

      Katelyn Dolan

      • Post-Doc Researcher
      dolan.jpg Katelyn Dolan is currently a post-doctoral researcher working on a NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) high resolution forest carbon mapping and monitoring project in the Mid-Atlantic US, integrating lidar, imagery, field data and modeling. She completed her PhD from the University of Maryland's Geographical Sciences Department in Dec 2015, which was in part supported by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship and the Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center. Her PhD research was focused on assessing the spatial and temporal dynamics of forest disturbance across the US using Landsat time series disturbance data and an advanced mechanistic ecosystem model. Katelyn grew passionate about earth system monitoring during a two summer Research and Discover internship, where she researched potential impacts of future climate change on agricultural opportunities across the Pan-Artic drainage system with the University of New Hampshire's Water Systems Analysis Group. A second summer was spent working with Jeff Masek and Jim Collatz at at NASA Goddard to combine ICESat Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) and Landsat data to estimate regional forest growth rates across a latitudinal gradient up the east coast of the US (Dolan et al. 2009). She continued looking at the capabilities of using space born lidar in forest and carbon monitoring as a Natural Resources Masters student at the University of New Hampshire, examining the use of ICESat to assess large-scale forest disturbance caused by Hurricane Katrina (Dolan et al. 2011).

      Laura Duncanson

      • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow
      duncanson.jpg Laura received her Bachelor of Science Honours degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where she worked as an undergraduate in a LiDAR remote sensing lab. She moved from discrete return LiDAR to waveform LiDAR (GLAS data) for her MSc at the University of Victoria. Her MSc thesis focused on using GLAS to model canopy height and biomass in high relief areas. Currently, Laura's research focuses on understanding forest structure and how it relates to forest dynamics, in particular biomass stock and flux. She is attempting to link waveform LiDAR to forest age and productivity, and is interested in exploring allometric scaling theories with remote sensing datasets.

      Steve Flanagan

      • Scientist
      flanagan.jpg Steve earned a master's degree in Physics from The University of New Hampshire in 2010 and is now working towards his Ph.D. in Geography. He is interested in complex system interactions, specifically how ecological models can be used to further our understanding of the effects that climate change could have on the biosphere and the coupled human response to these changes. His work involves exploring multiple climate data sets at varying resolutions to gauge the sensitivity of vegetation dynamics.

      Justin Fisk

      • Senior Research Scientist
      fisk.jpg Justin earned a master's degree in Computer Science from Colorado State University and worked for 10 years doing software engineering in private industry before joining the Global Ecology Lab. He is interested in using large-scale ecological models to further our understanding of human impacts on the carbon cycle and biosphere - atmosphere feedbacks. He is involved in a wide range of research including: how patterns of land-use and distributed consumption affect local carbon sources and sinks, the impacts of potential future changes to hurricane activity on forests, and how large-scale models can better capture fine-scale heterogeneity.

      Steve Hancock

      handcock.jpg Steve works on the GEDI project, which aims to put a lidar in space to measure global biomass. He obtained a masters in physics from the University of Durham in 2005 and a PhD in Space and Climate Physics from University College London in 2010. His thesis used radiative transfer modelling to develop and test methods to measure forests from current and future spaceborne and terrestrial lidars. Since then he has worked as a post-doc at Durham, Swansea, Newcastle and Exeter universities as part of the UK National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), the Salford Advanced Laser Canopy Analyser (SALCA) and the Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) projects. There he studied remote sensing with terrestrial and airborne lidar and using remote sensing to test land surface models and map ecosystem services. He moved to Maryland in 2015.

      Christine Kang

      • eRA Specialist
      christine.jpg Christine earned a master's degree in Applied Sociology from University of Maryland: Baltimore County. Shortly after graduating, she joined the Global Ecology Lab to help everybody with the logistic management. One of her main responsibilities is to create a stress-free environment.

      Naiara Pinto

      • Scientist
      pinto.jpg Dr. Pinto integrates lidar and radar remote sensing to map carbon stocks and fluxes in forest ecosystems. She is interested in refining canopy height and disturbance maps to use as inputs in the Ecosystem Demography (ED) model.

      Yannick Le Page

      • Researcher
      lepage.png Yannick earned a Ph.D. in Forestry from the School of Agronomy in Lisbon, Portugal, before moving to Washington DC. He's been exploring the drivers and impacts of vegetation fires at regional to global scales, with a particular interest in the interaction of climate (fire-prone conditions) and human activities (e.g. fire-use for deforestation or land-management). Within the Global Ecology Lab, he is modeling the occurrence and impacts of ecosystem disturbances on the carbon cycle (fires, hurricanes, pests), and using the results to study the sensitivity of climate mitigation strategies to potential changes in future disturbance frequency. This project involves the Ecosystem Demography model (ED) for vegetation and disturbance modeling, and its coupling with the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) for economy, energy, landuse and climate mitigation policy scenarios.

      Maosheng Zhao

      • Scientific Programmer/Analysts
      Mao.jpg Dr. Zhao obtained his PhD in Climatology at Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is interested in using satellite observations and ecosystem models to quantify carbon, water, and energy fluxes between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere and their dynamics and changes in response to natural and human-induced climate change and disturbances. He is working on ED modeling in context of NASA-CMS and NASA-TE projects.