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

  • Associate Research Professor
armston.png John Armston is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park. Previously John Armston was Senior Scientist with Queensland State Government in Australia on the development and implementation of remote sensing based environmental monitoring programs. He received his B.Sc. in 2001 from Macquarie University, Sydney, and his Ph.D. degree in 2013 from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Since 2016 he has been a member of the NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) Science Definition Team at UMD. Launched in December 2018, GEDI has deployed a multi-beam lidar instrument onboard the International Space Station to measure forest vertical structure and biomass. He has also been Co-Investigator on projects externally funded through the NASA Carbon Monitoring System in the United States. His main interests include pure and applied remote sensing research in the modelling of canopy structure and above ground biomass from airborne and spaceborne remote sensing measurements, development and validation of in situ remote sensing methods for site based vegetation structure measurement, and fusion of lidar, radar and optical satellite image time-series for quantifying aboveground biomass and change in woody vegetation over large areas.

Louise Parsons Chini

  • Associate Research Professor
  • (603) 862-0048
  • chini.jpg Dr. Louise Parsons Chini is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland. Her research interests focus on human interactions with the Earth System, particularly land-use change and its associated impacts on the carbon cycle, terrestrial vegetation dynamics, and climate change. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the Land-Use Harmonization (LUH) datasets, which have been used in multiple international synthesis studies including CMIP5, CMIP6, IPBES, ISIMIP2b, and the Global Carbon Budget. Her current major research activities include supporting the full integration of the LUH datasets into the DOE Earth System Model, providing annual dataset updates and analysis for the Global Carbon Budget, and incorporating the LUH datasets within the NASA Carbon Monitoring System.

Rachel Lamb

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor
Rachel Lamb Dr. Rachel Lamb currently serves as the agency lead for Natural Carbon Sequestration at the Maryland Department of the Environment. In this work, she supports carbon assessments and accounting for natural and working lands and advances policy recommendations relative to the state's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, Conservation Finance Act, and Tree Solutions Now Act. Since 2020, Rachel has led the Campus Forest Carbon project, helping the University of Maryland better incorporate forest carbon science into their Climate Action Plan, Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and innovative peer-verified offset program. She remains a faculty co-advisor for this project and a research collaborator on ongoing NASA CMS projects with Science Team Lead Dr. George Hurtt. In 2022, Rachel was appointed an Adjunct Assistant Professor within the Department of Geographical Sciences. Read more at

Lei Ma

  • Assistant Research Professor
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.

Valeria Morales

  • Faculty Specialist
morales.jpg Valeria earned her Bachelor's degree in 2018 from the University of Maryland, College Park in Geographical Sciences with a concentration in GIS and Cartography, and her Master's degree in 2020 in Geospatial Information Sciences. In the GEL lab, Valeria helps with administrative duties and logistics.

Wenlu Qi

  • Post-Doctoral Associate
wenluqi.jpg Wenlu received her Ph.D. degree in Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland in 2018. She received the BS degree in Mechatronics Engineering from Beijing Institute of Technology in 2008 and the MS degree in Electrical Engineering from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2011. Wenlu's interests mainly focus on the application of lidar and radar remote sensing on forest structure and biomass estimation. She has been a NASA Earth and Space Science fellow (NESSF) from 2014-2017 and is currently working on fusion between lidar data from NASA's Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data from DLR's TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X mission for improved forest biomass estimation over large areas.


Jamis Bruening

  • Ph.D. Candidate
bruening.png Jamis is a later-stage Ph.D student working with Dr. Dubayah on the GEDI mission, and is the 2021 Jinli Yang fellowship winner and a 2021 NASA FINESST award recipient for his Ph.D research. His work for GEDI involves managing a suite of ancillary data products for GEDI data product development, helping maintain the GEDI cal/val Forest Structure and Biomass Database, and using US Forest Service forest inventory data to analyze GEDI biomass predictions within the continental US. Jamis's Ph.D research involves integrating GEDI data, forest ecosystem modeling, and forest inventory data to explore biomass prediction uncertainty, forest stand dynamics, and short term forest carbon sequestration. Jamis lives in Washington DC with his wife and baby daughter.

Michael Howerton

  • BS/MS Student
howerton2022.jpg Michael is a senior undergraduate student pursuing a BS in Environmental Science & Policy: Land Use with a minor in Spanish. He began his graduate studies as part of the Combined Bachelor's/Master's Program in the Department of Geographical Sciences during the Fall 2022 semester. His past research has investigated dietary diversity in DC; currently, he researches forest carbon stocks with the Campus Forest Carbon Project under Dr. Hurtt's lab.

Jennifer Kennedy

  • Ph.D. Candidate
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.

Elisabeth Powell

  • Ph.D. Student
Powell.png Lizzy is a PhD student in the Dubayah Lab and a GEDI Science Team member. She is originally from San Antonio, Texas but has spent all of her academic career in the Northeast region. Lizzy is interested in investigating the development of ghost forests from sea level rise in coastal upland forests using remote sensing techniques. She was recently awarded the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship through NOAA where she plans to investigate these ghost forests at the Delaware National Estuarine Reserve for her dissertation.

Quan Shen

  • Ph.D Student
Shen.png Quan Shen is a master’s student in the BS/MS combined program in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. Quan earned her Bachelor of Science degree in GIS & Computer Cartography and a minor in Remote Sensing of Environmental Change with the highest GPA in the department in 2020. She is interested in using modeling and remote sensing methods to identify the environmental impacts of land cover and land use change. Currently she is working with Rachel Lamb and Carlos Silva on using carbon monitoring products to assist climate policy over Maryland.

Former Members

Rieley Auger

  • Student Researcher
auger.png Rieley Auger is a recent graduate student of UMD from Rhode Island who earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Land Use as well as a minor in Sustainability. Her research interests vary from terrestrial land use and land change to marine spatial ecology. She hopes to use her GIS and remote sensing skills to help inform sustainable policies and overall development. Eventually, she wishes to pursue her PhD in a related field, but for now she can be found in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic hiking and camping, or GEL working on the Campus Forest Carbon Project.

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.

Shannon Corrigan

  • Research Coordinator
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.

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

  • Assistant Professor
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.

Anniee Fang

  • High School Intern
Fang.jpg Anniee Fang was a student at the Magnet Global Ecology Program at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, MD. She is super excited to be working on the Campus Forest Carbon Project at a college level and hope to learn much about environmental research at a higher degree. She is deeply intrigued by anything and everything nature and hope to gain valuable insights through this opportunity.

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.

Maddie Guy

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 Master 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.

Steve Hancock

  • Lecturer
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.

Camille Hoffman Delett

  • GIS Specialist
huang.jpg Camille was an undergraduate student in the Bachelors/Masters Program in the Geographical Sciences department at the University of Maryland. She got a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and an M.S. in Geographical Sciences. She worked on using NASA Carbon Monitoring System products to better understand the role of riparian forests along Chesapeake Bay and to identify and prioritize areas that would benefit from reforestation efforts.

Wenli Huang

  • Associate Research Professor
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.

Jarrett James

James2023.jpg Jarrett James got a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy: Politics and Policy with two minors in Remote Sensing for Environmental Change and Philosophy. His past research includes NOx emissions monitoring, calculating solar irradiance and potential solar energy feasibility for the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, and monitoring forest carbon stocks as part of the Department of Geographical Sciences' Campus Forest Carbon Project under Dr. George Hurtt.

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.

Katelyn Kopp

Kopp2023.jpg Katelyn Kopp studied Environmental Science and Policy: Land Use major and is planning to continue in academia with a masters in Geographic Information Science from UMD. They worked on the Campus Forest Carbon Project doing forest carbon research. Outside of the GEL lab they worked with NASA Applied Remote Sensing Training Program providing free remote sensing education. Personally, they are interested in habitat suitability modeling and ecosystem service inequality.

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.

Suzanne Marsells

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.

Jordan Nicolette

Nicolette Jordan is a part of a the recent 2020 graduating class with a BS in Environmental Science and Policy: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology and a minor in GIS. He has research interests in how biodiversity and landscape influence carbon sequestration and Lidar remote sensing. Currently, he works with the GEL and Office of Sustainability to incorporate estimates of forest carbon into the University’s carbon budget. Jordan is excited to continue his education with the University of Maryland this fall as he will begin the MS GIS track.

Donal O'Leary

  • Research Scientist
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.

Marie Panday

  • Data Analyst
panday.jpg Marie graduated with her B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and a minor in Remote Sensing of Environmental Change in May of 2022. She finished up her M.S. in Geographical Sciences as part of GEOG’s combined BS/MS program. Her current research investigates the climate change preparedness of terrestrial protected areas. For more information visit

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.

Danielle Rappaport

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.

Hilary Sandborn

ma.jpg Hilary is an undergraduate student pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Geographic Information Sciences and Anthropology with a minor in Sustainability Studies, expected May 2021. She will be pursuing the Geographical Sciences BS/MS program and is expected to receive her Master’s degree in May 2022. Her research interests include using GIS for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. In GEL, Hilary is an undergraduate researcher on the Campus Forest Carbon Project.

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

  • Associate Research Professor
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

Hao.jpg Hao is a GEDI 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.

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.

Zhen Zhang

zhang.png Zhen was 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.