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Home » Quantitative ecologist Kai Zhu wins NSF funding for climate change research and education

Quantitative ecologist Kai Zhu wins NSF funding for climate change research and education

Quantitative ecologist Kai Zhu wins NSF funding for climate change research and education

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Kai Zhu recently won $732,127 in funding through a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER). Zhu applied for the award last year as a pre-tenure faculty member. The funding will support research to model global interconnections between climate change and plant phenology.

As climate change raises global average temperatures, phenology—the study of seasonal life processes—shows that many plants are responding by shifting the timing of temperature-dependent life events, like flowering and the growth of new leaves. But these changes in phenology can, in turn, affect the rate of climate change by altering the role plants play in important climate system processes, like carbon uptake. The new research will aim to quantify global changes in plant phenology in ways that predict and incorporate the complexity of climate feedback loops.

“The basic idea of the project is to view climate change and phenology as an integrated system, with influences from both directions,” Zhu said.

To accomplish this, Zhu and his research team will need to combine traditional ecology methods with data science tools. They’ll incorporate everything from individual observations of plants and flowers to findings from formalized regional experiments and satellite remote-sensing data in order to form a clearer picture of the interconnections between climate change and phenology.

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