Labs

The FUEL Lab focuses on how natural resource reliance influences the well-being of human populations in developing countries. Rigorous research is conducted for the academic and policy communities in three thematic areas: environment and livelihoods; natural resource governance; and energy poverty. Members of the FUEL Lab combine research design and methods from applied economics, institutional analysis, environmental science, and policy analysis to address questions surrounding these three research themes.

The Soil and Agroecosystems Lab explores food system sustainability in both domestic and international contexts in order to understand how different agricultural production systems affect ecological and social outcomes. Their biophysical research focuses on soil nitrogen and carbon cycles and agroecosystem nutrient management, with particular attention to the role of legume nitrogen sources, cover crops, and perennials for improving ecosystem efficiency and sustainability. Their mixed-methods research seeks to identify leverage points for food system transformation toward sustainability, including understanding sociopolitical and economic factors at multiple scales that support transitions toward ecologically-based management.

This lab prepares samples of plants and soil for biochemical, molecular and isotopic analysis.

This laboratory houses several camera-equipped microscopes, which are used to count, identify, and measure aquatic organisms, including fish larvae, zooplankton, and Mysis collected from inland lakes and the Great Lakes, as well as an environmental chamber, fume hood, and a -80 freezer. Current projects include studies of the long-term dynamics of Great Lakes zooplankton; the role of Mysis in Great Lakes food webs; herniations in zooplankton; reasons for the Diporeia decline in the Great Lakes; interactions among zooplankton, zebra and quagga mussels, and fish; and effects of contaminants on larval fish and recruitment.

Research highlights

The human footprint index (HFI) is an extensively used tool for interpreting the accelerating pressure of humanity on Earth. Up to now, the process of creating the HFI has required significant data and modeling, and updated versions of the index often lag the present day by many years. Here we introduce a near-present, global-scale machine learning-based HFI (ml-HFI) which is capable of routine update using satellite imagery alone. We present the most up-to-date map of the HFI, and document changes in human pressure during the past 20 years (2000–2019).

Spatially explicit urban air quality information is important for developing effective air quality control measures. Traditionally, urban air quality is measured by networks of stationary monitors that are not universally available and sparsely sited. Mobile air quality monitoring using equipped vehicles is a promising alternative but has focused on vehicle-level experiments and lacks fleet-level demonstration.

Conservation of predators—especially large carnivores and those that potentially pose threats to humans—can be controversial among stakeholders who must coexist with them. What is often overlooked, however, are the direct and indirect ecosystem services and disservices predators provide as a result of consumption of herbivores ("predation services"). We used a theoretical predator-prey-economic model to examine when predators are likely to provide a net service to society, by comparing services/disservices to a predator-free counterfactual scenario.

Complexity and contingency frame much of current thinking in population and community ecology. The coffee pest, Leucoptera coffeella, is particularly problematical in Puerto Rico, but is usually held under control in Mexico. A variety of arboreal ants are effective predators in Mexico, but are limited in an indirect fashion by the common aggressive arboreal ant, Azteca sericeasur. In Puerto Rico this species does not occur, suggesting that the small arboreal ants might be more effective predators there than in Mexico.