My research interests have always been centered around improving our understanding of feedbacks between above- and belowground processes. I began my research career studying climate change impacts on leaf physiology (M.S. in Environmental Science at Oregon State University). While working as a plant physiologist with Dynamac Corporation (US EPA Laboratory- Western Ecology Division in OR), I became more aware of the importance of understanding belowground processes. This led me to pursue a Ph.D. in root physiology and soils at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. I studied nutrient uptake by trees, both in the laboratory and in the field (Calhoun Experimental Forest in SC and Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in NH). After graduation, I turned my attention to biogeochemistry, studying nutrient cycling of foliage and soils in the northeastern U.S.
After many years of empirical work, I have now shifted to modeling, which in many ways feels like the culmination of all my years of studying leaves, roots and soil. In my work here at PSU, I focus primarily on studying the impacts of climate change, disturbances and forest management on forests. Most of my time is spent working on a project which aims to better integrate climate change results into forest management planning in northern MN. I recently completed a study on how climate change, fire and gypsy moths may affect C and N cycling of vegetation and soils in the NJ Pine Barrens. Lastly, I am a model developer of LANDIS-II, Century extension, charged with improving the successional, carbon and nitrogen dynamics of vegetation and soils in the model.
Though scientists often specialize in one particular research area, I have purposefully chosen to study several different fields over the years, with the goal of understanding forests as a truly coupled system. When I'm not studying forests, I'm often walking in the woods, looking for critters in streams, hanging out on the beach or cooking with my two young girls.
Twitter Handle: @MelissaLucash