Welcome to Erica Smithwick's research lab in the Department of Geography at Penn State. Our lab is focused on understanding how ecosystems change in space and time.  We use field studies, models, and laboratory activities to measure, quantify, and forecast these changes to inform landscape-level research and management.

We are currently recruiting graduate students!  Please contact Dr. Smithwick at smithwick@psu.edu

Our research is aimed at
 understanding how natural and human disturbances influence landscape sustainability.



Our Lab In the News
Why Big, Intense Wildfires are the New Normal, 8/30/13 (quoted: Erica Smithwick)
How Fire Could Change the Face of the West, 7/6/12 (quoted: Erica Smithwick)
Climate Change to increase Yellowstone wildfires dramatically, 7/25/11 (paper release: Erica Smithwick)
Wildfire!, 7/7/11 (quoted: Erica Smithwick)

What We've Been Up To
SEPTEMBER, 2019: Jamie Peeler was awarded a Joint Fire Science Program Graduate Research Innovation Award to support her fieldwork in Wyoming. 
AUGUST, 2019: Susan M. Kotikot joined the lab as a PhD student. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Planning and Management from Kenyatta University and a M.S. in Earth System Science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Susan's research will focus how interactions between climate change and agro-ecosystem dynamics will impact agricultural productivity.
APRIL, 2019: Erica Smithwick was awarded the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research by Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. 
APRIL, 2019: Jamie Peeler was awarded a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award to support her fieldwork in Wyoming. She was also awarded the E. Willard Miller Award for best PhD proposal in Geography. Her proposal is titled Linking landscape context to post-fire forest resilience in the Northern Rockies.
SEPTEMBER, 2018: Erica Smithwick was awarded a $3 million NSF grant to fund the transdisciplinary graduate program "Landscape-U".
MARCH, 2018: Stacey Olson was awarded the E. Willard Miller Award for best MS proposal in Geography. Her proposal is titled Modeling the spread of emerald ash borer under variable climate predictions in northeastern Wisconsin, USA. Stacey was also awarded a Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium Fellowship for 2018/2019. 
MARCH, 2018: Jamie Peeler was awarded the E. Willard Miller Award for best MS paper in Geography. Her paper is titled Exploring invasibility with species distribution modeling: how does fire promote cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion within lower montane forests?
AUGUST, 2017: Stacey Olson joined the lab as a master's student. She got her B.S. in Anthropology/Geography and Biology from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. She will be doing ecological simulation modeling as part of Erica's VIFF project.
AUGUST, 2017: Erica was selected as the new Director of the Ecology Institute at Penn State University.  
MARCH, 2017: Ethan Davis successfully defended his dissertation titled Evaluating Agricultural Land Use Patterns in Relation to Food Systems,
Bioenergy, and Carbon Mitigation. 
JULY, 2016: Erica returned from 6 months of research in South Africa! She was funded by a Core Fulbright U.S. scholarship to measure carbon storage in trees and teach a sustainability class at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
DECEMBER, 2015: Doug Baldwin successfully defended his dissertation titled Improving Estimates of Root Zone Soil Moisture to Understand Ecosystem Drought Sensitivity.

Hey PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS! Think you might want to join this awesome lab?
Feel free to contact Erica, she's always looking for new members! (contact info found on PEOPLE page)
Pictured left to right: Erica Smithwick, Jamie Peeler, and Stacey Olson