Skip to Content

The Natural Environment

The Natural Environment core area in the Geography Department focuses on the processes that shape the physical features of the landscape. Climate, geology and biology interact in complicated ways to result in the weather, landforms, and life that characterize any place. The surface of the Earth as we see it today is the result of millions of years of gradual change and of past catastrophes. The long-term dynamics of natural systems provide the context for evaluating changes wrought by people over recent times, while also acknowledging and evaluating potentially long history of people shaping and interacting with environments through time. Using remote sensing, spatial modeling, natural archives in lake sediments, and field survey methods, the research in the department includes:

  • Developing river channel restoration objectives through detailed studies of channel morphology (McDowell)
  • Quantifying the riverscape through new remote sensing technology (Marcus)
  • Postglacial biogeography: studying the assemblages of vegetation through the large climatic changes coming out of the last glaciation through the study of lake sediments (Gavin, Bartlein)
  • Interacting natural disturbances on the landscape: drought, fire, erosion and insect outbreaks (Gavin)
  • Global-scale data syntheses of climate changes and fire occurrence (Bartlein)