Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar
Dr. Mayes is a geoscientist who studies land-use and climate change effects on terrestrial ecosystems, particularly how vegetation changes affect carbon, water and nutrient cycles in semi-arid landscapes. His work focuses on applied science questions targeted to inform decision-making about land, water and climate-change adaptation challenges across East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia) and in the southwestern United States. Marc's background combines ecosystem science (Ph.D., Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brown University-MBL Joint Program, 2016) and environmental management (M.S., Environment and Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011). From 2016-2018 Marc was a Nature Conservancy NatureNet Science Fellow and worked with the TNC-Africa program to facilitate use of land cover change analyses in regional and national-scale land-use planning initiatives in Zambia. Since the 2017 Thomas Fire and Jan 9 debris flows in Santa Barbara, Marc has led drone imaging campaigns to provide infrastructure and environmental data to inform watershed recovery and future fire and flood hazard mitigation efforts. Marc is currently a research scientist at the Earth Research Institute, University of California-Santa Barbara, based in the WAVES lab led by Dr. Kelly Caylor.
Pressures from land, water resource demands and climate change are altering the structure and function of dryland ecosystems globally. In semi-arid woodlands and shrublands, climate extremes and disturbances from land use, fire and floods are affecting large regions and the livelihoods of diverse groups of people in developed and developing countries alike. This talk reviews work that applies multi-scale ecosystem science (satellite, drone-based remote sensing and field plot-scale data) to address dryland community environmental challenges in Africa and California. Key questions for both geographies involve: (1) characterizing vegetation structure, water and nutrient cycling processes governing regrowth and productivity after disturbance at landscape scales, and (2) assessing coupled human-natural system vulnerability and resilience to extreme events. Specific research discussed will include (a) patterns in recovery of woodland structure, carbon and nitrogen cycles during regrowth in African Miombo systems, and strategies they suggest for regional forest conservation; (b) seasonal patterns in image-based productivity and water stress indicators across California oak species, and (c) situating drone-based assessment of debris basins against post-fire catchment hazards to inform flood infrastructure management in California. Ongoing science and routine monitoring of vegetation conditions in drylands that is community-situated, and socioeconomically inclusive, offers promising means toward mitigating and adapting to the climate and land-use challenges facing these regions.