Understanding Global Change Science:

An interdisciplinary approach to understanding global change by linking the social and bio-physical sciences

Our Center’s Global Change Science research produces evidence to inform public and private decision making on critical global environmental change issues.  We do this by contributing to increased understanding of the myriad connections among social, land, and climate systems – at local and global levels -- through advanced geospatial tools, models, observation, and participant engagement.

Center-affiliated researchers seek answers to the following key research questions:

  • How are social processes altering and impacting global environmental dynamics?
  • How do these changes, in turn, respond to and affect land and human systems?

Specific research foci toward this end include:

Agricultural and Range Land Use Challenges

Several center researchers employ an interdisciplinary, bio-social science lens to issues of agricultural and range lands, exploring issues of land use and land use change, nature based solutions to food security, and bird biodiversity in agricultural systems.  Center activities focusing on this theme are underway in: West, East, and Southern Africa; Southeast, East and North Asia; Central and South America; and the continental United States. 

Biodiversity in Managed Ecosystems

Biodiversity research at the Center focuses on increased understanding of avian species and their interactions with: agricultural ecosystems, primarily fruit orchards in the North Central United States; and restored tropical forest ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Climate Change Science

This final area of Center faculty research focuses on understanding land surface processes and their impacts on atmospheric dynamics.  Their approach employs interdisciplinary techniques for incorporating and refining socioeconomic data in an atmospheric model to better understand socioeconomic impacts on landcover and rainfall in East Africa and the Amazon Basin.

Coupled Natural and Human Systems

Another group of CGCEO researchers focuses on human-environment interactions research, land use and land cover, and on the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects on society and the environment.  Their work is highly interdisciplinary, linking biophysical and social sciences and making frequent use of satellite remote sensing, GIS and other geospatial technologies together with survey research and ethnographic methods.  Research activities in this area are carried out primarily in North Asia and the United States. 

Geospatial and Modeling Tools and Applications

Another group of researchers employ remote sensing and geospatial technologies to study environmental patterns and processes, including quantitative analysis and modeling of land surface phenology and land cover land use change.  Emphasis to date has been on grasslands and croplands, drylands and wetlands, and urbanizing areas of Central Asia (particularly Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) and the US Great Plains. New and emerging projects extend to Tajikistan in Central Asia as well as the urbanizing landscape around Lake Michigan and across Lower Michigan. 

Human Dimensions of Global Change

Another collaborative of CGCEO researchers focuses on the human dimensions of land use and land cover change, hydropower, macro systems biology, environmental social science, remote sensing and GIS approaches to these topics.  Researchers currently carry out most of this work in South America.

Innovative Methods and Techniques in Global Data Visualization and Analysis

This team of interdisciplinary researchers collaborates on the development of remote sensing and advanced computing methods to integrate/fuse satellite sensor data to map and characterize terrestrial global change, process big satellite data, determine the causes and consequences of land cover and land use change, and track large fires in multiple world regions. 

Urban Systems Dynamics

An additional collection of CGCEO faculty conduct research designed to increase understanding of the urban environment and sustainability amidst the rapid expansion of urban and periurban lands and corresponding conversion of agricultural lands.  Informed by attention to public health, innovation and economic development, planning and policy, this work takes place in Southeast, East, and North Asia.

Our researchers investigate these focus areas through a variety of collaborations within and among the following labs and working groups: