Massive mortality events of many tree species in the last decade prompt concerns that drought, insects, and wildfire may devastate forests in the coming decades. I study how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling, and biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks. This research spans a broad array of spatial scales from cells to ecosystems and seeks to yield a mechanistic understanding of how climate change will affect ecosystems around the world. I am thrilled to join the University of Utah and the Society, Water and Climate cluster because of the incredible interdisciplinary community and momentum in global change science.
The overarching theme of my research is using high quality measurements of trace gases, aerosol physical and chemical properties, and cloud microphysics to understand connections between the biosphere, atmosphere, and climate, along with the impact of anthropogenic emissions on these connections. More specifically, currently my research uses high elevation sites, combined with airborne measurements, to study the formation processes of Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN) and Ice Nuclei (IN) and how differing formation processes impact mixed-phase cloud microphysics. This research topic is stemmed in many potential formation mechanisms of aerosols, including nucleation, secondary organic aerosols, and primary biological aerosol particles (PBAP's).
In addition to my research, I guided two large National Science Foundation programs to support diversity in the atmospheric sciences. Geoscience Research at Storm Peak (GRASP) is a program providing mentoring and field research experiences for a diverse group of undergraduate students. Atmospheric Science Collaborations and Enriching NeTworks (ASCENT) is a program focusing on women in atmospheric science/meteorology to initiate positive professional relationships among female faculty of different ranks and postdoctoral researchers.
My research is part of a larger effort to characterize climate variability and climate change on multiple temporal and spatial scales and assess the impacts of these changes on society. In particular, my research focuses on glaciers and ice sheets as recorders and indicators of climate change, and as freshwater resources. Recent and ongoing projects include quantifying glacier contributions to water resources and sea level, quantifying glacier sensitivity to climate change, reconstructing past climate using ice core snow accumulation data, and reconciling geomorphic evidence of past glacier extents with climate. The University of Utah has been an ideal place to tackle these problems, in part because of its history of productive interdisciplinary research centered broadly on environmental change and sustainability. The new Society, Water, and Climate cluster in particular has provided me a clear avenue for collaborating with faculty and students across campus, and across disciplinary boundaries, to solve issues of immense importance to science and society.
S. McKenzie Skiles
My research interests are interdisciplinary and center on mountain and snow hydrology, light absorbing particulates in snow and snow energy balance, remote sensing of the cryosphere, and cryosphere-climate interaction. My research methods combine numerical modeling with laboratory analysis and field/remotely sensed observations. One of my main research trajectories is investigating the impacts of mineral dust and black carbon deposition on snow. In this emerging field my research has focused on filling knowledge gaps in the Western US, where increased dust emission and deposition is relatively new process and changing snowmelt patterns have important implications for water security. My most recently funded project applies my research interests to the Wasatch Front, where I am looking at historical trends in snow cover using remote sensing, and using field measurements and snow sampling/analysis to constrain physical controls on snow melt timing and intensity.
I am also interested in science in policy, and am a sharing science champion for the American Geophysical Union. I seek out opportunities to interact with policy makers and the broader public about water and society, science education, and women in STEM.
I am excited to be joining the Society, Water, and Climate research, my research is complementary to the current SWC members and many others across the U of U academic community, and the Wasatch Mountains make for an excellent and accessible backyard laboratory. I look forward to interdisciplinary collaborations with my new colleagues and involving students in my research.