Ecohydrology is an interdisciplinary science that aims to understand the Earth system processes related to ecology and hydrology. It not only studies the movement of water in the ecosystems, but more broadly, any processes that may affect the water movement in the terrestrial ecosystems can be considered part of ecohydrology.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I got my bachelor degree in geographical information sciences at Nanjing University in China, a MS in forest management at Northwest A&F University and a Ph.D. degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Oklahoma.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
I have background in remote sensing of vegetation. When I studied how drought affects vegetation dynamics during my master, I started to gain interest in understanding the interactions between water and plants. During my Ph.D., I collaborated with Sha Zhou and investigated how eddy covariance technology can be used for ET partitioning. I then worked with Dr. Pierre Gentine at Columbia University trying to use advanced remote sensing dataset (solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, SIF; vegetation optical depth, VOD) to detect early warning signals of drought and how plant water use strategy can affect their responses to drought.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
Global climate change together with human activities (irrigation, afforestation/deforestation, agroecosystem) has largely changed the ecohydrological processes over the past decades. The real world is a complex fully coupled system, changes in one component (for example, vegetation) will provide feedbacks to other related components through direct and indirect effects or legacy effects. Therefore, the study of ecohydrology, which used to be a combination of ecology and hydrology, now becomes an integrated multi-disciplinary science that involves plant physiology, meteorology, atmospheric sciences, biogeochemistry and soil sciences. During this big data era, using data not only from field measurements, but also from remote sensing, model simulations will provide new possibilities to understand the interaction and feedbacks between these components. Machine learning, model data fusion and other methods can help us better use these datasets and understand the Earth system as a whole.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
There are many papers I really like. If I can only pick one, it would be Stephen Good et al.’s 2017 Nature Ecology & Evolution paper: “A mesic maximum in biological water use demarcates biome sensitivity to aridity shifts”. This paper shows how fraction of transpiration over precipitation changes over the aridity gradient. It is a great example that demonstrate how a combination of mathematical derivation and new observations from field, satellite and models can help explain complex ecohydrological questions.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I enjoy outdoor activities. I just went back to China and started my new career but I still miss the life in California bay area where various landscapes are within driving distance.