Henry Loescher

Research

I use experimental, laboratory, and observational approaches to investigate processes and mechanisms that transport mass and energy from ecosystems to the atmosphere across local, regional, and global scales.  In particular, my research focuses on understanding

  1. The patterns of carbon and energy dynamics in ecosystems,
  2. The interaction between biotic and abiotic and controls changes on these dynamics,
  3. The feedbacks among the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum,
  4. How these patterns, processes and feedbacks scale in time and space, and
  5. Rigorously examining the theoretical basis and reducing the uncertainty in current approaches to estimate these quantities.

My approaches rigorously confront theory with applied science and engineering.

Developing a predictive capacity for ecological processes governs my approaches toward science, i.e., an ecological forecasting.  This a robust iterative approach that begins with confronting theory, which in turn informs the types of observations that have to be made, which in turn informs new understandings and modeling approaches.  However, many ecological processes are non linear and stochastic (e.g., tipping points, effects of drought and changes in precipitation, etc.).  Hence, the need for experiments/process studies to elucidate these unknown processes and non-linear responses.  Integrating theory, observations, models and experiments is not a static process; quite the contrary, to enhance our predictive ability much be done dynamically and iteratively over time (Fig 1).

Figure 1. Forecast skill is the NOAA ability to predict synoptic weather (500 mb) across the U.S. over time. Inset depicts a conceptual iterative approach to integrate theory, observation, and models to enhance forecast skill. This philosophy is a new paradigm for ecological forecasting.

This philosophy calls for

  1. Estimates of system state information on process parameters,
  2. Observations collected systematically over time and space to challenge iterative forecasts (models),
  3. Addressing ‘what is the most likely future state of an ecological system?’, and
  4. Providing an applied context of ‘what-if’ given a decision made today. 

I think implementing this philosophy is a new paradigm for ecological research.

I use a diverse set of tools including micrometeorological techniques, stable isotope analysis, time series analyses, modeling and geostatistics, to extrapolate from fine-to-coarse spatial scales and to connect ecological processes to patterns.  My research contributes directly in addressing The National Plan for Earth Observations, Group on Earth Observations, National Research Council’s Grand Environmental Challenges, the National Ecological Observatory Network’s Grand Challenge questions, Societal Benefit Areas, and will continue to play a role in the National Policy.