Oregon State University

Christoph Thomas receives NSF Career award

NSFResearch and teaching award: Christoph Thomas received a prestigious CAREER award from National Science Foundation to work on "A new direction into atmospheric near-surface transport for weak-wind conditions in plant canopies". The project will study how air moves in plant canopies such as crops and forests where winds are usually relatively weak, and how it affects the transport of heat, water and momentum. The level of scientific understanding of weak-wind transport is very limited, and commonly used forecast tools and mathematical formulations don't apply. This information is also needed to correctly predict the spread of pollutants or contaminants in nocturnal atmospheric conditions, and to more precisely estimate carbon sequestration and evapotranspiration rates from tall vegetation. 

The CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) program is NSF's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teachers-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both components in the context of their institutions. The project will start this September and continue for 5 years.

The research component of the project includes new field observations across contrasting sites including the OSU Botany & Plant Pathology Field lab, the HJ Andrews Experimental forest, and two AmeriFlux Sites in Oregon. The results from this unique data set will be the key step toward the long-term goal to develop a novel improved framework to describe the flow and its transport under weak-wind conditions for a continuous variation of overstory density and stratification.  Observations will be made with a unique combination of new and standard micrometeorological techniques including optical fiber measurement of temperature structure (DTS), acoustic remote sensing (SODAR), ultrasonic anemometers, and laser-illuminated flow visualizations.  This research will be integrated with a strong teaching component of educational activities in the classroom, field site visits, and development of a new graduate-level field course for students from several disciplines including atmospheric sciences, forestry, engineering, and agriculture.

The broader impacts of the project are improved formulations of surface fluxes for regional and large-scale weather and climate models, as well as dispersion and diffusion models. A set of practical recommendations for the applied flux community will be formulated to reduce uncertainties in carbon and energy budgets, and to better predict the water availability in forests. In addition to a graduate student, an Oregon K-12 high school teacher will be working with Dr. Thomas on this project by partnering with the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program at OSU. He will also work with the Willamette National Forest to improve management decisions for fire fighting. 

See also the OSU press release from July 2010.

Contact Info

Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
130 Burt Hall
Corvallis, OR,
97331-5503
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