Research

Research Interests

I am an Earth System scientist studying plant-based processes occurring within the surface boundary layer. The overall goal of my research is to better understand the range of responses of past, present and future vegetation to different climate-forcing variables, including vegetation feedbacks on climate such as moisture, heat and carbon exchange. I address research questions over various temporal and spatial scales and although I predominantly use computer models, I am in the process of building a field component to complement modelling interests.

Areas of current interest include: (1) Paleoclimate modelling of the influence of early land plants on carbon and water exchange with the atmosphere. (2) Silicon cycling in terrestrial ecosystems: fluvial transport to oceans and implications for ocean productivity. (3) Large-scale modelling of the Amazonian Basin, implications of Pliocene flooding for the global carbon cycle and atmospheric transport of water. (4) Reconstructing paleobotanical ground cover over different geological periods and implications for boundary layer dynamics, particularly transport of atmospheric moisture. (5) The nature of biological soil crusts, their identification in the fossil record and implications for early Earth paleoclimatology.

Research Funding

I appreciate the research funding that I have received from a variety of sources.

The not-for-profit Canadian research consortium called the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) has provided generous funding. I was nominated a Fellow of the Earth System Evolution Program (ESEP) and for my research, Modelling Ancient Ecosystems, will have received $150,000 (from Sept’07 to Sept’13).

The Province of Ontario offers competitive awards called Early Researcher Award (ERA) formerly known at the Premier’s Research Excellence Award (PREA). For my research, Importance of vegetation-climate feedbacks for the study of the Earth System, I received $100,000 (from May’06 to Apr’11).

In comparison, the Government of Canada via the National Science and Engineering Council (NSERC) of Canada offers small research awards through their Discovery Grants program. For my research, Vegetation feedbacks on atmospheric moisture and heat transport, I received $90,400 (Apr’07-Mar’12).

A University of Toronto-based funding organization (The Connaught Committee) graciously donated $10,000 upon my hiring at the University of Toronto (New Faculty Research Award) and awarded me a competitive grant (New Staff Matching Grant) in the amount of $30,000 for my research, Vegetation proxies relevant for conservation biology (May’04 to Apr’06).

Before starting my faculty position at the University of Toronto, I was involved in writing a research grant application to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of the United Kingdom and was awarded 212,000 GBP (May’02-May’05). I participated as a senior scientist in the project entitled,  Modelling past to future structure and extent of Amazonian rainforest, which had co-Principle Investigators Mark Maslin (University College London), Peter Cox (Exeter), Richard Betts (UK Met Office), Paul Valdes (Bristol University), and Ian Woodward (Sheffield University). I was only able to fulfill 1 year of the 3 year award as I had to begin my faculty position in Canada.

Upon offering me a faculty position, the University of Toronto allocated start-up funds in the amount of $170,000.

Measures of Research Impact

The total number of papers a researcher publishes tells only half the story. The other half concerns a more important issue, how often that research is cited by fellow scientists. What is the point of publishing 20 papers if they are never cited? On the other hand, publishing 5 papers that are cited a total of 50 times is a much more accurate representation of how that research is affecting progress in the overall research community.

Thus, I am a strong supporter of the H-factor as a means to assess the research impact of a science researcher. The H-factor is calculated as the number of papers with an equivalent number of citations. For example, an H-factor of 10 indicates that the author has 10 published (peer-reviewed) articles that have been cited at least 10 times each. Nobel Prize Winners generally have H-factors in the range of 40-50.

I have been following the impact of my own research over the past several years. Still a long way to “Nobel-prize-winning” status, but at least I have a solid number and am headed in the right direction!

Apr’10 Apr’11 Apr’12 Apr’13
Total Number of Citations 384 429 517
H-factor 11 12 13


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