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Earth Science Division: Biospheric Science Branch (SGE)

Biospheric Science Branch (SGE)

The Biospheric Science branch is guided by the NASA strategic plan and vision to advance, communicate and transfer scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth system through observation to: develop and deploy enabling technologies, inspire and motivate the nation's students and teachers, engage and educate the public, and advance the scientific and technological capabilities of the nation. The Branch responds to the research and applied science priorities of NASA Earth science by advancing, communicating and transferring scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth system through observations and predictive models, developing and validating enabling technologies, and inspiring and motivating students and teachers. The Branch engages the public and commercial sectors to educate and advance the scientific and technological capabilities of the nation.

Branch scientists seek to understand biospheric and ecosystem processes and functions in terrestrial and aquatic environments and how those processes and functions are changing, or may change, in response to climate change, and land cover and land use change. The Branch develops and applies remote sensing, ecological modeling and related technology (sensors, algorithms and information processing systems), process and risk models, and various spatial analysis tools to support its investigations. Research results are extended, through cooperative agreements and partnerships, to enhance the operational capability of public and commercial entities to make decisions regarding resource management and policy.

Scientists strive to understand terrestrial and microbial ecosystem processes, to predict how these processes are changing in response to disturbance, land use and climate change, and to determine the relationships between these changes and the condition and health of ecosystems and humankind. With these aims in mind, the Branch develops relevant remote sensing technology (sensors, algorithms and information processing systems), process and risk models, and various spatial analysis tools. In addition to the scientific publications of the Branch, both the applied science and technology are translated into practical everyday solutions and transferred through cooperative arrangements and partnership training and education to end users in the private and public sectors.

Research and applied science activities within the Branch are:

(1) Assesing the biological productivity of Earth's terrestrial and microbial ecosystems and predict how productivity will change in response to various cycles and trends in land use, disturbance and climate change.

(2) Measuring and model chemical exchanges between the biosphere and the atmosphere, identifying biotic and abiotic factors controlling these fluxes, and predict how these fluxes will change in response to short- and long-term trends in land use,
disturbance and climate change.

(3) Modeling and predict the impact of climate change on regional and global ecosystem characteristics, such as productivity and health, and risk of resource loss.

(4) Articulating the measurement requirements for global, regional and local ecosystem assessments, and to develop technology to satisfy these requirements.

(5) Transfering the knowledge and technology derived from research to the public and private sectors, and the education community, through partnerships with end users.

(6) Foster human capital development to extend NASA science research to local communities using students to demonstrate to community leaders prototype applications of NASA science measurements and predictions addressing local policy issues.

(7) Develop and deploy NASA sensor, platform (manned and unmanned), information processing, and communication technology to address the real-time requirements of disaster management and mitigation, particularly for wildland fires; and

(8) Study how rapid rates of change affect emergent ecosystem properties as part of the larger effort in Astrobiology.

Thirty-five Earth scientists, engineers, programmers, geographers, chemists and educators comprise the branch and cover a range of disciplines from ecology to engineering and computer science. A number of staff are associated with Ames through cooperative agreements with California State University at Monterey Bay, San Jose State University and Bay Area Environmental Research Institute. Other science staff supports branch research through on-site contracts, visiting professor programs and educational grants and programs.

The staff collaborates with a large number of external and internal organizations, including colleagues from Stanford University, Universities of California at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Davis, University of Montana, California State Universities at Monterey Bay and San Jose, and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. Collaborative agreements with various federal agencies have long been an important aspect of how we conduct research. Branch staff work with scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Within Ames the Branch has collaborative relationships with the Information Technology Division, the Atmospheric branch within the Earth Science Division, and the Airborne Sensor Facility. These collaborations are vital to the accomplishment of the mission, and, in particular, permit the Branch to find practical applications of Earth science research.

The Biospheric Science Branch, as part of NASA's Earth Science Division, supports the carbon cycle and ecosystem, water cycle and solid earth, and climate change vulnerability focus areas. The branch participates in the Applied Science Program and helps NASA respond to three presidential initiatives: the Climate Change Research Initiative, Global Earth Observation, and the Oceans Action Plan. NASA has developed relationships with other federal agencies and state and local entities to improve the application of NASA's research, providing services in disaster assessment, ecosystem forecasting, environmental management, and land use assessment.

James A. Brass
Branch Chief


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Last Updated: December 28, 2011

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