Greg Asner, a scientist with the Carnegie Institute’s Department of Global Ecology since 2001, is a pioneer of new methods for investigating tropical deforestation, degradation, ecosystem diversity, invasive species, carbon emissions, climate change, and much more using satellite and airborne instrumentation. His innovations measure the chemistry, structure, biomass, and biodiversity of the Earth in unprecedented detail over massive areas not thought possible before. He has developed new technologies for conservation assessments, including tropical forest carbon emissions and stocks, hydrologic function and biodiversity. He leads the CLASLite forest change mapping project, spectranomics biodiversity project, and the one-of-a-kind Carnegie Airborne Observatory.
Asner received his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in environmental engineering, biogeography, and environmental biology, respectively. In 2006, his research was designated a Science Magazine Breakthrough of the Year. In 2007, Popular Science magazine selected him as one of its Brilliant Ten young scientists. In addition to his work at the interface of ecosystems, land use and climate change, Asner is heavily engaged in teaching others to use his technology for tropical forest management and conservation. His research has led to some 340 publications, with dozens more in the pipeline.
Greg has applied his work to environmental problems in tropical forests and arid ecosystems of the world. From the American Southwest to the Brazilian Amazon, he has developed new ways to detect land degradation resulting from human activities and climate change. In places like the Southwestern US and Argentina, he uses instruments on aircraft – from helicopters to high-flying surveillance planes – to measure the structure and chemistry of arid ecosystems as they change to deserts, a process known as desertification. In the Amazon Basin, Asner and his colleagues have combined extensive field studies and satellite technologies to quantify for the first time the extent and ecological impacts of timber harvests and mining on the tropical forest.