Professor Rayback’s research focuses on understanding the response of trees and shrubs to climate and other environmental changes across varying temporal and spatial scales. She uses dendrochronological (the study of tree rings) techniques and stable isotope analysis to investigate the influence of climate, pollution and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant growth and leaf-gas exchange, as well as to reconstruct past climate. Her research takes place in the Canadian Arctic, the Colorado Rockies, the Cascades, the Himalayas, and the Northern Forest of New England. Her current research focuses on understanding leaf-gas exchange changes in Northern Forest trees in response to rising carbon dioxide, legacy pollutants and variable climate. With colleagues from University of Idaho and Indiana University, she is also working on developing an eastern North American past temperature network using blue intensity analysis. This work is funded by a grant from NSF’s Paleo Perspectives on Climate Change program. Dr. Rayback also works with colleagues and graduate students in UVM’s Rubenstein School and the U.S. Forest Service to understand tree forest health, productivity and response to pollution in New England. She is also a co-founder and co-director of the DendroEcological Network (https://www.uvm.edu/femc/dendro).
Professor Rayback teaches in the Department of Geography and the Environmental Sciences program. She teaches the introductory physical geography course, Weather, Climate and Landscapes (Geography 040) each year. At the intermediate level, she offers courses in Biogeography 140, Global Environmental Change 148 and Circumpolar Arctic 153, and at the advanced level, she teaches a field-based, Service-Learning seminar in Dendrochronology 244 and a spring seminar in Paleoclimatology 246. Her Dendrochronology 244 classes have partnered with The Nature Conservancy of Vermont, the U.S. Forest Service and South Burlington’s Recreation and Parks to reconstruct past environmental and climate response of trees at multiple sites in northwestern Vermont.
Professor Rayback holds a B.A. in French and English from Wellesley College (1993), an M. A. in Geography from University of Texas at Austin (1997) and a Ph.D. in Geography from University of British Columbia, Canada (2003).