Rubenstein School faculty, staff, and students develop and use innovative spatial analysis, modeling, and mapping tools as part of their research methods. In the Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL), in particular, researchers use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related technology to quantify and evaluate ecological patterns, including wildlife habitat, landscape fragmentation, biological diversity, forest health, and invasive species. The SAL incorporates this information into conservation-planning efforts that help develop priorities for protecting landscapes and their natural resources. They use sophisticated computer models and historical data to develop alternative scenarios of policy strategies, infrastructure investments, and demographic and economic changes. They run cutting-edge urban simulation and transportation modeling software to visualize effects of these scenarios on development patterns, traffic, and other socioeconomic factors. Learn more about Geospatial Technologies at UVM.

Faculty Research Programs

Therese (Terri) Donovan

Map of Vermont

Landscape ecology, wildlife population modeling

Population dynamics and modeling, structured decision making, landscape ecology and conservation biology broadly define Terri’s research. As the assistant leader of the Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Terri’s research has an applied angle that meets cooperator’s research needs. The Unit’s main cooperators are the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Department of Interior. Terri’s current projects focus on developing methods for monitoring animals (birds, bats, frogs, and insects) via acoustic recordings, adaptive management of harvested species in Vermont, and evaluating how forest management affects long-term carbon storage, energy production, and wildlife distributions for black bear, bobcat, and fisher. Terri also maintains the Spreadsheet Project, a website that provides teaching materials related to modeling, conservation biology, ecology, and parameter estimation methods.

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Gillian Galford

Aerial view of green agricultural landscape

Environmental sustainability, ecosystems ecology, nitrogen and carbon cycling, greenhouse gases, remote sensing, ecosystems modeling, land-cover and land-use change, tropical agriculture

As an ecosystems ecologist and earth system scientist, Gillian studies land-cover and land-use change in the tropics and its impacts, particularly on greenhouse gas emissions and the water cycle. Gillian works across scales, from plot level studies on farms to regional analyses through remote sensing and ecosystems modeling. Land cover changes of interest include deforestation in the Amazon and hurricane damage to Cuban mangroves—and associated impacts on the environment. In Brazilian agroecosystems, Gillian studies the bottom-up impacts of land use management on large commercial farms to inform sustainable practices. In smallholder farming settings like Malawi and Vermont, USA, her work focuses on resilience in the face of increased precipitation variability.

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Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne

Spatial analysis map of a landscape

Geospatial technology, wildlife habitat mapping, land cover change detection, urban tree canopy assessment, community health, water quality modeling

Jarlath's work broadly focuses on using geospatial technology to solve problems, answer questions, and further research. He is involved in variety of projects as the Director of the UVM Spatial Analysis Laboratory. His current work includes an urban tree canopy assessment with the U.S. Forest Service to help communities throughout the U.S. understand current and potential tree canopy, work with NASA on estimating biomass using remote sensing data, an ecological homogenization project that considers social and biophysical data to find similarities in landscapes throughout the U.S., work with the National Science Foundation on capturing images with smartphones for a more recent and unique perspective than images from satellites, and a project with the Department of Transportation using satellite images to respond to damage to transportation infrastructure, such as that from Hurricane Irene.

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Jennifer Pontius

Map of Northeastern U.S.

Forest health, remote sensing, GIS modeling

Jen uses remote sensing, mapping, and modeling to scale information about forest health and function from the plot to the landscape scale. These techniques allow researchers and land managers to identify and track impacts of new and existing forest stress agents. Specifically, her work includes detection and mapping of forest decline as a result of invasive species, climate change, and acid deposition. Current projects include an integrated forest ecosystem assessment to support sustainable management decisions in a changing climate; early detection and mapping of emerald ash borer; remote sensing to assess hemlock decline; a long term assessment of changing forest demographics, productivity, and biomass accumulation; and quantification of historical trends in Vermont's seasonal vegetation in response to climate change. Jen is the Principal Investigator of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, which integrates ecosystem monitoring efforts across organizational and disciplinary boundaries.

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Brian Voigt


Modeling, analyzing, quantifying land use change; ecosystem service assessment and valuation; quantitative spatial analysis

Brian's research focuses on ecosystem services, quantitative geography, land use planning, economics, natural hazards, sociology and GIS. He strives to make his work as applied as possible, frequently linking his research into the land use planning process. In Tanzania, he is modeling access to freshwater, economic livelihoods and health outcomes for pastoral households. Another project in Moab, Utah considers recreational and water impacts from oil, gas and potash development on one million acres of public land. Brian also has two current projects focused on the Lake Champlain basin. The first considers the impacts of land use and land cover change on the delivery of ecosystem services, while the second project is attempting to quantify the economic value of clean water in Lake Champlain. In addition to his specific projects, Brian works on developing and implementing the ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services) modeling platform, developing case studies and identifying software needs for quantifying and analyzing the flow of ecosystem services.

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