Associate Professor of Geography
Director, LEAPS (Landscape Ecology at Penn State)
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Email: 
smithwick@psu.edu
Phone number(s): 
(814) 865-6693
Office Address: 
323 Walker Building
Biographical: 

I work at the interface of landscape and ecosystem ecology, focusing on the influence of spatial patterns on ecosystem function. I explore how fire patterns (e.g., “pyrogeography”) influence soil biogeochemistry and carbon storage. In the face of increasing concern about fire in human-dominated landscapes, the understanding of the causes and ecological consequences of fire is critical to local and landscape level management. As such, my research is relevant to landscape-level conservation management as well as global change biology. More generally, I am interested in how scale and spatial patterns of disturbance processes can be better modeled so that forecasts of climate change can better incorporate dominant disturbance dynamics. However, I also integrate both laboratory and experimental studies on soil and ecosystem biogeochemistry, and am increasingly interested in spatial statistics (geostatistics), network theory, and Bayesian approaches for understanding and scaling ecosystem complexity. I primarily work in three geographic locations: Africa (Ghana and South Africa), The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Wyoming – USA), and the Northeast. A majority of my research occurs in natural reserves or parks, which can serve as benchmarks for ecosystem function and coupled human-nature interactions.

PSIEE Research Theme: 
Water and Biogeochemical Cycles
Research Summary: 

Research is at the interface of landscape and ecosystem ecology, focusing on the influence of spatial patterns on ecosystem function with a specific interested in the role of fire patterns on soil biogeochemistry and carbon storage.