Kyla Dahlin

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April 17, 2023 11:30 am - 11:30 pm

Seeing the trees for the forest: Predicting ecosystem processes from structural and functional diversity

Kyla Dahlin

Associate Professor

Michigan State University

Department of Geography, Environment, & Spatial Sciences

Program in Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior


The terrestrial biosphere is the largest source of uncertainty in the global carbon budget. We know that Earth system models (ESMs) over-simplify patterns and processes, yet we lack global scale information to constrain these models. This situation is, however, rapidly changing with the development of new observational tools, new ESMs, and new approaches to data analysis. To help constrain and inform ESMs, my group is working to understand ecological diversity at multiple spatial and temporal scales. We map biodiversity patterns based on in-situ data, geodiversity, and forest structure; we quantify plant functional traits in four-dimensions (x-y-z and through time); and we work to address “known unknowns” in the Earth system, like semi-arid ecosystem ecology, phenology, and historic influences. These projects all target the same fundamental question: How can we better quantify the globe’s myriad dimensions of ecological diversity to improve forecasts of the Earth system?


Dr. Kyla Dahlin is an associate professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, where she has worked since 2015. Her research group aims to understand and quantify ecological patterns and processes from local to global scales through the application of emerging technologies, including air- and space-borne remote sensing, spatial statistics, and process-based modeling. Kyla is currently on sabbatical at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in the Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems group, which has been supported by JPL, MSU, and an NSF CAREER award. Outside of work, Dr. Dahlin enjoys spending time with her family, growing and making things, and riding bicycles.

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