Jennifer Balch photo portrait
Assistant Professor of Geography • Fire ecology; Land use/landcover change; Global change ecology; Tropical forest ecology • Director, Earth Lab Project Fire Principal Investigator • Ph.D. Yale University, 2008
Physical Geography

Research Interests

We need to reassess the role of fire on Earth. At a global scale, we know very little about how fire influences ecosystem dynamics, and in turn, how ecosystem patterns and processes control the fire cycle. My research aims to understand the patterns and processes that underlie disturbance and ecosystem recovery, particularly how shifting fire regimes are reconfiguring tropical forests, encouraging non-native grass invasion, and affecting the global climate. My current and future research addresses the following major unsolved questions: •What is fire’s role in the Earth system? More specifically, how does fire contribute to global trends of climate warming and how does climate warming promote fire? •How are fire regimes altered by invasive species? Particularly, how is an invasive grass-fire cycle established and perpetuated? •How is the recent, unprecedented increase in human-initiated fires altering tropical-forest dynamics, and how has this increase in fire frequency changed carbon cycles and the recovery trajectory?

In addressing these questions, my research aims to explore global patterns of anthropogenic climate and land cover disruptions to help inform people about opportunities to curb and adapt to these changes.

Recent Courses Include

  • Spring 2016  GEOG 4100/5100-001 (3) Special Topics: Earth Analytics

Selected Publications

Balch, J.K. (2014). Drought and fire change sink to source. Nature 506: 41-42.

Brando*, P.M., J.K. Balch*, D.C. Nepstad*, D.C. Morton, F.E. Putz, M.T. Coe, D. Silvério, M.N. Macedo, E.A. Davidson, C. Nóbrega, A. Alencar, B. Soares-Filho. (2014). Abrupt increases in Amazonian tree mortality due to drought-fire interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111: 6347-6352. *Co-lead authors contributed equally .

Balch, J.K., B.A. Bradley, C. D’Antonio, and J. Gomez-Dans. (2013). Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980-2009). Global Change Biology 19:173-183.

Davidson, E.A., A. Araujo, P. Artaxo, J.K. Balch, I.F. Brown, M. Bustamante, M.T. Coe, R.S. DeFries, M. Keller, M. Longo, J.W. Munger, W. Schroeder, B.S. Soares-Filho, and C.M. Souza, and S.C. Wofsy. (2012). The Amazon basin in transition. Nature 481: 321-328.

Bowman, D.M.J.S.*, J.K. Balch*, P. Artaxo, W.J. Bond, J.M. Carlson, M.A. Cochrane, C.M. D’Antonio, R.S. DeFries, J.C. Doyle, S.P. Harrison, F.H. Johnston, J.E. Keeley, M.A. Krawchuk, C.A. Kull, J.B. Marston, M.A. Moritz, I.C. Prentice, C.I. Roos, A.C. Scott, T.W. Swetnam, G.R. van der Werf, and S.J. Pyne. (2009). Fire in the Earth system. Science 324:481-484. Selected for “Faculty of 1000 Biology” list of important articles. *Co-lead authors contributed equally.

Publications updated September 2014