My research looks at the patterns and processes that underlie fire disturbance and ecosystem recovery, particularly in tropical forests. The tropics is a region marked by rapid landscape transformation and waves of frontier expansion that leave a patchwork of degraded and recovering forests amidst a matrix of human-dominated land uses. Fire is an integral tool in the transformation and management of these landscapes, as well as a pervasive threat to the longevity of tropical forests. Yet, our understanding of natural fire regimes and the consequences of human-altered fire frequencies in tropical forests is limited.


Jennifer K. Balch, Ph.D.

Director of Earth Lab &

Assistant Professor

Department of Geography

University of Colorado-Boulder

Guggenheim 110, 260 UCB

Boulder CO 80309-0260


Twitter: Fire Works Lab @DrBalch

What’s New?

Earth Lab launches! Earth Lab is a new synthesis center at the University of Colorado-Boulder dedicated to harnessing the wave of observations from space to better inform our understanding of the pace and pattern of global change. This new initiative is part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge effort.

We are hiring! Please see new job opportunities here.

Research highlights:

Lessons from a decade of experimental burns in the Amazon by Jennifer Balch and colleagues. Bioscience Abstract Listen to BioScience Podcast here!

Abrupt increases in Amazonian tree mortality due to drought–fire interactions by Paulo Brando, Jennifer Balch and colleagues. PNAS Open Access

Drought and fire change sink to source by Jennifer Balch.

Nature Article

Cheatgrass increases fire across the U.S. Great Basin by Jennifer Balch and colleagues. Global Change Biology Abstract

Fire in the Earth System by David Bowman, Jennifer Balch, et al. Science 24 April 2009: 481-484.

Abstract--Press Release...and see story at Reuters--San Francisco Chronicle--Miller-McCune--KCLU interview

Press coverage:

The perfect Amazon fire storm...

Press release and NSF highlight

Cheatgrass turns fires into infernos...

Hear story on NPR

Burning issues...experiment sets the Amazon on fire...

See story at the Economist

To slow Amazon fires, scientists light their own...

See story on NPR and the Boston Globe

Chasing fire in the Amazon...

Hear story on NPR

The last experimental burn...

See story in Brazil’s major newspaper Folha de São Paulo

Scientists start fires in Mato Grosso...

See video on Brazilian primetime TV show Jornal Nacional

All photos © Jennifer K. Balch 2009