Graduate student Ellen Esch is one of two UCSD Research Fellows under the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative. Esch works in the Cleland Lab in the Division of Biological Sciences. Her research focuses on the topic of carbon storage under different global change scenarios in natural systems.
Shrub areas in California are facing pressure from changing precipitation patterns and invasion by non-native grasses. Esch’s research examines how these two dynamics affect carbon balances in production and decomposition processes. Under different rainfall scenarios, biomass production and decomposition can vary depending on whether the plants are native or invasive. Esch’s hope is that her results can be compiled to help quantify carbon storage potential across the University of California’s Natural Reserve System.
Esch is conducting her research across four sites in the Natural Reserve System. These lands are important natural laboratories that “provide unique and valuable opportunities for students and faculty research either as part of a thesis or as a component of a larger course in addition to helping provide a sense of place and fostering appreciation for natural areas,” Esch stated. In addition, the reserve has great potential to sequester carbon, and this research may be able to identify new ways of how to use and manage lands owned by the UC.
“I’ve always been interested in general carbon cycling processes, and I think growing up on a farm in Wisconsin really gave me a deep appreciation for the land, and soils,” Esch related. “I love learning more about prairies and being formally introduced to ecological concepts in college which has inspired me to pursue my graduate work in ecology!” She loves doing field work, where the fascinating animals, plants, and smell of nature never leave her bored. As a Carbon Neutrality Initiative Research Fellow, Esch will be able to share her love and knowledge of ecological research with the greater UC community.
To learn more about Ellen and our other sustainability staff and students, click here.
By: Linda Tong, UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Fellow