Sara Knox, PhD


National Research Program - Western Branch, U.S. Geological Survey

Wetlands and the race against climate change.  


How many of you have walked along the bay noticing the ebb and flow of the tides, the pickleweed and cattails, shore birds and etchings in the mud? If so, you have been among our beautiful bay wetlands. However, this ecosystem is under constant threat. Not just here but worldwide. Wetlands along the world’s coasts are disappearing at an alarming rate due to development, but they are the very ecosystems that can help save the planet from the dangers of global warming. These unique environments play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Carbon is one of the most important elements to life on this planet, and the carbon cycle represents the circulation of carbon from the atmosphere into organisms and ecosystems and then back to the atmosphere again. Wetlands of all natural systems in the world have one of the highest capacities to sequester (remove) carbon from the atmosphere and thus reduce the heating of the planet. It's a complex system however, as wetlands also produce another greenhouse gas called methane. To fully understand how wetlands can help reduce the impacts of climate change, it’s important to understand the balance between carbon sequestration and methane emissions, which is the focus of my research.

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Sara Knox is a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. She received her B.Sc. in Earth System Science from McGill University, her M.Sc. in Geography from Carleton University, and she recently received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley. She studies the exchange of energy, water and greenhouse gases between the land surface and the atmosphere, and the effects of natural and human-induced disturbances on this type of ecosystem function. Her research combines methods from atmospheric science, hydrology, and ecology to further our understanding of carbon cycling and water & energy exchange within agricultural and wetland ecosystems.