Position title: Professor of Agronomy and Environmental Studies
Phone: (608) 890-3021
Chris Kucharik is a professor of agronomy and environmental studies. His faculty position is part of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI) and he has affiliate appointments with the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Agroecology, and Limnology and Marine Science. He is currently serving on the editorial advisory board of the journal Global Change Biology. He served on the agriculture and forestry subcommittee for Wisconsin Governor Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming, is a member of the Science Advisory Board for the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), and is part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), focusing on sustainability issues related to bioenergy production.
Chris’s research program is largely interdisciplinary, incorporating field work on cropping systems ecology and ecosystem modeling in a framework that is geared towards understanding the impacts of climate change and land management on the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services – more specifically crop production, water quantity and quality, carbon sequestration, and climate regulation. His research interests are centered on the following themes:
- To better understand how ecosystems across the globe function as part of the Earth’s carbon, water, nutrient, and energy cycles and how these systems might respond to future changes in human land management and climate
- To investigate the role of land management (e.g., planting date, hybrid selection, fertilizer management), climate change and variability, and soil type on U.S. crop productivity, agrochemical leaching and transport, and feedbacks to the climate system (e.g., residue management and irrigation)
- To better understand biogeochemical cycling in restored prairies, grasslands, and cropping systems (including new bioenergy crops) across the Midwest U.S., and their potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon
This work has been supported by NASA, through the U.S. Department of Energy National Institute for Climate Change Research (NICCR), The National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), Madison Gas and Electric, and the Wisconsin Focus on Energy Environmental Research Program.
Kucharik’s teaching program currently consists of two alternating courses: Environmental Biophysics, Agronomy/Soils/AOS 532 and Agroecosystems and Global Change, Agronomy/Agroecology/Environmental Studies 724. He use a “systems” perspective in teaching, and emphasize how individual systems interact with one other, often leading to unpredictable and unintended consequences. This is particularly evident in environmental sciences when meteorology, ecology, biology, and soil science and the economy impact agriculture and vice-versa.
He uses real-life examples to allow students to actively engage in discussion with each other about examining problems, or to simply decide what is the question that needs to be answered. He highlights “case-studies” of particular geographic regions that are experiencing some type of problem related to human pressure on natural resources. Students in his courses are exposed to rigorous quantitative analysis but will learn to appreciate how qualitative assessments can be the building blocks to charting a course towards solving a problem.
Kucharik graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 with a PhD in atmospheric sciences (minor soil science). During his graduate studies, Chris participated in the BOReal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS), an international field experiment that took place in the Canadian boreal forest. He helped design a high-resolution, two-band, ground-based remote-sensing instrument, called a Multiband Vegetation Imager (MVI), which allowed for advanced studies of forest canopy architecture and non-random distributions of vegetation, which has enabled for more accurate predictions of carbon cycling in high latitude forest ecosystems.