Faculty Profile: Christopher Neill, PhD

Christopher Neill
Christopher Neill, PhD
Associate Professor (MBL) of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
I am a research scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and I direct the Brown-MBL Partnership.

I study how water and elements cycle in the tropical forests of the Amazon and how the cycles of water and elements are altered as tropical forest is cleared for pasture and soybean agriculture.

I also study how coastal ecosystems in Massachusetts can be managed and restored to protect biodiversity.

I lead the environmental section of the Logan Science Journalism program at MBL.

Biography

I have a BS from Cornell University and an MS and PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I have been a scientist at the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, since 1996.

Research Description

I try to understand how changes in land use and other human activities alter the structure of ecosystems. Several of my research projects investigate the ecological consequences of deforestation of the world's largest tropical rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon. I study how deforestation changes the way water and dissolved and particulate materials move from land to water and within channels of streams and rivers. I also examine how forest clearing alters the rates of cycling of soil nutrients and organic matter and the emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides from soils to the atmosphere. My research group uses comparisons of gauged catchments, natural abundance of stable isotopes and field stable isotope additions, and paired hydrological and hydrochemical measurements.

I also work on the ecology and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in coastal Massachusetts, where rapid increases in residential development threaten ecosystems that contain high and unique biological diversity. With colleagues at The Nature Conservancy and elsewhere, I conduct large-scale management experiments that examine the effects of treatments, such as clearing or burning on these disturbance-dependent coastal sandplain grasslands and shrublands. In 2007 we initiated a new experiment to test methods for restoring old farmland to sandplain grassland on Martha's Vineyard. I also study the ecology of coastal plain ponds, which harbor particularly high plant diversity along their shorelines.

Grants and Awards

Bullard Fellowship, Harvard Forest, 2010
Fulbright Fellowship, Brazil, 2007

Funded Research

2010-2014. PIRE: Land Use, Ecosystem Services and Human Wellbeing: Responses to Millennium Village Interventions. National Science Foundation, Office of Informal Science Education, $1,199,999 (C. Neill, J. M. Melillo, J. F. Mustard, L. K. Vanwey, S. S. Nagavarapu).

2010-2010. MRI-R2: Acquisition of Trace Gas Analytical Instrumentation for Ecosystem Analysis, National Science Foundation, Division of Biological Infrastructure, $418,048 (H. Ducklow, J. Tang, M. Conte, C. Neill).

2010-2013. MSM Collaborative Research: Agricultural Expansion in the Brazilian Amazon and its Influence on the Water, Energy and Climate Cycles. National Science Foundation, Ecosystem Studies, $337,010 (C. Neill, collaborative with M. T. Coe).

2010. Naushon sandplain vegetation. Beech Tree Trust, $10,000 (C. Neill).

2008-2011.IPY: Improving the public's understanding of polar research through hands-on fellowships for science journalists in the Arctic and Antarctic. National Science Foundation, Informal Science Education, $365,289 (C. Neill, H. Ducklow, J. Hobbie, G. Shaver, B. Peterson).

2007-2010. Collaborative research: Influence of land use on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry at the Amazon agricultural frontier. National Science Foundation, Ecosystem Studies Program, $831,395 (C. Neill, H. Elsenbeer, A. Krusche, E. Davidson).