Dr. Neal Scott
Associate Head, Geography Graduate Programs
Department of Geography and Planning
Canada Research Chair (II) in Greenhouse Gas Dynamics and Ecosystem Management (2005-2015)
I was born and raised in Hamilton, New York (USA) on a dairy farm, my first experience studying plant/soil interactions! I received a BA in Biology (1982) with a minor in Environmental Studies from Williams College (Williamstown, MA). After graduation, I spent almost one year in India as an agricultural research intern, then worked as a laboratory technician for the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Project. Following a one year internship at the Rodale Research Center in Kutztown, PA, I entered graduate school at Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO). While at Colorado State, I completed my MSc. (Dept. of Agronomy: Soil Science/Ecology (1991)), and my Ph.D (Dept. of Forest Sciences: Forest Ecology (1996)) – both theses explored the impacts of plant/soil interactions on ecosystem processes. I then went to work at Landcare Research in Palmerston North New Zealand (until 2000), where I applied my experience in plant/soil interactions and contributed to the development of a national carbon monitoring system for plants and soils. I also studied land-use impacts, particularly afforestation and reforestation, on greenhouse gas emissions. This experience introduced me to the excitement of interdisciplinary research, and the rewards of applying my research to national policy development. I joined the staff at the Woods Hole Research Center in 2000, continuing with my research on land-use change and greenhouse gas emissions. I joined the Geography Department at Queen’s in 2005 as a Canada Research Chair (II) in Greenhouse Gas Dynamics and Ecosystem Management.
My research program strives to increase our understanding of the processes of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, and how human-induced disturbances influence these processes. Perturbation of these cycles has enormous consequences to humans. Changes in the C cycle, particularly those that release C to the atmosphere, will contribute to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rates of climatic change. Nitrogen deposition may enhance forest growth rates, but excess N can lead to reduced soil and water quality and increased emissions of greenhouse gases such as N2O. The key questions I am addressing at present include 1) how do forest management practices and other disturbances, particularly non-stand-replacing events, alter rates of C exchange with the atmosphere 2) how will soil disturbance and climate-related shifts in plant community distribution in the high Arctic influence soil biogeochemical processes 3) what is the fate of different forms of N added to forest ecosystems, and how does this exogenous N influence rates of C exchange between the forest and the atmosphere, and 4) is biomass production for bioenergy sustainable, and how does it impact the climate system (both through GHG production and changes in surface reflectance). I am also interested in the impact of invasive plant species on plant/soil interactions, and the impact of historical land-use patterns on contemporary C and N cycling processes. My research approach includes field studies, development and testing of process-based terrestrial C and N cycling models, and use of remote sensing and GIS to extrapolate research results in space and time. When possible, I try to use my research results to help address key environmental policy issues.