thinkspatial_logoOn Tuesday, May 30, 2017 The UCSB brown-bag forum on spatial thinking presents

“Dryland Feedbacks between Biogeochemistry,
Plants and Surface Hydrological Dynamics”

Kelly Caylor

Professor, Department of Geography and the
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
Director, Earth Research Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara

12:00 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, 2017 | 3512 Phelps Hall (map)

Dryland landscape

Both the ecology and hydrology of dryland landscapes are characterized by high degrees of spatial and temporal heterogeneity. In particular, temporal heterogeneity in rainfall drives coupled hydrological and biogeochemical surface dynamics that are themselves highly influenced by the spatial organization of dryland vegetation. Despite being appreciated as a conceptual tool for understanding dryland function, the specific role of temporal and spatial variability in governing the dynamics of drylands has received little empirical attention. Most studies of variability in rainfall and soil moisture dynamics have attempted to capture either fine-scale spatial heterogeneity caused by vegetation structure (i.e. tree/grass/bare patch differences) or short-term impacts of shifts in soil moisture distributions via experimental manipulations. In this talk, I will examine the larger-scale implications of rainfall variability, impacts of variability on the partitioning of surface hydrological fluxes, and subsequent patterns and dynamics of vegetation and biogeochemistry across a range of ecological settings. Of particular interest is understanding how dryland, moist tropical, and subsistence agricultural ecosystems will respond to shifts in rainfall climatology which may alter the frequency and depth of rainfall events without necessarily impacting average seasonal rainfall totals. Using examples from across the tropics – with a focus on sub-Sarahan Africa – I will highlight some recent work which explores shifts in ecosystem function driven by altered rainfall climatology and the potential impacts of increased variability on the structure and function of African ecosystems.

Professor Caylor is the Director of the Earth Research Institute and Professor of Ecohydrology in the Department of Geography and the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. He received his PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia. Professor Caylor’s research seeks to develop improved insight into the way that land use and climate change are interacting to affect the dynamics and resilience of global drylands. His primary research sites are in sub-Saharan Africa, where he is focused on understanding the vulnerability of pastoral and subsistence agricultural communities to current and future changes in hydrological dynamics. His teaching experience and interests include field courses in Kenya, earth system sciences, environmental biophysics, and environmental sensing and sensor development. He is a co-founder of Arable Labs, Inc. (, a company focused on enhancing agricultural decision making and improving in-field data availability for farmers. Professor Caylor conducts research at a number of spatial and temporal scales; from small-scale experiments during individual rainfall events all the way up to continental-scale analyses of climate trends. A major focus of his research is the development of new methods to improve the measurement and prediction of ecosystem water use efficiency. Professor Caylor has served on the editorial board of Water Resources Research, the Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, Vadose Zone Journal, and Environmental Research Reviews, Environmental Research Letters. He was a recipient of an Early Career Award from the NSF, and was the inaugural recipient of Early Career Award in Hydrological Sciences given by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial brown-bag presentations are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

Please contact Kitty Currier ( to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial thinking.

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ThinkSpatial: Kelly Caylor