School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
November/December 2022

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Expert in disturbance ecology joins YSE faculty

Sparkle Malone, whose research focuses on disturbance regimes such as major weather events and natural disasters and how they alter the structure and functions of ecosystems, has joined the YSE faculty as an assistant professor, a tenure-track appointment supported by an endowment for the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture (YCNCC). In the position, she will conduct cutting-edge research that is relevant to nature-based climate solutions and will also work with other faculty members to develop the direction and mission of the center as a member of the YCNCC scientific leadership team. 

Malone’s current research focuses on carbon dynamics—the capacity for natural systems to capture and sequester carbon. Her work relies on quantitative approaches to measuring systems; integrating data from different sources—remote sensing, eddy covariance, high-frequency pulse data, plot-level data—allows her to monitor systems and understand how they are changing, providing valuable insight into fluxes of carbon, water, and energy across various systems.

Using urban tree waste to mitigate climate change

In a study led by the Center for Industrial Ecology (CIE), researchers conducted a multi-scale lifecycle assessment that explored methods for utilizing urban tree waste. Wide-scale adoption of more eco-friendly uses of urban tree waste, the researchers say, could significantly reduce global warming potential in the United States.

The study outlines several different methods for creating value from urban tree waste, including turning tree trunks into wood chips or lumber for wood products, composting leaves, and turning tree residue into biochar, a carbon-rich material made from biomass. “This all aligns with the circular economy concept—turning waste into something of value,” says Kai Lan, a postdoctoral researcher at CIE and the lead author of the study. “But it’s not just traditional waste, like plastic or paper. Tree waste is very important, too.”

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