Associate Professor Deborah Lawrence conducts conservation-oriented ecological research in tropical forests. She currently works in southern Mexico, a global hotspot of deforestation, and northeastern Costa Rica, where reforestation is now replacing deforestation. She also worked for a decade in the rainforest margins of Indonesian Borneo. Out of college, she received a Fulbright scholarship for research in Cameroon and she was just recently awarded a Fulbright and a Guggenheim fellowship for new research in Thailand. Her research focuses on how nutrient cycling is affected by deforestation and subsequent changes in land-use. In the Yucatan, Lawrence has worked since 1998 with an interdisciplinary team including geographers, economists, remote sensing scientists, anthropologists and hydrologists, as well as ecologists. The team approaches the tropical landscape as a coupled system with feedbacks between human decision-making and dynamics of the physical and biological systems they inhabit. Lawrence is also studying this topic with an interdisciplinary group of scientists at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. Lawrence’s current research grew out of her work in West Kalimantan, where she reconstructed land use histories to study changes in tree diversity, landscape structure, and soil nutrients during 200 years of shifting cultivation. Over the past eight years, she has involved over 40 students, graduate and undergraduate, in her research, emphasizing both the intellectual stimulation and the social urgency of understanding the ecological effects of tropical land use change. Lawrence’s research also reaches into her teaching and into her role as director of the Program in Environmental and Biological Conservation (EBC) within Environmental Science at the University of Virginia.
State Department Profile
Dr. Lawrence worked as the scientific advisor on forests and climate in the Office of Global Change at the US Department of State where she also supported the office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. She focused on international negotiations and bilateral efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in tropical forests. She served on the US delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the Group on Earth Observations and its Forest Carbon Task. She participated in two inter-agency scoping missions on REDD in Indonesia, serving as the point person for development of a State Department program to support the development of an Indonesian Climate Change Center. Prof. Lawrence also served on a USAID assessment on REDD programming in Southeast Asia. She was also involved in the Science and Technology and Environment Working Groups for the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, with a special focus on Black Carbon in the Arctic. During the next phase of her Jefferson Fellowship, she hopes to remain engaged with the Indonesian Climate Change Center as an Embassy Science Fellow.
Dr. Lawrence was featured on the University of Virginia's website. Click here to read the article.