I am an ecological accountant for The Nature Conservancy. I specialize in measuring how forests solve climate change. To explain this, let’s start with the fundamentals: CO2 is the largest cause of climate change. Through a magical process called photosynthesis, trees suck CO2 out of the air, turn the C into cellulose (wood), and release the O2 (oxygen) back into the air. In other words, forests are a big climate change solution. Stopping deforestation and encouraging reforestation is a low cost solution to offsetting at least 1/3 of climate change (see this blog for details). My job is to 1) run the numbers on this forest solution to climate change, and 2) help design forest conservation strategies that provide yet bigger solutions to climate change. I also work with colleagues to integrate our forest carbon accounting with measures of other benefits forests provide for people.
Here are three examples:
1) We are measuring the CO2 benefits of low impact logging practices in Borneo, and we are re-designing low impact logging practices to achieve yet more carbon benefits. Low impact logging practices could cut carbon pollution in half while maintaining local jobs, maintaining Orangutan habitat, and improving water quality. See this blog for more.
2) We are measuring the extent to which community managed forests in Mexico are already providing CO2 benefits, and assessing how we can help these communities to provide even more.
3) We are measuring the extent to which improved land tenure and law enforcement in the Brazilian Amazon reduces CO2 emissions from deforestation. We are also exploring alternatives to cattle ranching, like cacao agroforestry, which can be more profitable yet store more carbon. See this blog for more.
Prior to joining TNC, I coordinated a successful effort at the U.S. Department of State to make climate change funding available for forest-climate initiatives through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). Before that I was the post-doc on an EPA-funded research program to prioritize watershed conservation and restoration efforts in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. I completed a Ph.D. in tropical forest ecology from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2003. Prior to that I got an M.Sc. from New York University in plant genetics and conservation. Hopefully that genetics part sounds impressive, but I confess I didn’t take to gel electrophoresis. Prior to that I was a 20-something dude trying to figure out what to do.