Laurel Larsen, PhD, is an assistant professor of earth systems science in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a senior fellow in the Berkeley Institute for Data Sciences, an affiliate of the Berkeley Energy Resources Group, a faculty research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and PI of the Environmental Systems Dynamics Laboratory.
Laurel’s research is aimed at understanding how the flow of water through the environment influences landscapes and ecosystems. Water interacts with physical (e.g., sediment) and biological (e.g., plants) components of the environment in highly nonlinear ways, leading to dynamics characterized by thresholds, sudden shifts between alternate stable states, or chaotic behavior. Her group uses diverse types of tools to understand these nonlinear interactions, so that anticipatory planning and restoration efforts can be made more effective and efficient.
Her work has influenced restoration efforts in the Everglades, with ongoing work focusing on the Chesapeake Bay, streams and wet meadows of California, and the Wax Lake Delta, part of the greater Mississippi River delta complex. She remains committed to using a variety of tools, from field and laboratory work, to simulation modeling, to data-driven analysis, to understand environmental processes. As a Hertz Fellow, Laurel earned her PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and also trained at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.