Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

Land Change Science

The Land Change Science group in IBES is studying how the Earth's surface is changing in response to natural and human-driven forces, and the connection between them. We are using satellite observations to detect and quantity where and when land cover is changing (e.g., from forest to agriculture). To really understand what is driving these changes, we turn to statistical analysis of the empirical land change data sets in coordination with socio-economic databases; for example, as previously uncultivated land is brought into production, is this driven by evolving climate, government policy, or economic factors? IBES's significant strengths in sociology, satellite imaging, economics, and in-country expertise in the field are opening new avenues of quantitative research.  

Featured Faculty Research

Agricultural expansion on Brazilian land
Jack Mustard

One rapidly change part of the world is the Brazilian Agricultural Frontier that has seen enormous transformation of lands formerly covered by natural land cover (e.g. forests) and pastures to highly managed agricultural fields tilled and harvested with sophisticated machinery. This requires huge inputs of capital and time before a return on investment is realized. We have documented with satellite data the transformation of millions of hectares of land to soy, corn and cotton agriculture. We have also seen a huge increase in the use of double cropping (two crops per growing season). What is driving these developments? Where are the markets for the produce? Are there consequences for water supplies, carbon stocks, and other biogeochemical systems? And how is local and regional human well being affected?   


Jack Mustard

Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences
Expertise: Earth, environmental and planetary processes, How the Earth is changing due to natural and human forces, Remote sensing, Spatial and temporal analysis of change
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Stephen Porder

Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology     
Expertise: Landscape-scale biogeochemistry in tropical forests, Tropical agriculture
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Leah VanWey

Senior Deputy Director (Research) of IBES
Associate Professor of Sociology     
Expertise: Climate and agriculture, Land use change, Human migration and environment

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