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Dr. Robert Washington-Allen

Specialties: Biogeography, Drylands, Landscape Ecology, Remote Sensing
See also: Google Scholar Link, Curriculum Vitae, Reference list for the Indonesian Peat Prize


My undergraduate training was in zoology and I developed an interest and received training in international development and math & science education from the US Peace Corps. I was in Lesotho for 6 years, three of which was teaching high school. The next 3 years I lectured on courses in Agricultural Resource Management, including Rangeland Science & Management, at the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC). The Basotho are pastoralists that practice vertical transhumance: herding livestock to spring and summer mountain pastures and then back to the lowlands during the winter snows. This time in Lesotho led to my interest in Pastoralism and my graduate training at Utah State University in rangeland science and management, landscape ecology, and physical geography including remote sensing and GIS, reinforced this interest. I am particularly interested in sustainable development and how it relates to the concept of ecological resilience.

I have applied my disciplinary expertise to the development of remote sensing protocols for the inventory, monitoring, and assessment of natural resources, particularly pastoral systems, around the world at local to global spatial scales and at temporal scales consistent with stakeholder requirements. My research has focused on applied science problems in order to provide solutions to questions concerning possible land degradation, climate change, invasive species, conservation biology, and ecological restoration.

My primary research question has been whether or not particular ecosystems are degraded or not, in other words, have they lost ecological resilience? This has led to considerations of ecological theory and applications as concerns complex adaptive systems and the related diagnostic behaviour including scale-invariance, self-organization, thresholds, and dynamic regimes. Within this context, my lab has focused on two research questions: 1) How do you use conventional passive and active and cutting edge remote sensing technologies, i.e., terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and ground penetrating radar (GPR) to measure both detrimental and beneficial changes in ecosystem structure and function? and 2) What is the condition and trend of Dryland landscapes at local to global scales using indicators derived from remote sensing data?

Contact Information

Dr. Robert A. Washington-Allen
MS & Ph.D., Utah State University
Assistant Professor
315 Burchfiel Geography Bldg
1000 Phillip Fulmer Way
Knoxville, TN 37996-0925

Phone: 979-571-4330

My students, collaborators, and I have conducted this research in drylands including the Great Basin, Mojave and Chihuahuan Deserts, coastal prairie, and savannas, and peatlands, and deciduous to tropical forests. We have conducted these studies in the US, the Bolivian Altiplano, Mexico, Mozambique, South Africa, Costa Rica, and Colombia. We have started carbon accounting studies in Senegal, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.

I currently teach:

Geography 309: Pastoralism in Drylands Fall Semester

Geography 413: Remote Sensing of the Environment, Fall Semester

Geography 435: Biogeography, Fall Semester

Geography 513: Advanced Remote Sensing, Spring Semester

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