Before joining the University of Maryland Department of Geography in July, 2010, I was a postdoctoral research associate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Biospheric Sciences Branch, employed through the University of Maryland Baltimore County's GEST program (2009-2010).

Areas of Interest

  • ecosystem dynamics
  • phenology
  • vegetation succession
  • urbanization and pastoralization
  • land-use change
  • species distributions
  • multi-temporal and structural imaging
CV: jos-cv-150702.docx38.56 KB


  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Ecology, Duke University (2009)
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Forest Resources, Utah State University (2003)
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida (1999)

Over the past century, Earth’s human population has risen from less than 2 billion to nearly 7 billion people. Much of this surge is attributed to technological advances that have shifted dominance in the human-nature relationship increasingly toward human control. Along with important social adaptations (e.g., demographic changes, migration to cities, etc.) the current “Anthropocene Era” has brought large changes in landform, hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles, climate, and biodiversity, as well as spatial patterns of land cover and human land use. Given the adversity of many of the impacts, these past and projected future changes have led to concern over the adaptability of societies and the long-term sustainability of human welfare.

Natural ecosystems are complex and potentially chaotic systems, even in the absence of anthropogenic influence. But with escalating human impacts, understanding the additional interactions between physical, biological, and social systems is increasingly crucial. Understanding the parts and linkages in coupled human-natural ecosystems is vital not only for conserving ecosystem function, but also for adapting socio-economic systems to their changing natural environment.

My research focuses on ecosystem dynamics and the remote sensing methods required to monitor landscape changes over time. I develop statistical and ecological analyses for the Global Forest Cover Change Project, a joint project of the Global Land Cover Facility, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and South Dakota State University. This project is mining more than thirty years of Landsat images to map changes in Earth's forest cover from 1975 to 2005. Beyond my responsibilities to this major effort, I contribute ecological, statistical, and remote sensing expertise to collaborative studies of urban heat islands, threatened and endangered species habitat, tropical deforestation, climate effects on boreal biomes, and urban growth.

Joseph Owen Sexton
jsexton [at]