Michael Dietze


Assistant Professor of Plant Biology
Energy Biosciences Institute

Institute for Genomic Biology



Ph.D., 2006, Duke University

B.S., 2000, Duke University




The environmental sciences have progressively found themselves thrust from their humble roots in natural history into the role of detecting, quantifying, and predicting the interactions between humankind and our natural environment. We face a future where there is clear and growing demand for quantitative ecological forecasts with accurate assessments of uncertainty at the local, national, and global level. One of the primary goals of my work is to produce ecological forecasts by combining innovative ecological models with cutting-edge statistical and computational techniques and integrating diverse sources of data across many spatial and temporal scales. Forecasting is not merely an exercise in modern information technology, but requires tackling a number of basic research questions. At the forefront of these is the need to go beyond studying individual sites in isolation in order to understand the generalities across ecological systems. Basic science questions are what ultimately drive my research: how do species coexistence; what are the relative contributions of biotic interactions, abiotic factors, and disturbance in structuring ecosystems; and to what extent are ecosystem dynamics predictable versus determined by individual history and chance events? I am interested in understanding the universal constraints on vegetation dynamics through the integration of cross-site studies and focused field campaigns with cutting-edge models and modern statistical techniques. Overall my research is focused on the interacting roles of environmental heterogeneity, disturbance, and climate change in structuring forest dynamics.


Recent projects have focused on forest dynamics in the eastern and central U.S. at the stand, landscape, and regional scales. Past projects have also involved work in Costa Rica, Australia, and the Pacific Northwest. In addition, I am starting work on biofuels that will look at the suitability and sustainability of different biofuel crops, their vulnerability to climate variability, their impacts on carbon storage and the water cycle, and the potential land use/land cover changes of biofuel expansion.




Dietze, M.C and Clark, J.S. 2008. Changing the gap dynamics paradigm: vegetative regeneration control on biodiversity response to disturbance. Ecological Monographs (in press).

Clark, J, Dietze, M, Chakraborty, S, Agarwal, P, Ibanez, I, LaDeau, S, and Wolosin, M (2007). Resolving the Biodiversity Paradox. Ecology Letters 10: 647-662.


Govindarajan, S, Dietze, M, Agarwal, P, and Clark, J (2004). A Scalable Simulator of Forest Dynamics Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Computational Geometry:106-115.