NASA recognizes MSU CGCEO faculty

September 23, 2019 - Liz Schondelmayer, Andrea Allen

Faculty from the Michigan State University Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (CGCEO) recently secured funding from NASA’s Land-Cover/Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Program for four projects studying the relationship between socioeconomics and land use changes. 

This recognition of MSU talent marks a milestone of long-term strategic planning and growth for the CGCEO, which is a center in the College of Social Science. Director Dr. Jiaguo Qi highlights the Center’s affiliated faculty as “striking at the core value of MSU to create a positive impact on people’s lives at a global level.”

The four awards illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of the research supported by both the CGCEO and the NASA LCLUC Program. Blending natural and social sciences, both programs take a multidimensional approach to better understanding human land-use and ecosystems from a regional to a global scale.

“Collectively, this team of researchers will create new knowledge on the role of human-managed land systems,” explains Dr. Qi. “It will be exciting to follow the outcome of this body of research over the next three years covered by these awards.”


The four projects were each selected from the 2018 NASA LCLUC solicitation for land-use transitions in Asia.

The first project, titled “Interdependent dynamics of food, energy and water in Kazakhstan and Mongolia: Connecting LCLUC to the transitional socioecological systems,” was awarded $797,540. The project, led by the CGCEO’s Jiquan Chen and MSU Economics professor Jinhua Zhao, will examine the interconnections of food, energy and water under rapid changes in climate and intensified land use in Kazakhstan and Mongolia from 1981 through 2020.

The next project, awarded $748,148, is titled “Divergent local responses to globalization: Urbanization, land transition, and environmental changes in Southeast Asia.” Led by CGCEO faculty Dr. Peilei Fan and former-MSU faculty Dr. Joseph Messina, the team will examine different responses to international influences in seven Southeast Asian countries, with a focus on how land is used and how the environment is changing.

The third project, led by former South Dakota State University professor and current CGCEO faculty Geoffrey Henebry, was awarded $1,056,823. Project researchers will examine the relationships between environmental, social, and economic factors of pasture productivity and land degradation. The project is titled, “Atmospheric teleconnections and anthropogenic telecouplings drive land change in Central Asian highlands: How environmental changes, migration, and remittances threaten montane agropastoralist livelihoods and community viability.”

The final project, “Forced and truncated agrarian transitions in Asia through the lens of field size change,” was awarded $772,425. Lin Yan, a former South Dakota State University professor and current CGCEO faculty, is leading the project with CGCEO’s David Roy. The research team will characterize the influence of different physical, social and economic factors on field size, crop yield and agrarian transitions across different land tenure systems.