I received a B.S. in Ecology from Inner Mongolia University in 2009 and a M.S. in Landscape Ecology from Beijing Normal University in 2012. As an undergraduate, I worked on a project that studied land use land cover change in the Maowusu sandy-land in Inner Mongolia. Additionally, I also investigated seed germination properties of four grasses under different treatments in the Alashan desert in Inner Mongolia. During my M.S., I worked as a research assistant on a project funded by the Department of National Forestry of China and studied vegetation change and its effects on soil/water losses in southern China after the “Grain-for-Green” project.
Most recently, I’ve finished my Ph.D. at Lehigh University. I employed climate data, process-based ecosystem and hydrological modeling, geographic information system, and statistical approaches to simulate and identify linkages between climate, hydrology, and ecosystems. One of my Ph.D. projects consisted of analyzing how extreme rainfall events have been driving groundwater recharge in the Northern High Plains aquifer using the USGS Soil Water Balance Model, which has shown that extreme precipitation plays significant role in determining ground groundwater recharge in this region.
In addition, referencing the Variable Infiltration Capacity model, I have developed a two-layer soil model for the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM-Hydro daily version) to improve the soil hydrology simulation and to better capture the effects of extreme moisture conditions on grassland ecosystem carbon and water fluxes in the Southern Great Plains. The results have shown that the effects of long-term drought on ecosystem productivity might be detrimental, while the effects of short-term drought on ecosystem productivity are less negative.
Furthermore, I and my coauthor applied a Functional Principle Component Analysis to fill in the data gaps in a historical temperature dataset, because missing data is always a major challenge for most climate studies. Based on the imputed temperature data, we detected historical extreme temperature events in California over the past 65 years using a Functional Boxplot approach, which goes beyond the most commonly used percentile-based indices, and demonstrated that both days and nights in CA have gotten hotter.
For my post-doctoral research, I am now working with Prof. Chris Kucharik to by using large regional climate datasets and USDA food databases to explore the abrupt ecological changes, which might occur in the past as well as are anticipated in the future, for agricultural ecosystems in central California, the Great Plains, and central Wisconsin.
Zhang J., et al. Extreme Precipitation Drives Groundwater Recharge: the Northern High Plains Aquifer, Central United States, 1950-2010. Hydrological Processes. 30.14(2016): 2533-2545.
Zhang J., et al. Assessing Vegetation Cover Dynamics Induced by Policy-Driven Ecological Restoration and Implication to Soil Erosion in Southern China. PlosOne. 10.6 (2015): e0131352.