Jennifer K. Balch is an American scientist best known for her work involving the Earth Lab Project at University of Colorado Boulder, primarily researches the relationship between fire and the Amazon. She specializes in research involving temperate and tropical ecosystems.

Jennifer Balch
Alma materB.A. - 1999 Princeton

M.S. - 2004 Yale

Ph.D. - 2008 Yale
AwardsESA Early Career Fellow (2016-2020)
Scientific career
InstitutionsPennsylvania State University: 2012-2014; University of Colorado Boulder: 2014-present

Education and careerEdit

Balch discovered her interest in ecology and fire science during her undergraduate education. She graduated from Princeton with her B.A. geography in 1999. She then began her graduate work at Yale, where she graduated in 2004 and 2008 with her M.S. and Ph.D. respectively. Both of her graduate degrees revolve around geography and forest ecology.[citation needed]

Balch was previously an associate professor of geography at Pennsylvania State University from 2012-2014, before accepting her current position. She is an associate professor of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and tenured faculty director and associate professor of the geography department at the University of Colorado Boulder.[1] While an assistant professor in Boulder, she created the Earth Lab project.[2] She is the director and Project Fire Principal Investigator of the Earth Lab. At this site, data is compiled and interpreted in reference to ecosystems where fire seems imminent.[3] This data is then utilized in several different ways: to publish papers, provide education about climate change, foster relationships with public and private sectors, and eventually train capable scientists. She works with several other climate scientists, such as William Travis, Bryan Johnson, and Leah Wasser, to guide the faculty and staff in their research. In addition to her work in ecology, Balch is the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation (NSF) NEON Science Summit, which gives grants to qualified individuals in the field of macrosystem biology. The grant is funded by the University of Colorado, and has provided $99,957 of aid to date.[when?][citation needed]

Balch is a leading researcher on fire ecology of the Amazon. She has authored papers such as The Susceptibility of Southeastern Amazon Forests to Fire: Insights from a Large-Scale Burn Experiment[4] and Pattern and process: Fire-initiated grass invasion at Amazon transitional forest edges,[5] and has been interviewed for popular press articles by The New York Times,[6] CPR News,[7] and the Daily Camera.[8] In her 2017 compilation of data, Balch discovered that human-caused wildfires accounted for 84% of recorded fires in the United States.[9] These wildfires were found to not only effect ecosystems but also our own economy as well. Fire management and performance-based prevention is expensive, which could potentially cause a shift in resource allocation within Brazil.[10]

Achievements and honorsEdit

Balch was named an Ecological Study of America (ESA) Early Career Fellow (2016-2020) for her work in fire risk, prevention, and ramifications of wildfires in temperate and tropical ecosystems.[11]

In 2017, Balch, Bethany A. Bradley, John T. Abatzogloue, Chelsea Nagya, Emily J. Fuscod, and Adam L. Mahooda published a paper which examined humans' role in the recent increase in wildfires in the past few decades. Wildfires are now being set during all seasons and in places where fire is not naturally occurring. The result of this paper found that wildfires are the consequence of lightning (16%) and humans (84%).[9]

Later in 2017, Balch brought together some of the top scientists in the fields of geography, fire ecology, and data analysis to compile extensive amounts of data to make climate models. With these people, she created the Earth Lab project at the University of Colorado, Boulder.[2]

Selected publicationsEdit


  1. ^ "Balch, Jennifer K. | CU Experts | CU Boulder". Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  2. ^ a b "Earth Lab". Earth Lab. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  3. ^ "About Earth Lab". Earth Lab. 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  4. ^ Balch, Jennifer (September 2015). "The Susceptibility of Southeastern Amazon Forests to Fire: Insights from a Large-Scale Burn Experiment". Oxford Journals: Bioscience. 65: 893–905.
  5. ^ Cochrane, Mark (2009). "Pattern and Process: Fire-initiated grass invasion at Amazon transitional forest edges". Tropical Fire Ecology: Climate Change, Land Use, and Ecosystem Dynamics. Springer Praxis Books. pp. 481–502. ISBN 978-3-540-77380-1.
  6. ^ Fisher, Max (2019-08-30). "'It's Really Close': How the Amazon Rainforest Could Self-Destruct". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  7. ^ McMahon, Xandra. "How Quickly Could The Amazon Rainforest Become The Amazon Grassland? Within 10 Years, This Boulder Scientist Discovered". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  8. ^ "CU Boulder researcher harbors hope in face of recent wildfire trends". Boulder Daily Camera. 2018-06-09. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  9. ^ a b Balch, Jennifer (March 2017). "Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (11): 2946–2951. Bibcode:2017PNAS..114.2946B. doi:10.1073/pnas.1617394114. PMC 5358354. PMID 28242690.
  10. ^ Tavares, Rodrigo Machado (2009). "An analysis of the fire safety codes in Brazil: Is the performance-based approach the best practice?". Fire Safety Journal. 44 (5): 749–755. doi:10.1016/j.firesaf.2009.03.005.
  11. ^ "ESA Fellows – Ecological Society of America". Retrieved 2019-09-10.

External linksEdit