Erica A.H. Smithwick

Associate Director
814 865 6693

Erica Smithwick, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography, is a landscape and ecosystem ecologist. She is also the director of the Ecology Institute and the Center for Landscape Dynamics, a faculty associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State, and graduate faculty in the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. She is also leading an interdisciplinary team in the development of a new graduate training program at Penn State to help graduate students develop partnerships with stakeholders to co-create solutions to challenges of the food-water-energy nexus at regional to global scales.

Her laboratory group (LEAPS:  Landscape Ecology at Penn State) is actively involved in understanding how a wide range of disturbances, especially fire, affect ecosystem function at landscape scales. Her current research is focused on the influence of these changes on socio-ecological resilience and sustainability, with special attention to protected area management in Africa and the U.S. She recently served as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa at Rhodes University.

Smithwick has published more than forty-four publications in peer-reviewed journals and, since arriving at Penn State, secured more than $6.4 million dollars in external research funding as lead principal investigator (total = $11.3 million, 97.5% external) from the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy, The National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and beyond. This work is increasingly focused on problems that require inter- and trans-disciplinary teamwork to address complex environmental challenges. One of these projects, funded by the National Science Foundation, seeks to address how indigenous and western knowledge systems can be best used to address forest sustainability under climate variability, in partnership with the Menominee tribal nation in northern Wisconsin.