Pandemic Lessons: Open Data for Forest and Climate Action

A recent article is featured on FAO REDD homepage: under the News section:

The article is authored by four members of the National Forest Monitoring (NFM) Team from the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) – Javier García Pérez (Gamarra) (, Rocío D. Cóndor-Golec (, Rebecca Tavani (, and Julian Fox ( – and Jingjing Liang, Assistant Professor of Quantitative Forest Ecology and GFBI coordinator, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, US (

The article can be shared through the following links:

Shourish Chakravarty

  • Email:
  • Tel: 352-215-5057
  • Mailing address: Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, 715 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907


University of Florida, Ph.D., Food and Resource Economics, August 2019
Job Market Paper: Workfare and forest cover: the Case of NREGS in India
Dissertation Committee: Conner Mullally (Chair), Christa Court, Spiro Stefanou, Hector Sandoval
University of Calgary, M.A., Economics, 2011
Research Report: Determinants of Exclusivity Periods of Drugs in Canada
University of Arizona, M.S., Agriculture and Resource Economics, 2009
Thesis: Determinants of Health Outcomes of Children in the United States
Elphinstone College, Mumbai University, B.A., Economics, 2004


Purdue University
Postdoctoral Scholar, Summer 2020 – present
– Currently working on a project estimating impacts of conservation easements
on land use change. I am also working on a project in which I will be conducting
economic modeling of forest products, specifically products made from

Kansas State University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Fall 2019 – Summer 2020
– Worked on an USDA funded project on estimating land supply elasticities.
I created a spatially-explicit panel dataset that combines land uses from the
USDA-NASS Cropland Data Layer with land cash rents, soil quality and accessibility
– I estimated models that identify the spatially heterogeneous effects of changes
in agricultural returns on land use choices (i.e. land supply elasticities), and
generated maps of spatially explicit land supply elasticities that can be incorporated
in a high-resolution model of U.S. agriculture.
University of Florida
Research Assistant, Fall 2015 – Summer 2019
– Contributed to a project that applied LASSO model selection with doubly
robust treatment effect estimation to analyze the impact of a rural business
development program on small plantain farmers in Nicaragua.
– Worked on a project on citrus greening disease in Florida. The study analyzed
the impact of coordination among citrus growers on fertilizer and pesticide
Teaching Assistant, Economics of Natural Resource Use, University of Florida,
Spring 2018 and Fall 2017
Azim Premji Foundation, India
Associate-Analytics, Knowledge Resource Center, November 2012 – May 2015
– Catered to the capacity building requirements of the Foundation by creating
research reports, literature reviews, and by conducting workshops.
– Extracted and formatted secondary datasets like District Information System
for Education (DISE) and National Sample Survey (NSS).
Development Research Group, World Bank
Short Term Consultant, August 2013 – August 2014
– Research assistance for primary data cleaning and creating questionnaires.
University of Calgary
Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant, Fall 2009 – Winter 2011
– Conducted literature reviews on topics in health economics.
– Teaching assistant for undergraduate courses in microeconomics.
University of Arizona
Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant, Spring 2008 – Spring 2009
– Worked on a project analyzing riparian rights in Arizona water usage by vegetable
industries in the US.
– Teaching assistant for Masters Math camp, and undergraduate courses in Price
Analysis and Microeconomics.


Mullally, C. and S. Chakravarty. 2018. “Are Matching Funds for Smallholder Irrigation Money Well Spent?” Food Policy, 76(1): 70-80.

Nature paper offers global map to understand changing forests

An international collaboration of hundreds of scientists – led in part by the Forest Advanced Computing and Artificial Intelligence(FACAI) Laboratory in Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources – has developed the world’s first global map of tree symbioses. The map is key to understanding how forests are changing and the role climate plays in these shifts.

The findings, reported today in the journal Nature, come from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI), a consortium of forest scientists and practitioners of which the FACAI Lab is a key hub and global center. Jingjing Liang, a Purdue University assistant professor of quantitative forest ecology, is co-supervisor of the FACAI Lab, coordinator and co-founder of the GFBI and co-lead author of the paper. Mo Zhou, a Purdue assistant professor of forest economics and management, is a senior author of the paper, co-supervisor of the FACAI lab and lead economist of the GFBI.

Purdue’s FACAI lab employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to study global, regional and local forest resource management and biodiversity conservation. For this research, FACAI compiled species abundance data from 55 million tree records in 1.2 million forest sample plots spanning 110 countries. The organization of the data was integral to developing the global map.

“The map and underlying global forest inventory database will serve as the foundation for research on the environmental impacts of forest changes, biological conservation and forest management,” Liang said.

The map identifies the types of mycorrhizal fungi associated with trees in a particular forest. These fungi attach to tree roots, extending a tree’s ability to reach water and nutrients while the tree provides carbon necessary for the fungi’s survival. The two most common types of mycorrhizae are arbuscular, which grow inside the tissues of tree roots and are associated with tree species such as maple, ash and yellow poplar, and ectomycorrhizal, which live on the outside of roots and are associated with tree species such as pine, oak, hickory and beech.

Those associations are important because the mycorrhizae affects the trees’ ability to access nutrients, sequester carbon and withstand the effects of climate change.

“Managing forests for climate change mitigation and sustainable development, therefore, should go well beyond managing only trees,” Zhou said. 

The authors found that climate is the most significant factor affecting the distribution of mycorrhizae. A warming climate is reducing the abundance of ectomycorrhizal tree species by as much as 10 percent. That change is altering forests’ ecological and economic footprints, especially along the boreal-temperate ecotone, the border areas between colder and warmer forest. Losses to ectomycorrhizal species have implications for climate change since these fungi increase the amount of carbon stored in soil.

“Knowing the species composition in the forested area across the world is an important start,” Liang said. “There are many fundamental and socioeconomic questions we can answer now with GFBI data and cutting-edge machine learning techniques.”

The FACAI lab is currently developing collaborations to explore questions about ecology and economics, including self-learning forest models, innovative approaches to biodiversity valuation, locating unknown forest resources and space exploration.

The work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Brian S. Steidinger, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, and Thomas Ward Crowther, an assistant professor at ETH Zurich, are co-lead authors of the Nature paper with Liang. Sergio de Miguel, an assistant profession and principal investigator of the GFBI Hub at University of Lleida, Spain, and Xiuhai Zhao and Chunyu Zhang, professors at Beijing Forestry University, are among the senior collaborators of this paper.

Data from this research can be downloaded at

For full details of this paper, visit here.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-532-0233,

Sources: Jingjing Liang, 765-496-0254,

Mo Zhou, 765-494-3098,

Forest Scholars Worldwide Team Up For Biodiversity Research

Loss of biodiversity has long been recognized as detrimental for nature, for nature’s sake. Now a team of scholars from 90 institutions in 44 countries show that it also provides enormous economic benefits. The team, formally known as the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI), consolidated field-based forest inventory data from 777,126 permanent plots across the world, and discovered that for forests in every part of the world, those with many tree species are more productive than nearby forests with few. 

The team then estimated that the economic value of biodiversity in maintaining commercial forest productivity alone is worth USD$166–490 billion per year. This benefit- only one of many such benefits of biodiversity- is more than 20 times greater that what is spent each year on global conservation. This finding highlights the need for a worldwide re-assessment of biodiversity values, forest management strategies, and conservation priorities. 

The research, published in the Oct. 14, 2016 issue of Science, marks the first major accomplishment of FACAI and GFBI team.

Padmageetha Nagarajan

  • Master’s Student
    Advisor: Dr. Jingjing Liang
  • Forest Ecology, remote sensing
  • E-mail:


  • 2016 – 2020, Bachelor of Engineering, Geo-Informatics, College of Engineering Guindy, Anna University, India    

Advisor: Dr. Sanjeevi Shanmugam                                                                                         Thesis: A hybrid approach to Super Resolution Mapping of reservoir boundary from multidate Landsat OLI images using Ant Colony Optimization and Genetic Algorithm

Research Interests

  • Identification of afforested regions at continental scales using remote sensing, big data and machine learning techniques and assessing its role in carbon sequestration

Research Experience  

  • College of Engineering Guindy, Anna University, India (Dec, 2017 – April, 2020)

Carried out the following projects under Dr. Sanjeevi Shanmugam, Professor of Remote Sensing, Anna University

  • Mapped crude-oil leak affected vegetation, soil and water bodies in Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, south India using Sentinel – 2 satellite images
  • Comparative studies on land degradation in south India due to oil-leak and tannery effluents using Landsat and Sentinel – 2 images
  • Visualizing economic slowdown in India through satellite images
  • Extracting high resolution information (6m) of reservoir boundary from Landsat OLI images (30m) using Super Resolution Mapping techniques based on Ant Colony Optimization and Genetic Algorithm
  • Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Indian Space Research Organisation, India (May, 2019 – June, 2019)
  • Interned under Dr. Gnanappazham Lakshmanan, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Space Sciences through Summer Research Internship Programme’19 and worked on classification of mangrove species in Worldview-2 images using machine learning algorithms (Random Forest and KNN) in the pixel-based and object-based approaches
  • Centre of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, India (May, 2018 – June, 2018)
  • Interned under Dr. Arindam Chakraborty, Associate Professor, Centre of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences through Summer Research Fellowship Programme’18 of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Worked on recent changes in summer monsoon onset dates over South and East Asia and analyzed its relationship to atmospheric parameters such as precipitable water, surface pressure and winds. 
  • CEG (College of Engineering Guindy) Tech Forum, Anna University, India (July – Nov, 2017)
  • Worked on modelling Land Surface Temperature (LST) for snow covered regions under Dr. Sujata Dash, Defence Research Development Organisation.


  • Padmageetha Nagarajan, Sanjeevi Shanmugam, 2020. Visualising an indicator of economic slowdown in multidate satellite images. National Conference on Application of Geospatial Technologies in Management of Natural Resources and Disaster, India
  • Padmageetha Nagarajan, Sanjeevi Shanmugam, 2019. Multispectral satellite sensing for comparative studies on land degradation in south India due to oil-leak and tannery effluents. 7th International Conference on Contemporary Engineering and Technology, India
  • Padmageetha Nagarajan, 2019. Recent changes in summer monsoon onset dates over South and East Asia. Celestia, an intra college symposium, Anna University, India
  • Padmageetha Nagarajan, Upanisha Kannan, 2018. A study on the potential of Sentinel-2 multispectral images to map the crude-oil leak affected areas of Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, South India. National Conference on Recent Innovations in Civil Engineering, India
  • Padmageetha Nagarajan, Afshaan A, 2017. Artificial Intelligence in agriculture: An intelligent virtual assistant for farmers. Celestia, an intra college symposium, Ann University, India


  • N. Padmageetha and S. Sanjeevi (2019), ‘Multispectral satellite sensing for comparative studies on land degradation in south India due to oil-leak and tannery effluents’, Journal of Applied Science and Computations, Volume – 6, Issue – 6, 636 – 651
  • N. Padmageetha and K. Upanisha, (2018), ‘A study on the potential of Sentinel-2 multispectral images to map the crude-oil leak affected areas of Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, South India’, International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering, Volume – 8, Issue – 6, 83-89


  • 2019 – Paper Presentation, First prize, Celestia, Anna University, India
  • 2018 – Awarded Summer Research Fellowship, Indian Academy of Sciences
  • 2018 – Best paper award, National Conference on Recent Innovations in Civil Engineering, India
  • 2017 – Paper Presentation, First prize, Celestia, Anna University, India

Prof. Mo Zhou

Google Scholar

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Email:
  • Tel: 001-765-494-3098
  • Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, 715 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907


  • Beijing Forestry University, Beijing China,  MIS, B.S. 1998
  • Technical University of Munich, Munich Germany, Forestry, M.S. 2000
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, Forestry, Ph.D. 2005

Professional experience

  • 2018 – present Assistant Professor of Forest Economics and Management, Purdue University
  • 2011 – 2018   Assistant Professor of Forest Economics, West Virginia University
  • 2008 – 2011   Assistant Professor of Economics, School of Management, University of Alaska
  • 2005 – 2007  Research Associate, Dept. of Forest Ecology and Management, UW-Madison


  • Associate Editor of Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2015-present
  • Associate Editor of Forest Ecosystems, 2013-present

Featured Publications

Zhou, M*. and J. Buongiorno, J. 2019. Optimal forest management under financial risk aversion with discounted Markov decision process models. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. (In press)

Zhou, M*. 2017. “Valuing Environmental Amenities through Inverse Optimization: Theory and Case Study”. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 83: 217 – 230.

Zhou, M.* 2015. “Adapting Forest Management to Climate Policy Uncertainty: a Conceptual Framework”. Forest Policy and Economics 59, 66-74.

Zhou, M. *and J. Buongiorno. 2011. Effects of Stochastic Interest Rates in Decision Making under Risk: a Markov Decision Process Model for Forest Management. Forest Policy and Economics13: 402-410.

Zhou, M. and Buongiorno, J., 2006. Space-time modeling of timber prices. Journal of agricultural and resource economics, pp.40-56.

Prof. Jingjing Liang

Link to Google Scholar

Link to ResearchGate

Link to Facebook

Curriculum vitae, last updated March 2019

  • Email:
  • Tel: 001-765-496-0254
  • Mailing address: Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, 715 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907

Dr. Liang is an SAF certified forester and enjoys having a boots-on-the-ground experience highlighted by one growing season that he measured 15,000 trees in two days, once every two weeks. One of the many highpoints of Dr. Liang’s career thus far was when he was the leading author of research articles published in Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Dr. Liang’s research is interested in global biodiversity patterns and associated environmental and anthropogenic drivers, and he approaches this by utilizing machine learning and big data to help unravel the pressing issues facing the field today. While he’s working on answering today’s tough questions, Dr. Liang believes that the future success of the field will depend heavily on international collaborations and leveraging artificial intelligence to produce high impact research.

When Dr. Liang isn’t busy teaching his Big Data in Forest Research course or training machine learning algorithms, he enjoys going rock-climbing and spending time with his wife who is also a rock-climbing enthusiast and FNR faculty member, Dr. Mo Zhou. Dr. Liang is feeling right at home on the Purdue campus surrounded by our population of ginkgo trees, which he has a special affection for them due to them being incredibly unique and being living fossils.


  • 2005, Ph.D. (Forestry), University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2001, B.S. (Ecology- Environmental Sciences), Peking University

Professional experience

  • 2018 – present Assistant Professor of Quantitative Forest Ecology, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
  • 2017– 2018 Associate Professor of Forest Ecology, School of Natural Resources, West Virginia University
  • 2011—2017 Assistant Professor of Forest Ecology, School of Natural Resources, West Virginia University
  • 2007—2011 Assistant Professor of Forest Biometrics and Management, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • 2006—2007 Post-doctoral Biometrician
    Forest Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • 2005—2006 Research Associate
    Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2001—2005 Research Assistant
    Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


  • Since 2019, Senior member of the Editorial Team, Scientific Data
  • Since 2018, Senior member of the Editorial Team, Forest Ecosystems

Featured Publications

(Co-first author) Steidinger, B. S., T. W. Crowther, J. Liang, M. E. Van Nuland, G. D. A. Werner, P. B. Reich, G. Nabuurs, S. de-Miguel, M. Zhou, N. Picard, B. Herault, X. Zhao, C. Zhang, D. Routh, K. G. Peay, and GFBI consortium. 2019. Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses. Nature 569:404-408.

Details and downloads

Liang, J, T. W. Crowther, N. Picard, S. Wiser, M. Zhou, G. Alberti, E.-D. Schulze, A. D. McGuire, F. Bozzato, H. Pretzsch, S. de-Miguel, A. Paquette, B. Hérault, M. Scherer-Lorenzen, C. B. Barrett, H. B. Glick, G. M. Hengeveld, G.-J. Nabuurs, S. Pfautsch, H. Viana, A. C. Vibrans, C. Ammer, P. Schall, D. Verbyla, N. Tchebakova, M. Fischer, J. V. Watson, H. Y. H. Chen, X. Lei, M.-J. Schelhaas, H. Lu, D. Gianelle, E. I. Parfenova, C. Salas, E. Lee, B. Lee, H. S. Kim, H. Bruelheide, D. A. Coomes, D. Piotto, T. Sunderland, B. Schmid, S. Gourlet-Fleury, B. Sonké, R. Tavani, J. Zhu, S. Brandl, J. Vayreda, F. Kitahara, E. B. Searle, V. J. Neldner, M. R. Ngugi, C. Baraloto, L. Frizzera, R. Bałazy, J. Oleksyn, T. Zawiła-Niedźwiecki, O. Bouriaud, F. Bussotti, L. Finér, B. Jaroszewicz, T. Jucker, F. Valladares, A. M. Jagodzinski, P. L. Peri, C. Gonmadje, W. Marthy, T. O’Brien, E. H. Martin, A. R. Marshall, F. Rovero, R. Bitariho, P. A. Niklaus, P. Alvarez-Loayza, N. Chamuya, R. Valencia, F. Mortier, V. Wortel, N. L. Engone-Obiang, L. V. Ferreira, D. E. Odeke, R. M. Vasquez, S. L. Lewis, and P. B. Reich. 2016. Positive biodiversity-productivity relationship predominant in global forests. Science 354.
Details and downloads

Liang J, Zhou M, Tobin PC, McGuire AD, & Reich PB (2015) Biodiversity influences plant productivity through niche-efficiency. PNAS 112(18):5738-5743.
Details and Downloads

​Liang, J. (2012) Mapping large-scale forest dynamics: a geospatial approach. Landscape Ecology 27(8): 1091-1108.