Ph.D. candidate, Environment & Resources
Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE)
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1710 University Avenue, Room 264
Madison, WI 53726 USA
Tyler Lark is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, working on issues at the intersection of land use, bioenergy, and food production. His research is focused on mapping and quantifying recent agricultural land-use change in the United States as well as characterizing remaining Potentially Available Croplands (PAC) to identify the opportunities and constraints of expanding agriculture to meet the growing demand for food, feed, and fuel production.
I’m passionate about finding solutions to the grand challenges our food and agricultural systems face, and finding opportunities to reconcile agricultural production with conservation and climate goals. I’m also inspired by working with students to implement their ideas into action, particularly through classes I’ve co-taught with Professor Gibbs, including Consumer-Driven Sustainability and People, Land, and Food, as well as through the development of a new university course and online curriculum on “Local to Global Solutions to Reduce Food Waste.”
Prior to joining GLUE in January 2012, I completed my B.S. in Engineering at UW-Madison. I’ve previously worked on developing an alternative biofuel stove and associated land use strategy to promote waste utilization and reforestation, and served for 2 years as a project lead for our local Engineers Without Borders – Haiti program, implementing clean water, energy, and irrigation projects.
Outside of our lab group, I love spending my time in the outdoors camping, hunting, or on the water. Having grown up on a small farm and experiencing the intersection of agriculture and conservation on a daily basis, I’m excited to be able to now work in this high-impact field with avid opportunities to influence science, policy, and practice for the betterment of the environment and those who rely on it.
Characterizing Agricultural Land-Use Change in the United States
Cultivation of corn and soybeans in the United States reached record levels following the biofuels boom of the late 2000s. Debate churns about whether expansion of these crops caused conversion of carbon-rich natural ecosystems or instead replaced other crops on existing fields. This project aims to characterize recent changes in agricultural production by identifying crop-specific expansion pathways in the U.S. Results will help inform federal agricultural and biofuels policies and provide valuable data for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from recent land-use change as well as its impacts on ecosystem services.
See: Cropland Expansion Outpaces Agricultural and Biofuel Policies in the United States or download the paper and supplementary figures. (Note we are currently updating this work to include land use data through the most recent year)
Mapping Potentially Available Cropland (PAC) in the United States
To meet future demand for agricultural products, it will be necessary to expand cropland area. There is a growing debate about additional land availability in the U.S., with some parties suggesting a nearly endless supply of land for production, while others claim we have already reached “peak land.” To evaluate the extent and location of uncultivated land suitable for crop production in the U.S., we’re creating the first spatially-explicit database of Potentially Available Cropland (PAC) in the United States by fusing satellite-derived land cover data with detailed census and inventory data. Output maps will be used to estimate production potential and associated carbon debt for the U.S. under a range of scenarios, and help identify the economic, social, and physical constraints that limit the practical expansion onto these lands.
Best Practices for measuring land-use and land-cover change using the USDA Cropland Data Layer
Monitoring agriculture and land use is critically important for understanding and managing food production, conservation, and climate change. The USDA’s Cropland Data Layer (CDL), an annual satellite-derived land cover map, has been increasingly used for this application since complete coverage of the conterminous United States began in 2008. Collaboratively with users and producers of the CDL data, we are working on developing a set of recommended best practices to consider during application of this rich dataset. Using published analyses, expert insights, and illustrative examples, we are identifying common pitfalls to avoid and assembling suggested solutions to key challenges. By explicitly discussing the methods and techniques for measuring land-cover and land-use change using the CDL, we aim to further stimulate development of new methodology and applications of this product. For a preliminary listing of recommended best practices or to contribute to this ongoing work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
MN Native Prairie Ecosystem Assessment
In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, GLUE is performing a satellite and aerial photography investigation on the status and trends of Minnesota prairie habitat. By identifying recent changes to the rates and drivers of recent prairie landscape change, we aim to better understand emerging threats and opportunities to protect remaining prairies, thus guiding efforts to conserve these endangered ecosystems.
U.S. Irrigation and Irrigated Land-Use Change
In partnership with collaborators at the USGS and the agricultural industry, we are working to update and improve maps of irrigation for the conterminous U.S. This project will assess recent and historic changes in irrigation to investigate its evolving role in agricultural production, land conversion, and crop water use. Results will help advance the understanding of irrigated agricultural land use change in the U.S. and generate new higher-resolution data products for stakeholders working at the intersections of water management, land use, and agricultural production.
View a recent webinar presentation (9/21/2015) to The Nature Conservancy about U.S. agricultural land-use change.
Read the extended abstract from the 2015 America’s Grasslands Conference plenary presentation on “Grassland conversion across the United States: Current status, impacts, and policy”
We are happy to share the data from any of our published or ongoing research, but generally do not maintain an up-to-date link with available downloads. To request access, please email email@example.com
Other coverage from around the web: ThinkProgress.org, Harvest Public Media, Inhabitat, TreeHugger.com, NSAC, Land Stewardship Project, Associated Press, Environmental Working Group, World Wildlife Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation