Member Since 1999
Ankur R. Desai
Professor, University of Wisconsin Madison
Professional Experience
University of Wisconsin Madison
2012 - Present
Honors & Awards
Joanne Simpson Medal
Received December 2022
It is a fitting accolade that Professor Ankur Desai’s career is now honored with the name of Joanne Simpson. Like Simpson, Desai’s career to date has included transformative scientific advances across multiple areas of inquiry, leadership in field projects, combined use of observations and models to advance understanding, and service and outreach in support of our scientific community. And Desai’s unfailing commitment to building a more fair and equitable environment for all members of our community is most certainly inspired by Dr. Simpson’s trailblazing efforts to do the same for women in our field. Professor Ankur Desai’s research includes transformative scientific advances in broad areas of biogeosciences, atmospheric sciences and global environmental change. His research contributions span the science of micrometeorology and eddy covariance flux measurement, observational studies of Earth’s carbon and water cycles, and combining observations and models to characterize how land-atmosphere feedbacks evolve along spatiotemporal scales. Desai’s key insight in understanding terrestrial carbon and water cycles is recognizing that carbon fluxes cannot be viewed in isolation of any one ecosystem, but rather through scaling and synthesis across these. He has used the upper Midwest as proving ground for many of his theories and conceived (including the acronym) and funded the largest project on scaling of land-atmosphere interactions over tall vegetation since BOREAS (Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study) in the late 1990s. CHEESEHEAD (the Chequamegon Heterogeneous Ecosystem Energy-balance Study Enabled by a High-density Extensive Array of Detectors) arose out of the discoveries made in Desai’s lab on a potential breakthrough in solving the riddle of lack of energy balance closure in eddy covariance, which he had tied fundamentally to issues of scale. Professor Desai’s contributions to our field extend well beyond the realm of research. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison he is widely regarded for his outstanding mentoring and teaching, his leadership in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department, and his leadership in advancing an equitable and inclusive environment. And he gives tirelessly to our scientific fields through his editor duties and leadership in national and international communities. So many of us who have had an opportunity to work alongside Professor Ankur Desai consider him a friend and colleague. For that, we are thrilled that he is being awarded the Joanne Simpson Medal for Mid-Career Scientists! — Daniel J. Vimont University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin — Stephen Carpenter University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin — John Kutzbach (deceased) University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin
To my nominators, thank you, thank you and thank you! John Kutzbach is one of the kindest scientists I have known, a true mensch. His routine uplifting of my work often provided the shot in the arm I needed to keep plowing ahead, even when the research stalled, the funding spigot dried, or barriers felt insurmountable. Likewise for both Steve Carpenter and Dan Vimont, who then carried on that spirit to renominate me after John’s passing. I promise I will not let this get to my head! There are already enough egos in our science, some that deserve chastising. For sure, I’ve adopted a culture of showmanship. It’s what we do to be heard and showcase the work from our labs, especially when you are not of the majority and operate from a marginalized mindset of working twice as hard for half the credit. But, for me, the more important trait is “show-up-ship.” Show up when students pitch new ideas and need help finding resources. Show up when collaborators want to form teams to tackle ideas. Show up when people want to work with your data and code and share it freely. Show up when communities and groups ask to learn about what your research means for them. Show up when journals and funding agencies and departments need you to put in the work. Show up when your friends and family need support. That’s pretty much it! For two decades, our Ecometeorology Lab has made careful measurements and models of the biosphere and its relationship to the atmosphere to make better sense, better decisions and better predictions of the Earth system. Our best findings were rarely “eureka!” moments. It was never a straight path following some preordained scientific method and certainly never by any one person on their own. Rather, the more beloved utterance in science I find is “whoa, that’s cool” or “huh, that’s weird,” often when huddled in groups or teams over a puzzling figure. More often, this is done when the groups are diverse, open to new ideas, and in a place safe for making new connections. I’m fortunate and privileged to have been part of many moments like this. I will rally so that everyone else can too, especially for those with the least opportunity. If you’re reading this — go and nominate someone you admire for an award or do something else kind for them. Show up! — Ankur R. Desai University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin
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Union Fellow
Received December 2022
Current Roles
Eunice Foote Medal Committee
Phenology of Photosynthesis in Winter‐Dormant Temperate and Boreal Forests: Long‐Term Observations F...

We examined the seasonality of photosynthesis in 46 evergreen needleleaf (evergreen needleleaf forests (ENF)) and deciduous broadleaf (deciduous br...

April 27, 2024
AGU Abstracts
Forest Management as a Nature – Based Climate Solution: Impacts on Forest Structure, Functional Stability, and Regional Interactions with Climate Change
global environmental change | 15 december 2023
Bailey Murphy, Ankur R. Desai, Christine Rollinson...
Emissions reductions alone are insufficient to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Therefore, active removal of atmospheric CO2 inc...
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Foliar traits from imaging spectroscopy inform variation in GPP and NEE from flux towers
biogeosciences | 14 december 2023
Ruqi Yang, Ting Zheng, Kyle R. Kovach, Ryan Pavlic...
Ecosystems are changing rapidly across regions under climate change. Concurrently, foliage functional traits are playing an increasingly significant r...
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Scalar flux profiles in the unstable atmospheric surface layer under the influence of large eddies: Implications for eddy covariance flux measurements and the non-closure problem
atmospheric sciences | 14 december 2023
Heping Liu, Cheng Liu, Jian-Ping Huang, Ankur R. D...
How the coupling between land-surface exchange and convective boundary-layer (CBL) processes modifies fluxes of sensible (SH) and latent (LH) heat and...
View Abstract

Volunteer Experience
2024 - 2025
Eunice Foote Medal Committee
2015 - 2022
JGR Biogeosciences Section
2012 - 2014
Associate Editor
JGR Biogeosciences Section
Check out all of Ankur R. Desai’s AGU Research!
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