Christopher W. Swanston

Christopher W. Swanston


  • Research Ecologist
  • Adjunct Professor
  • Director, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science
  • PhD, Forest Science, Oregon State University
  • MS, Forest Science, Oregon State University
  • BS, Forest Ecology and Soils (NRPI), Humboldt State University

Research Ecologist

Dr. Swanston studies the processes that control organic carbon dynamics in forest soils. Soil carbon is a fundamental component of ecosystem structure, and understanding the forms and fate of belowground carbon helps us predict and mitigate the effects of management, natural disturbance, and climate change. Dr. Swanston is especially interested in how the physical and biological components of soil ecosystems interact to stabilize carbon, and how this interaction changes in different forest ecosystems. His research has made extensive use of radiocarbon and organic matter fractionation techniques to increase the sensitivity of estimates of soil carbon storage and flux.

Dr. Swanston also works with researchers and land managers to begin understanding the potential effects of climate change on forested ecosystems. Given the inherent uncertainties of the changing climate and forest responses, he is also interested in helping design approaches to adapting our forests to altered climate regimes.

Areas of Expertise

  • Soil organic carbon stabilization and cycling
  • Radiocarbon analysis and interpretation
  • Forest response and adaptation to climate change
  • Landscape scale conservation