Forestry Graduate Student Spotlight – Leo Pham

Leo Pham brings together the fields of ecology and hydrology.

Leo Pham working in the field.

Leo Pham

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Degree: PhD

Advisors: Andrew Finley and Lifeng Luo

Expected Graduation: 2023

Why forestry?

In summer 2017, I worked as a water resource intern at King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks in Seattle. Though my project at the time focused on shoreline biodiversity and water quality, I had the opportunity to learn about the county’s Strategic Climate Action Plan to confront climate change. Particularly, the concerns over changes in precipitation patterns and the future of water resources to support forest systems captured my attention.

Considering the critical ecological, economic and social benefits forests provide to both natural systems and human, I think it only makes sense that government agencies prioritize efforts to maintain and ensure healthy forests in light of changing environments. This experience motivated my decision to pursue a degree in Forestry where I hope to contribute to such efforts through my research and collaborative projects.

Research Focus:

My research focuses on monitoring and modeling water, climate and vegetation interactions and exploring the implications of these interactions on resource management. I’m particularly interested in understanding how different plant communities respond to variability in climate conditions and the dynamic role of vegetation in the water balance.

Most people are familiar with the vegetation’s contribution in carbon and oxygen exchange but not in regulating our terrestrial water budget. I find it especially rewarding to bring together the fields of ecology and hydrology in my research. 

As a member of Dr. Finley’s Geospatial Lab, I spend a lot of time collecting, processing, and analyzing data that comes from a variety of sources, formats and spatial and temporal coverage. I think it’s a challenging yet fascinating task to turn this data into meaningful insights that can help us better understand complex ecological and environmental processes.

Career Goals:

My previous internship experience has convinced me to pursue a career in the public sector. My goal is to work as an environmental scientist at a government agency and support climate change resilient city planning.

Advice for new forestry students:

I think it’s important for prospective students to keep an open mind and be flexible. Our department offers a wide range of research opportunities and the professors are happy to help new students define and develop their academic and career objectives.     

Did you find this article useful?