University of Richmond Geography Professors Awarded $700K Grant From NASA to Study Environmental Changes in the Amazon

December 16, 2019

Stephanie Spera headshotUNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Stephanie Spera, assistant professor of geography at the University of Richmond, has been awarded more than $700,000 from NASA for a three-year project to study ecosystem changes in the Amazon rainforest. 

Spera, along with her co-principal investigator David Salisbury, chair of the University of Richmond Department of Geography and the Environment, and collaborators in Peru and Brazil will research how land use change has affected the rainforest and create analytical and educational tools.

"Through fieldwork in eastern Peru, we will monitor changes in temperature, soil moisture, stream height, and relative humidity using simple handheld field sensors,” Spera said. “The goals of this research are to understand how forest degradation, deforestation, and road building affect the ecosystem services provided by the water cycle in the Southwestern Amazon and then develop data and tools to improve water management in the region."

SperDavid Salisbury headshota’s research focuses on land-use and climate change in the Brazilian Cerrado, a biodiversity hotspot and agricultural breadbasket. She is also studying how climate change affects fall foliage in Acadia National Park through a fellowship from Second Century Stewardship, an initiative of the National Park Service and Schoodic Institute.

Salisbury’s research focuses on the balance between conservation, development, and Indigenous rights in the Amazon. His work has been supported through a grant from the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History to research environmental challenges in the Amazon.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.