Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Alan Di Vittorio

Alan Di Vittorio

Alan Di Vittorio

Project Scientist

Climate Sciences Department



Phone: 510-486-7798

Fax: 510-486-7775


Biographical Summary

I developed an interdisciplinary research perspective by studying a wide range of interrelated topics and coalescing them to better understand the complexity of the whole earth system. Growing up in rural, forested California influenced my decision to apply my B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to regional environmental monitoring. This led to an M.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering and Sciences, with emphases in remote sensing and atmospheric and oceanic physics, for which I developed and evaluated an automated method for identifying clouds in satellite imagery. An interest in pollution impacts on forests spurred me to develop, for my Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, a project to identify and model spectral and biochemical markers of ozone stress in pine needles. To better understand the relations governing human impacts on the environment, and how science characterizes such impacts, I have extensively pursued studies in Environmental Philosophy and History, Human Geography, and Science and Technology Studies. A desire to expand the scope of my research to more directly include human activity gave me the opportunity to extend an ecosystem model to include switchgrass and miscanthus as bioenergy crops. I also developed a high spatial resolution framework for running this model that included downscaling global climate forcing data (HRCD). This work raised numerous questions regarding scale and uncertainty that had been smoldering since my early remote sensing work on clouds. I consider these questions crucial to addressing the challenges of understanding how human land use influences local, regional, and global earth processes.

Research Interests

My research interests grow out of a general conception of the earth system as inclusive of human and non-human processes. From this perspective “earth system science” addresses human-environment interactions and feedbacks in addition to traditional physical and biological components. One example of how this manifests in research is the coupling of economic Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) with biophysical Earth System Models (ESMs). IAMs simulate economic activity and its associated energy, emission, and land use cycles while ESMs simulate the mass (carbon, water, etc.) and energy cycles of the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere. Merging these two types of models into an integrated ESM (iESM) is essential for understanding the earth system as a whole, but it poses many serious challenges arising in part from the limits of: quantifying human activity, current understanding of the effects of this activity on biophysical systems, and reconciling scale mismatches between human activities and environmental processes.

To address these and associated challenges I investigate potential drivers and impacts of land use change, the effects of scale on our understanding of observed and simulated geographical data, the uncertainties of carbon dynamics in ESMs (and an iESM), and the fate of carbon in changing and managed landscapes. My diverse toolkit includes numerical modeling, remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistics, and laboratory and field data.


  • Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, May 22, 2008
    • Division of Ecosystem Sciences, specializing in remote sensing and environmental biophysics
    • Additional study: Human geography; Environmental philosophy, ethics and history
    • Dissertation: A combined biochemical-spectral model for characterizing pine needle damage
    • Advisor: Dr. Gregory Biging
  • M.S. in Aerospace Engineering and Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, December 2000
    • Emphases: Remote Sensing, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
    • Thesis: An automated, dynamic threshold cloud-masking algorithm for daytime AVHRR images over land
    • Advisor: Dr. William J. Emery
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley, May 1996•
    • Forest and Resource Management Field Program, June-August 1996, UC Berkeley Forestry Camp

Professional Experience

  • Project Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division
    • September 2012-Present; Supervisor: Dr. William Collins
    • Projecting land use and cover change under different policy scenarios using the integrated Earth System Model (iESM), which couples an economic Integrated Assessment Model (GCAM) with a biophysical Earth System Model (CESM)
    • Evaluating land use and cover change projections with respect to climate feedbacks and water, energy, and food sustainability
    • Integrated Assessment Model and Earth System Model diagnostics and coupling
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division
    • January 2011-August 2012; Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Chambers
    • Remote sensing and modeling of carbon cycle impacts from land use change and forest disturbance
    • Integrated Assessment Model and Earth System Model diagnostics and coupling
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley, Energy Biosciences Institute
    • July 2008-December 2010; Advisor: Dr. Norman Miller
    • Implemented perennial C4 grasses (e.g. switchgrass, Miscanthus sp.) and agricultural practices in the computationalecosystem model Biome-BGC for simulating bioenergy crop production (C, R, ArcGIS, ENVI/IDL)
    • Developed software to downscale global reanalysis data to a user-defined, high-spatial resolution grid (C, R, ArcGIS,ENVI/IDL, netCDF)
    • Developed and implemented a framework for running and evaluating ecosystem models on a high-spatial resolution gridlocated on any terrestrial portion of the globe (C, R, ArcGIS, ENVI/IDL)
    • Preliminary design of a GIS-based land suitability analysis system for biofuel crops based on ecology, economics, and socio-political factors (C, R, ArcGIS, ENVI/IDL)
    • Co-authored three grant proposals for ecosystem modeling and GIS-based land suitability analysis
  • Graduate Student Researcher, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, andManagement
    • May 2005-June 2008; August 2002-December 2004; Advisor: Dr. Gregory Biging
    • Composed and implemented a research plan for the development of a quantitative method for identifying and modeling ozone-damaged pine needles (C, R, ArcView, ArcGIS)
    • Developed a GIS validation model from forest inventory data for digital photogrammetry of forest ecosystems (C,ArcInfo, AML)
  • Graduate Student Researcher, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Geography
    • May 2007-July 2007; Advisor: Dr. Nathan Sayre
    • Co-authored a book chapter on geographical scale
    • Co-authored a research proposal to evaluate socio-ecological patterns of vegetation change in semi-arid grasslands
  • Staff Research Associate, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, andManagement
    • April 2002-July 2002; Advisor: Dr. Gregory Biging
    • Developed a GIS validation model from forest inventory data for digital photogrammetry of forest ecosystems (C,ArcInfo, AML)
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder
    • August 1998-December 2000; Advisor: Dr. William Emery
    • Developed and evaluated an automated cloud-masking algorithm for AVHRR data (C)
    • Automated an AVHRR data processing procedure for creating vegetation indices (C, IDL, cshell script)
    • Developed a snow mask for AVHRR-derived vegetation indices based on existing snow coverage data (ArcInfo, AML)

Teaching Experience

  • Graduate Student Instructor, University of California, Berkeley
    • Fall 2007: Administered the lab section for the course in Natural Resource Sampling. Prepared and gave four lectures oncluster sampling. This lab included field sampling exercises and computer-based analysis of the field data.Professor: Dr. Greg Biging
    • Fall 2006, 2005, 2004: Taught discussion sections for the course in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics.Professor: Dr. Carolyn Merchant
    • Spring 2006: Taught discussion sections for the course in Culture and Natural Resource Management.Instructor: Dr. Kurt Spreyer
  • Substitute Teacher, El Dorado County Office of Education
    • September 2001-May 2002
    • Taught in secondary school (classroom) and Independent Learning Center (one-on-one) settings
  • Adjunct Faculty, Los Rios Community College District
    • August 2001-May 2002
    • Administered the Visual Basic 6.0 Lab Course at Folsom Lake College Center, August 2001-December 2001
  • Ski Instructor, Kirkwood Resort Company
    • February 2002-April 2002; November 1997-March 1998; December 1996-April 1997
    • Taught skiing to beginner, intermediate, and advanced adults, and also to beginner children

    Grants, Awards, and Honors

    • Towards Integrated Assessment of Energy/Water/Climate Interactions (2012-2015; ~$1 million); PI: W Collins; Primary author: AV Di Vittorio; Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research, Integrated Assessment Program
    • Second best presentation: May 2008 Graduate Research Symposium; Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; University of California, Berkeley
    • Hannah & Frank Schwabacher Memorial Scholarship
    • William Carroll Smith Fellowship
    • President, UC Berkeley Ski Team, 1995-1996

    Review Activities

    • International Journal of Remote Sensing; since 2008
    • Remote Sensing of Environment; since 2010
    • IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing; since 2010
    • Ecological Modelling; since 2011
    • Public Library of Science; since 2011
    • BioEnergy Research; since 2012
    • Science of the Total Environment; since 2013
    • IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing; since 2013
    • Earth's Future, since 2013

    Service Activities

    • Co-coordinator of the weekly seminar series for the Climate Sciences Department; April 2012 - April 2013