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Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

New York University

 Full CV  |  sps246@nyu.edu  |  212.992.7469 Full CV

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University. I hold a Ph.D. (2012), an M. Phil. (2011) and an M.A. (2009) focusing in Atmospheric Science and Climatology from the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Physics from New York University (2006).

Previously, I was a NASA Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, and conducted much of my work through the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (www.agmip.org), which is undertaking integrated assessments of climate change and food security in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. I continue my work with AgMIP, and also use the NASA GISS global climate model to investigate global and regional climate-land surface interactions, and the impact of climate change and altered sea surface temperatures on the South Asian Summer Monsoon system. My work has appeared in the Journal of Climate, JGR Atmospheres, Climate Dynamics, Paleoceanography, and Global Change Biology, and I present annually at major conferences, such as the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting.

 
 

Overview of research interest

My research focuses on understanding interactions and feedbacks between regional and global climates, climate change, and agricultural land and resource use. To understand these interactions, I utilize a variety of tools and datasets, including global climate models, emerging agricultural landuse data products, and process-based crop models. With my global network of interdisciplinary collaborators, I have undertaken numerous climate-agroecosystem studies that range from quantifying the effects of agricultural land management on regional climate systems to bracketing climate change impacts on small-holder livelihoods. While my work is situated in a global context, I maintain a particular emphasis on the semi-arid tropics -- a vast, highly-populated and rapidly-developing domain that is acutely vulnerable to global environmental change.

My projects are generally grouped by the following core questions:

1) How does agricultural land management disturb regional climates and natural ecosystems to drive environmental change?

2) How does climate change impact agricultural production, particularly in vulnerable regions?

3) How can we grow nutritious food that is resilient to change and non-disruptive to regional and global environments?

Below are highlights from some of my major projects. For a full list of references, see my CV linked above.


How does agricultural land management disturb regional climates and natural ecosystems to drive environmental change?

Much of my work to-date on this question has utilized the ModelE global climate model from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where I am affiliated as a Science Collaborator. ModelE is a state-of-the-art climate model contributing to major model intercomparison that inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports. In particular, I use ModelE to understand and quantify the role of agricultural land use and management on the global and regional climates, particularly in regions of intensive production. To do this, I contribute to ModelE development by improving the representation of agriculture, by way of including improved crop functional types, cropping cycles and calendars, soil hydraulics on global agricultural soils, and testing and using the time-varying irrigation scheme. Through on-going collaborations, I also have used other regional climate models and offline hydrological and land surface models to better resolve and understand key land-atmosphere feedbacks.

Relevant Publications and Conference Papers:

McDermid S.P. (2019) “The hydroclimate impacts of human-induced soil degradation”. Poster 423, 33rd Conference on Hydrology, American Meteorological Society 99thAnnual Meeting, January 6-10, Phoenix, AZ

McDermid, S.P., C. Montes, B. Cook, M. Puma, N. Kiang, I. Aleinov (2018) The sensitivity of land-atmosphere coupling to modern agriculture in the northern mid-latitudes. J of Climate, doi: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0799.1

 Singh D.*, S.P. McDermid*, B.I. Cook, M.J. Puma, L.S. Nazarenko, M. Kelley (2018), Distinct influences of land-cover and land-management on seasonal climate. JGR Atmospheres. doi: 10.1029/2018JD028874 * indicates equal contribution by authors

McDermid S.S., L.O. Mearns, and A.C. Ruane (2017) Representing agricultural landuse and management in Earth System Models: approaches and priorities for development. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems. doi: 10.1002/2016MS000749

McDermid S.P. and J. Winter. (2017) Anthropogenic Forcings on the Climate of the Aral Sea: A Regional Modeling Perspective. Anthropocene. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ancene.2017.03.003

Shukla, S.P., M. J. Puma and B. Cook (2014) The Response of the South Asian Summer Monsoon Circulation to Intensified Irrigation in Global Climate Model Simulations. Climate Dynamics. doi:10.1007/s00382-013-1786-9


How does climate change impact agricultural production, particularly in vulnerable regions?

I have explored this question in large part through the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP, www.agmip.org), in which I served as a Resource Person and Climate Co-Lead from 2012-2018. I co-developed tailored climate information and scenarios for our Regional Integrated Assessments of the impact of climate change on food production and security. These current and future climate data were developed for 10 sites across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and were used to project the changes to crop production and household socio-economic indicators for a population of diversified farming systems. In addition, we worked to conduct some of the first multi-crop model intercomparisons globally and across our regional sites in order to bracket key uncertainties in climate-crop projections. We are currently making our results available at the AgMIP Impacts Explorer: http://agmip-ie.alterra.wur.nl/

Relevant Publications and Conference Papers:

McDermid, S.P., Ruane, A.C., Rosenzweig, C., 2015. The AgMIP Coordinated Climate-Crop Modeling Project ( C3MP ): Methods and Protocols, in: Rosenzweig, C., Hillel, D. (Eds.), Handbook of Climate Change and Agroecosystems: The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (Agmip) Integrated Crop and Economic Assessments. Imperial College Press, London, pp. 191–220. https://doi.org/10.1142/p970#t=toc

Ruane, A.C., McDermid, S., Rosenzweig, C., Baigorria, G. a., Jones, J.W., Romero, C.C., Dewayne Cecil, L., 2014. Carbon-temperature-water change analysis for peanut production under climate change: A prototype for the AgMIP coordinated climate-crop modeling project (C3MP). Glob. Chang. Biol. 20, 394–407. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12412

McDermid, S., Gowtham, R., Bhuvaneswari, K., Vellingiri, G., Arunachalam, L., 2016. The impacts of climate change on Tamil Nadu rainfed maize production : a multi-model approach to identify sensitivities and uncertainties. Curr. Sci. 110.

McDermid, S.P., M. Mohanty, P. Mondal, N. Sinha, D. Arif, and G. Maskell. Evaluating yield sensitivity, soil carbon, and nitrogen loss for alternative cropping systems in Madhya Pradesh, India. (in prep for Environmental Research Letters, Fall 2019)


How can we grow nutritious food that is resilient to change and non-disruptive to regional and global environments?

This is a question likely unanswerable in absolute terms. Embedded in this question is the notion of tradeoffs: in some regions we may compromise environmental preservation to achieve food security; in others, maintaining rural livelihoods may be secondary to land conservation and climate mitigation. The impacts of these tradeoffs are also subject to how we define “food security” and what set of collective values we harbor while pursuing agricultural development alongside our environmental goals. Answering this question will constitute much of my future research trajectory.

I am currently collaborating with researchers at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Oregon State University, and International Institution for Cooperation on Agriculture in Costa Rica to evaluate trade-offs between production gains, social welfare, and environmental sustainability of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a set of management principles aimed at producing more rice with fewer resources. We have recently completed factorial field trials to disentangle the relative contributions of these principles, and will use this data to conduct an AgMIP integrated assessment of SRI in southern India and across sites in Latin America.

Additionally, I am working with collaborators at ICRISAT and elsewhere using AgMIP methods to evaluate climate change impacts to chickpea-based farming systems in central India (a publication is in prep, see CV). Chickpea, and other pulse/leguminous and coarse grain crops, often referred to as “orphan crops” are thought to comprise “climate-smart agriculture”, but are still subject to climate change vulnerabilities that need to be more fully assessed. Additionally, they lack the large sums of investment in research and development that the current, predominant grain crops (e.g. maize, rice, soy, and wheat) receive. To highlight this, I am also working with an undergraduate student and colleague at Union of Concerned Scientist to stress the need of closing investment gaps in order to achieve a Great Food Transformation.


Collaborators

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

My work here centers on helping to develop, test, and apply the GISS ModelE global climate model, specifically for problems related to altered surface (terrestrial and ocean) conditions and their interactions with regional and global atmospheric circulation. My recent work has focused on evaluating the regional and global climate impacts of agricultural land management, particularly across South Asia.

Columbia University

I work with researchers within the Earth Institute to combine remote-sensing (and other) analyses with modeling techniques to evaluate the resilience of varied agro-ecosystems in the face of global environmental change. My current projects bring these assessments to Madhya Pradesh, India, where we are working with a local NGO to understand regional farmer decision making and potential adaptation strategies.

I have served as the UKAID-funded AgMIP Climate Co-Lead, and Research Resource Person for our South Asian regional research assessment of the impact of climate change on small-holder farming systems. My work focuses on southern India, but I have also worked with our teams spanning South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. I also co-lead initial development of the Coordinated Climate-Crop Modeling Project (C3MP), which is engaging the global community of crop modelers to contribute experiments evaluating the sensitivity of many crops and models to changes in Carbon Dioxide Concentration, Temperature, and Water. Currently, I am co-leading a new AgMIP integrated assessment of the System of Rice Intensification in Tamil Nadu, India.

Teaching (my developed courses)

ENVST-UA 226.001 Climate Change

ENVST-UA 331.001 Food Production and Climate Change

ENVST-UA 310.001 Environmental Quantitative Methods

ENVST-UA 100.001 Environmental System Science
 

I have also recently won an NYU Golden Dozen Teaching Award

For more information on majoring in Environmental Studies, please visit Undergraduate Program of Study on our departmental webpage.

Blog

Other Activities

Invited Talks And conference papers

McDermid S.P. (2019) “Assessing the System of Rice Intensification: Can perennial rice advance food security and climate goals?” Conference: Is the future of agriculture perennial?, Pufendorf Institute of Advanced Studies, Lund University, May 6-10, Lund, Sweden

 McDermid S.P. (2019) “The hydroclimate impacts of human-induced soil degradation”. Poster 423, 33rd Conference on Hydrology, American Meteorological Society 99thAnnual Meeting, January 6-10, Phoenix, AZ

 McDermid S.P. (2018) “Evaluation of competing vegetation-hydroclimate interactions under elevated CO2 concentrations” Paper Number GC13G-1115 in Session GC13G: Global Vegetation and Land Surface Dynamics in a Changing Climate. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Washington, D.C., December 10th, 2018

McDermid, S.P. (2018) “Current and Next Generation Climate Information for Agricultural Assessments” Invited Speaker, AgMIP7 Global Workshop, San Jose, Costa Rica April 23rd – 26th, 2018 

McDermid S.P. (2018) “The Impacts of Agricultural Landuse and Management on Regional Climate Systems: Interactions with the Asian Summer Monsoon”. Poster 474, 32nd Conference on Hydrology, American Meteorological Society 98th Annual Meeting, January 7-11 Austin, TX. 

McDermid S.P. (2018) “The Impacts of Agricultural Land Cover and Management on Land-Atmosphere Coupling: A Mid-Latitude Sensitivity Assessment”. Poster 473, 32nd Conference on Hydrology, American Meteorological Society 98th Annual Meeting, January 7-11 Austin, TX.

McDermid, S.P. (2018) “The role and impacts of agricultural land management on regional climates”. Invited Talk, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Dept. of Ocean and Climate Physics, Palisades, NY May 11th,

McDermid, S.P. (2018) “Current and Next Generation Climate Information for Agricultural Assessments” Invited Talk, AgMIP7 Global Workshop, San Jose, Costa Rica April 23rd – 26th

McDermid, S.P. (2017) “Climate change projections: multi-model approaches to address uncertainty”. Invited Talk, International conference on climate change and adaptation: empowering small-holders and ensuring food security. Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, May 11th-12th

McDermid S.P. (2017) Impacts of Agricultural Landuse and Management on the South Asian Regional Climate. Oral Presentation, Abstract [84407], Geographies of Bread and Water Session, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, April 5th, 2017

McDermid, S.P. (2017) “Climate change projections: multi-model approaches to address uncertainty” Invited Speaker. International conference on climate change and adaptation: empowering small-holders and ensuring food security. Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, May 11th-12th, 2017

McDermid, S.P. (2017) “Taking Climate Action in the Face of Known Unknowns” Invited Speaker. The State of the Climate Emergency Session, Climate Action Conference. New York, NY, March 10th-11th, 2017

 McDermid, S.P. (2016)  “­­Representing Agricultural Land Management in Earth System Models”. Invited Speaker. Courant Atmospheres and Oceans Colloquium Series. New York, NY November 2nd, 2016

2018 “Evaluating CSA using a coordinating Integrated Assessment Framework: The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in India and Beyond”. The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA): Catalyzing Action towards Climate-Smart Agriculture Workshop. Cornell Club, New York, NY, September 27th


Other Affiliations

Collaborator on Jump!Star Art Initiative

National Endowment of the Arts and Symphony in the Flint Hills, Kansas

“Future of Food in the Face of Climate Change” Constellate.

Provides exposure to both the arts and sciences in rural communities

(http://www.jumpstar.love/about) (Artistic Director: George Ferrandi)

Food and the City
A working group through NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. Interdisciplinary discussion group of researchers tackling questions related to food and cultural evolution in the face of global environmental and socio-economic change across the globe.

ClimateVoices
Climate Voices, Science Speakers Network brings scientists and their fellow citizens together in discussions of climate science and local impacts of climate change.


Useful links

ClimateVoices  |  FCRN  |  CCAFS  |  GrowNYC  |  NASA GISS  |  Climate Central  |  RealClimate  |  AgMIP  | TOA-MD