Can you introduce yourself, give us a brief description about who you are, and where you are based in the world.
I am currently a Professor at the Department of Forest Sciences, Seoul National University and in-charge of running their Forest Ecophysiology Laboratory.
I graduated from the Department of Forest Sciences, Seoul National University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. For my master’s thesis, I conducted a study on the physiological damage of ozone to Zelkova serrata (medium-sized deciduous tree). Following that, I went to study at the University of Washington, where I produced another thesis on the relationship between water use and growth of poplar plantations that bring water from the Columbia River.
For my Ph.D. dissertation at Duke University in North Carolina, I participated in the FACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) experiment and became a research associate shortly after.
In a few sentences, please describe the focus of your work.
My laboratory studies the effects of climate change on forests. More specifically, we are interested in how the amount carbon and water in forests is changing. We look at this on different levels – for trees, we have installed more than 200 Sapflux sensors and monitored their transpiration since 2011. At the ecosystem level, we use a special system to measure how much water and CO2 is moving in and out of groups of trees with different types of leaves.
We also performed the experiment on a smaller level. We looked at individual leaves and measured things like photosynthesis and various biochemical substances such as non-structural carbon, abscisic acid are measured. After that, changes in RNA sequencing and protein expression after various treatments are then studied to see more fundamental changes.
What sparked your interest in this field and why is it important?
I became interested in the subject of Forestry when I learned that the environment in Korea was declining due to the rapid industrialization in 1970s and 1980s. With increasing levels of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, I realized the importance of forest ecosystems as an important nature-based solution to climate change. Since then, I have been studying water and carbon balance of forest ecosystems to enhance the carbon uptake by forests.