Shannan Sweet

Graduate Research Fellow
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Biology and Paleo Environment
101G Paleomagnetics
61 Route 9W - PO Box 1000
(845) 365-8150
Fields of interest: 
I am specifically interested in the impacts climate change and changing seasonality have on the vegetation in the Arctic tundra. I am also interested in the effect increasing deciduous shrub cover has on plant and canopy phenology and overall plant communities in the Arctic tundra.


General Research Project:


Working with a team of researchers from three universities, we aim to better understand multi-trophic consequences of climate change and increasing deciduous shrub cover in the Arctic tundra.  Our research focuses on the impacts of changing seasonality on the North Slope of Alaskan: from plants, to arthropods, to migratory songbirds.  To better understand the interactions between these trophic levels, and the cascading effects of climate change, we use a wide range of techniques, including satellite and in-situ remote sensing techniques; vegetation, migratory songbird community, and arthropod monitoring; and weather, snow-cover, and bioacoustic monitoring. 


My Specific Research:

Increasing temperatures in arctic regions are causing earlier spring snowmelt, leading to earlier plant emergence and a lengthened growing season.  Warming is also leading to a shift from graminoid/evergreen-dominated to deciduous shrub-dominated tundra, increasing winter snow depth and delaying spring snowmelt as taller stature shrubs trap more snow. I am investigating potential causes and consequences of altered plant phenology due to changes in vegetation functional groups and structure. 

My current research compares foliar phenology of plant functional groups in deciduous shrub-dominated and graminoid/evergreen-dominated communities in the Alaskan arctic. I also use remote sensing technology to track canopy development in order to examine the impact of increasing deciduous shrub dominance on canopy phenology and community carbon flux. I am also interested in identifying spectral signatures that correlate with environmental variables (such as active later depth) important to plant phenology and vegetation structure. Along those lines, I have developed a model that predicts canopy arthropod biomass using the normalized difference vegetation index.


List of degrees from highest to lowest:
M.Phil. in Earth & Environmental Science
Columbia University
M.A. in Earth & Environmental Science
Columbia University
B.A. Earth & Environmental Science
SUNY Plattsburgh
Honors & Awards: 
James B. Hayes Graduate Student Research Award, DEES, Spring 2012
Faculty Teaching Fellowship, DEES, Fall 2010 to present
SUNY Plattsburgh's Presidential Scholarship, CEES, Fall 2001 to Spring 2005
Advisor List: 
Adam Formica (former senior thesis student DEES)
Jessica Gersony (former senior thesis student E3B)
Marley Tran (current senior at Barnard College)
Selected Publications: 
NDVI as a predictor of canopy arthropod biomass in the Alaskan arctic tundra, Sweet, S.; Asmus, A.; Rich, M.E.; Gough, L.; Wingfield, J.C.; Boelman, N.T. , Ecological Applications, 04/2015, Volume 25, Issue 3, p.12, (2015), 10.1890/14-0632.1

Greater deciduous shrub abundance extends tundra peak season and increases modeled net CO2 uptake, Sweet, S.; Griffin, K.L.; Steltzer, H.; Gough, L.; Boelman, N.T. , Global Change Biology, p.16, (2015), 10.1111/gcb.12852

Tall deciduous shrubs offset delayed start of growing season through rapid leaf development in the Alaskan arctic tundra, Sweet, S. K.; Gough, L.; Griffin, K. L.; Boelman, N. T. , Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 09/2014, Volume 46, Issue 3, p.16, (2014), DOI: