Ram Oren, professor of ecology and earth system science at the American Duke University, is one of three distinguished guests in the new Erkko Visiting Professor programme.

Ram Oren’s four-year Erkko Visiting Professorship is based in the forest science research group at the Centre of Excellence in Atmospheric Science. Jaana Bäck, professor of forest ecology, considers Oren to be one of the world’s leading ecophysiologists, with decades of experience in experimental climate change research. 

 “Oren was a central figure in Duke University’s FACE experiment, which continues to be one of the world’s most cited experimental climate change studies. In the experiment, researchers installed equipment in a typical forest of the American east coast, which elevated the CO2 amounts in the forest to levels expected in the future.”

Climate change and trees

Experimental climate research is expensive, and Oren will not have the opportunity to work on a study such as FACE, a $70 million project, in Helsinki. Instead, one of his main goals in Finland will be to study the structure and function of tree roots using precise analyses. This study will increase our understanding of how forest output, carbon and energy cycles, and the water supply are linked.

Ram Oren

Oren is also participating in a project which studies the ways the trees and grasses on the African savannah acquire water and the overall evaporation of water. 

 “I hope to get a chance to take part in two other studies which research the seasonal variation of carbon and nitrogen in plants and the soil. These variations provide information on the potential impacts climate change may have on the fluctuations in the carbon-nitrogen balance, which influences how trees grow and their ability to bind carbon,” Ram Oren explains.

During his visit, Oren will offer a course on the ecophysiology of forest trees in a changing climate for Master’s and doctoral students. 

Drawn by the Finnish culture of research

Oren visited Finland for the first time in 1999. He says he is very aware of the significant contributions Finnish forest scientists have made to various research areas in the field.

 “I’ve always liked Finland and its research culture. I feel that the researchers are ethical, logical, direct, systematic and humble. And of course they share a belief in the significance of good education." 

 “I hope that my colleagues at the University of Helsinki will find my ideas and approaches useful, and that our cooperation will create something new and exciting."