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Dr. Susan Riha


Susan Riha

1110 Bradfield Hall





I am a professor in the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and joined the Cornell faculty in 1980. At that time, I was appointed the Charles L. Pack Research Professor of Forest Soils. My research interests are in the area of the interaction of plants with their physical environment and in dynamic simulation modeling. I work on both environmental and plant production problems on the state, national and international levels. I am a member of the graduate fields of Soil and Crop Sciences and of International Agriculture.


My research program addresses the dynamic interactions of plants with their physical environment. The general approach has been to use biophysical models to analyze experimental data collected as part of growth chamber, greenhouse and field studies. The studies undertaken have contributed to our understanding of the impact of flooding on plant water relations, the impact of soil drying on plant growth and water use, and the importance of different surfaces to vapor transport under various crop, forestry and agroforestry systems. The process of utilizing biophysical models to analyze experimental data has in turn layed the groundwork for me to use plant-environmental simulation models to address a number of applied problems. These include such issues as the response of agriculture to climate change, the impact of climate variability on crop yield, improving the use of stored soil water by crops growing in a semi-arid environment, devising drought stress indicators for forest productivity and biodiversity, and enhancing water use in agroforestry systems. As my research program centers on soil-plant atmosphere systems and involves both modeling and experimental work, the studies often cross boundaries between more traditional areas of research (for example, soil physics and plant physiology, or agronomy and forestry) and research methodologies(experimental and theoretical).

Instruction Focus

I teach courses in Environmental Biophysics And Modeling Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Systems. In addition, I co-teach The Evolution of the Earth System and the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems colloquium.