Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative welcomes new postdoctoral scholars

Author: Brandi Klingerman

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Five postdoctoral research associates have joined the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI). The researchers will contribute to several research programs, including the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN), and collaborate with ECI-affiliated faculty.

In discussing the new research staff members, Patrick Regan, ND-ECI associate director and professor of political science, said, “This team of postdoctoral scholars provides the opportunity to explore some of the boundaries between the biophysical consequences of climate change and their human interactions. We have a unique vantage point to draw from – including ground cover biologists, epidemiologists, sociologists, and hydrologists – to find out how we can contribute to knowledge at the boundaries where these processes interact. The implications for understanding the human and physical consequences of climate change builds from the Pope’s message of Laudato si’ and the interdisciplinary environment of the ND-ECI.”

The postdoctoral scholars are:


  • Nima Ehsani, former postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Sustainability at Saint Louis University, is focused on understanding the hydrological impact of climate change and anthropogenic disturbances on the terrestrial water cycle. Ehsani is working with ND-GAIN with mentors Alan Hamlet, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, Regan, and Jennifer Tank, ND-ECI director and Ludmilla F., Stephen J., and Robert T. Galla Professor of Biological Sciences.
  • Rachel Gurney studies climate change and socio-political dynamics of climate change in order to advance understanding of socio-political barriers and opportunities surrounding the advancement of subnational climate action through multidisciplinary research. Regan is her mentor and together they will collaborate on the ND-GAIN Urban Adaptation Assessment.
  • Liguang Li, former doctoral student at the University of Florida, has research interests that include using data science to analyze soil and water data in order to enhance the understanding of human influence on environmental functions. Li’s mentors are Todd Royer, associate professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, and Tank.
  • Amir Siraj’s research focuses on the environmental drivers of vector-borne disease infections and how environmental factors influence patterns of infectious diseases. He is working with ND-GAIN and is mentored by Alex Perkins, Eck Family Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, and Regan.
  • Annette Trierweiler, former doctoral student at Princeton University, studies the impact of human-induced climate change and land use change on ecosystem processes from microbial to global scales. She is working with ND-GAIN and is mentored by David Medvigy, associate professor of biological sciences, and Regan.

Additionally, Gopal Penny, a social hydrologist and postdoctoral researcher, has been conducting research that seeks to understand and attribute hydrological change in data-scarce regions, characterize the relationships and feedbacks between water and society, and model the trajectories and tipping points of socio-hydrological systems since he joined ND-ECI in January of 2018. Penny is working with Marc Muller, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences.

ND-ECI at the University of Notre Dame brings together over 50 researchers across disciplines to help people and ecosystems adapt to climate change, mitigate the effects of land use change, predict species occurrences in a shifting world and improve water quality. The initiative works hand-in-hand with partners to support research that matters to society, answering the most critical environmental questions of our time. To learn more about ND-ECI, please visit


Kara Primmer / Program Manager

Environmental Change Initiative / University of Notre Dame / 574.367.2178 / @ND_ECI

About Notre Dame Research:

The University of Notre Dame is a private research and teaching university inspired by its Catholic mission. Located in South Bend, Indiana, its researchers are advancing human understanding through research, scholarship, education, and creative endeavor in order to be a repository for knowledge and a powerful means for doing good in the world. For more information, please see or @UNDResearch.

Originally published by Brandi Klingerman at on August 20, 2018.