Erica Smithwick is a Distinguished Professor of Geography in the Geography Department and a faculty associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. She serves as the director of the Center for Landscape Dynamics and associate director of the Institutes of Energy and Environment.
Through her laboratory group, LEAPS: Landscape Ecology at Penn State, Smithwick is actively involved in understanding how a wide rage of disturbances, particularly fire, affect ecosystem function at landscape scales. Her research focuses on how those disturbances influence landscape resilience and sustainability, with special attention to protected area management in Africa and the U.S.
Smithwick recently served as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa at Rhodes University and has received numerous research awards. She is involved in several transdisciplinary projects, including Visualizing Forest Futures, which seeks to address how indigenous and Western knowledge systems can be used to address forest sustainability under climate variability, and LandscapeU, which is focused on graduate training at the food-energy-water nexus.
from Washington Post June 8, 2023
“We’re experiencing effects of climate change right now.”
from Milwakee Journal Sentinel June 9, 2023
"I've studied wildfires for decades, and I'm quite alarmed by the changes that we're seeing to the wildfire systems."
from PennLive June 9, 2023
“I do worry about this happening again and again.”
from Philadelphia Inquirer September 15, 2022
"I used to look forward to the changing seasons. Now, my mind is occupied by the new threats each one brings."
from National Geophraphic August 30, 2013
All wildfires need three things to burn: ignition, fuel, and the right climate, says Erica Smithwick, the director of Landscape Ecology at Penn State University and an expert on fire patterns. “But if you play with any of these things, you’re going to manipulate the fire,” she says.
from The Conversation March 1, 2022
"We also need to talk about climate change with each other. If people don’t talk about it, they don’t act."
from Authority Magazine October 3, 2021
"It’s so hard to make ALL the right decisions, so people should try to be 'climate better,' not 'climate perfect.' Fighting climate change is like raising a teenager — it’s confusing, complex and 95% of the time you feel like the outcome is completely out of your control. Yet, as parents we engage anyway because it’s the right thing to do. Make the right decisions on an individual level when you can, but don’t let it consume you — that doesn’t help anyone."
from WPSU September 6, 2019