About me

Image by Bill Bellon, Space Science and Engineering Center at UW Madison.

I am a graduate student in the Freshwater and Marine Sciences Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since childhood, I have been shaped by my experiences to appreciate the environment. I grew up exploring woods filled with evergreens, deer, salamanders, snakes, poisonous plants, and wild strawberries. Summers were spent at camp with my sibling where the wilderness was our Terabithia. Now, more of my time is spent wallowing in scientific literature than in the great outdoors, but I strive to maintain that sense of wonder.

The blog

The purpose of definearth is to educate the public about important environmental issues that are applicable to their lives in a clear and concise way. I hope to express the growing world of environmental technology, share current environmental news, and incorporate a little bit of myself into my writing here. The name definearth originates from one of my favorite environmentally conscious movies, Wall-E

Current work

My work involves data processing, visualization, and analysis of wetland gas fluxes measured with the eddy covariance technique as part of Dr. Ankur Desai’s eco-meteorology lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a land grant institution, UW-Madison the perfect place to study ecosystems unique to the area such as bog or fen wetlands. See one of the field sites I have studied in a blog post titled Allequash Creek Wetland and on the Water@UW-Madison Research Story Map. Other sites I have studied include the salt marshes of Sapelo Island, Georgia and the Everglades of Florida, USA. My favorite computer programming language to use for handling “big data” is MATLAB, though I am also familiar with R.

Here is an example of data visualization using source code that I built onto and adapted using MATLAB. Each dot represents a measurement of methane emission made over a 3-day period, with the color representing the size of that emission, and the location of that dot representing the wind direction and speed at that time. The animated windrose shows that methane is released by a wetland in Wisconsin primarily in the summer months, with lower amounts released in the colder months. Methane appears to be coming from all directions and at varying wind speeds, which tells us the landscape is probably very open and relatively homogeneous.

Past work

Previously, I worked for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University in Dr. Charles Driscoll’s wet lab. I tested samples from the NSF-funded Ice Storm Experiment in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest for Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) and Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) with guidance from Dr. Teng Zeng in the Environmental Organic Chemistry lab. I have also done research for the University at Buffalo’s Civil, Structural, and Environmental Engineering Department. There, I studied the efficiencies of solar cookers.


I was awarded the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship in 2020 to pursue my PhD in Freshwater and Marine Science at UW-Madison. The university press release is here. In 2022, I was selected as an alternate for the Boren Fellowship and a semi-finalist for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to do independent research in Indonesia. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Selected publications

Saving Sapelo Island’s Legacy from Sinking. (2022). The Xylom.

Turner, J.Desai, A. R.Thom, J., & Wickland, K. P. (2021). Lagged Wetland CH4 Flux Response in a Historically Wet YearJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences126, e2021JG006458. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JG006458

Turner, J., Desai, A.R., Thom, J., Wickland, K.P., and Olson, B. (2019). Wind sheltering impacts on land-atmosphere fluxes over fens. Frontiers in Environmental Science: Biogeochemical Dynamics. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2019.00179

Helbig, M., Waddington, J.M., Alekseychik, P., Amiro, B., Aurela, M., …Turner, J., et al. (2020). Increasing contribution of peatlands to boreal evapotranspiration in a warming climate. Nature Climate Change: 1-6. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0763-7

Turner, J. (2018). Creating Diversity in STEM: An Interview with Dr. Letitia Thomas. Women in Higher Education, 27: 6-7. doi:10.1002/whe.20581

Related projects

Leadership Network participant in the Natural Climate Solutions for Wisconsin Report.