Jiquan ChenContact:Karessa Weir, News Writer for Environmental Science and Policy Program: (517)353-9246 or weirkare@msu.edu

After 30 years of studying the ecology, Dr. Jiquan Chen had an eye-opening experience that awoke an interest in the links between natural systems and human activities.

He stood in a verdant Inner Mongolian field a decade ago and wondered aloud to his host what was the success factor in the restoration of the land – was it an increase in rainfall, or perhaps a change in temperatures?

What caused it was so far out of his experience that it changed his view of ecology forever.

“In around 2002, the Premier of China visited this country and saw it was in such bad condition from the grazing of dairy and cashmere industry,” said Dr. Chen recently. “The activities were more than the land could afford. He mentioned that they should reduce grazing.

“But in China, a mere mention becomes new policy. There became zero grazing allowed in Duolun County. The local police force was converted to grazing patrols.

They shot goats and sheep caught grazing. In two years, the grasslands returned.

“I had been concentrating so much on temperature and moisture without reflecting on the land use,” he recalled. “That became the turning point of my career.”

That career now brings Dr. Chen to Michigan State University as a senior faculty member in Geography and an integral member of the community studying coupled human and natural systems (CHANS).

Previously, Dr. Chen taught at the University of Toledo for 13 years, Harvard University for a year and Michigan Technical University for eight years. He received his PhD from the ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington.

He was recruited to MSU to balance the work of Hannah Professor Dr. Emilio F. Moran, who joined MSU in 2013 with a strong background in the sociological side of CHANS. Dr. Chen now provides the missing natural science portion of them.
It is hardly new territory for Dr. Chen.

“I have been very familiar with the work going on at MSU and have many long-time collaborators here,” he said.

In fact, Dr. Chen had been forced for years to search outside his home institution to find partners willing to collaborate across disciplines and who are interested in CHANS.

“I loved Toledo but it was very difficult to find partners for interdisciplinary research. Here it is so easy to find other researchers,” he said. “The diversity of programs like ESPP are among the best I’ve seen.”

Dr. Chen is a fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

In his free time, Dr. Chen is a tai chi master and volunteers his time teaching tai chi.  He can be reached at jqchen@msu.edu.       

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