Fire, Charcoal and Biochar

We study how charcoal and other forms of pyrogenic carbon interact with their environments, in both natural settings and in agronomic environments where charcoal can be intentionally added to soils (charcoal intentionally made for soil amendment is called biochar). Our work studying fire and its carbonaceous products helps us understand this key carbon cycle process, and includes measurements in environments ranging from deep-sea sediments to soils from ecosystems that burned within the past year.

Our group studies fire in natural ecosystems, such as the Silas Little Experimental Forest in New Jersey, which has a rich and carefully documented fire history that provides excellent data for studying the effect of fire frequency on charcoal and soil properties. We also do collaborative work with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to use computational methods and atmospheric models for understanding the behavior and lifetime of airborne pyrogenic carbon. 

Our goals in studying biochar as a soil amendment range from characterizing its effects on soil water properties and soil microbes to understanding biochar economics for the creation of effective policy.

Current Projects


Loredana's research primarily focuses on improving the understanding of fire tracers and their fate in the atmosphere. They have various impacts on air quality, atmospheric chemistry, clouds and climate, which have not been well quantified yet. Fire tracers can provide useful information within the broad context of the carbon cycle, as they can store information about sources and sinks of carbon, and environmental conditions. In addition, fire tracers can offer insight into climate-fire interactions in both past and present conditions, thus allowing us to make predictions for such interactions in the future. She uses chemical transport models to quantify changes in chemical and physical properties of fire tracers from biomass burning plumes; then, she compares model results with airborne data from similar plumes.


Kendra measures soil water potential of samples collected from the Silas Little Experimental Forest to investigate the effect of wildfire frequency on soil properties.