Dr. Peter Thornton studies the interactions of land ecosystems with all other components of the Earth's climate system, including biogeochemical and physical land-atmosphere feedbacks, and interactions with human systems. His research spans spatial scales from organisms to the global Earth system, and involves model development, model evaluation against observations and experimentation, and model applications to discover emergent properties of ecosystems. A special focus of his research is the coupling of carbon, water, and energy cycles with the biotic and abiotic cycling of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus which limit growth and metabolism of plants and microbes. Other primary research topics include the influence of disturbance on biogeochemistry-climate system feedbacks, model evaluation and uncertainty quantification, and biometeorology.
Dr. Thornton is a scientist in the Climate Change Science Institute and the Environmental Sciences Division, and has been a member of the scientific staff at ORNL since 2008. Dr. Thornton also serves as a mentor to several technology projects within the Oak Ridge Public Schools, and serves as a board member for the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation.