DURHAM, N.C. – Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment welcomes Jonathan "Johnny" Ryan as an assistant professor of ice and climate, starting on July 1, 2024. Ryan's research focuses on Arctic environmental change, employing satellite and remote sensing to study global impacts of cryospheric (frozen water) processes.

One area of Ryan’s research includes albedo, the measurement of reflectivity on water’s surface, which plays a significant role in climate and weather patterns. Surfaces with high albedo can help cool the Earth by reflecting more sunlight back into space, while surfaces with low albedo can contribute to warming by absorbing more sunlight. Other areas he researches include hydrology, snowfall and ice sheet contributions to global sea-level rise. 

Ryan received his Ph.D. in geography from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the UK, and joins Duke after more than two years as an assistant professor of geography at the University of Oregon. His coursework there examined spatial data science, satellite remote sensing and geospatial analysis.  

As a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funded Ryan’s research on the impact of winter snow accumulation, and melting, on the Greenland Ice Sheet, a continuous expanse of ice that covers roughly 660,000 square miles of Greenland. It is the second-largest ice mass in the world, following the Antarctic Ice Sheet. From Frontiers in Earth Science to Journal of Glaciology, his research has been widely published and recognized for its impact on climate science.  

His fieldwork in remote polar regions has involved extensive data collection using advanced satellite imagery and ground-based measurements, providing essential datasets for modeling and predicting future ice sheet behavior. 

Ryan joins the Nicholas School of the Environment’s Earth and Climate Science division, where he will continue his research on ice and climate dynamics. He has four ongoing research projects funded by NASA to study the Greenland Ice Sheet, simulate the evolution of polar snow, and characterize inland water reservoirs from space. Collaborations with international research teams and governmental agencies have led to the development of climate models that incorporate Ryan's findings.  

“We are honored Johnny chose Duke University as an academic home, joining other faculty pursuing leading-edge research,” said Lori Bennear, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment. “He marries the power of satellites in the sky with boots on the ground to produce new insights that not only push forward the frontiers of science but can also be used to inform climate policy.”