John S. Kimball

John S. Kimball

Professor of Systems Ecology; NTSG Director

Office: ISB 416

Personal Website
Curriculum Vitae

Current Position

Professor, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Director, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG), W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation


Ecosystem Modeling (NRSM 532, BIOS 534)

Personal Summary

Dr. John Kimball is a Professor in the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, and Director of the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG) at the University of Montana. His expertise and interests include understanding climate impacts to vegetation growth and water-carbon-energy connections, emphasizing boreal and Arctic ecosystems. His research is multi-disciplinary, spanning the fields of Ecology, Hydrology, remote sensing and ecosystem modeling. His scales of interest range from landscape to global extents, emphasizing the use of satellite remote sensing and ecological modeling for environmental assessment and monitoring. He has contributed more than 140 peer-reviewed scientific publications in his area of expertise, while his work has been cited more than 10,000 times in the literature. His recent projects include: systematic mapping of freshwater habitats for juvenile salmon across all major North Pacific rivers; developing new satellite capabilities for estimating cropland water use and productivity, and developing global satellite environmental data records documenting recent changes in vegetation productivity and underlying environmental controls. He serves on several NASA Earth observation mission science teams working to advance ecological understanding and applications using satellite observations. He is an avid swimmer, hiker and kayaker and enjoys the wilds of NW Montana with his family.


Ph.D. 1995. Bioresource Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis OR.
M.A., B.A 1990, 1987. Physical Geography, San Diego State University, San Diego CA

Research Interests

My expertise and interests include the study of climate impacts to water resources and ecosystems; water, energy and carbon cycle interactions; remote sensing; hydrological and ecosystem process modeling. My research activities integrate ecological theory, field measurements and emerging technologies including satellite optical and microwave remote sensing, and computer simulation models to describe the function, distribution and condition of vegetation and underlying environmental drivers across the landscape. I emphasize an ecosystem perspective for understanding physical and biological processes and interactions, integrating across disciplines and various scales.


Characterization of regional drought impacts using integrated satellite observations from SMAP and GRACE; Sponsoring agency: NASA; Role: Co-I.

Hydrologic and socioeconomic impacts of water use and resource allocation in agricultural regions under different policy and climate scenarios; Sponsoring agency: USDA; Role: Co-PI.

Satellite data driven model assessment of landscape variability and environmental controls on the Arctic-Boreal carbon budget; Sponsoring agency: NASA; Role: PI.

Quantifying Climate and Water Supply Impacts to Vegetation Growth over North America using New Remote sensing Data Records for Root Zone Soil Moisture and Freeze-Thaw Dynamics; Sponsoring agency: NASA; Role: PI

Regional Mapping of Soil Conditions in Northern Alaska Permafrost Landscapes Using AirMOSS and Land Model Data Assimilation, and Associated Impacts on Terrestrial Carbon Fluxes; Sponsoring agency: NASA; Role: Co-I.

Projecting Effects of Climate Change on Pacific Rim rivers and Salmon: Integrating Remote sensing, Landscape Genomics, and Demography to Inform Conservation; Sponsoring agency NASA; Role: Co-I.

Carbon Cycle Science Contributions to the SMAP Science team; Sponsoring agency NASA; Role: PI.

Continuity and Enhancement of the Global Earth System Data Record for Landscape Freeze/Thaw State Dynamics; Sponsoring agency NASA; Role: PI.

Development, evaluation and maintenance of the SMAP Level 4 carbon product algorithm; Sponsoring agency: NASA; Role: PI.

Field of Study

Ecology, Hydrology, Remote Sensing, Ecosystem Modeling

Selected Publications

Du, J., J.S. Kimball, C. Duguay, Y. Kim, and J.D. Watts, 2017. Satellite microwave assessment of northern hemisphere lake ice phenology from 2002 to 2015. The Cryosphere, 11, 47-63

Jones, M.O., L.A. Jones and J.S. Kimball, 2013. Satellite microwave detection of boreal vegetation recovery from the extreme 2004 wildfires in Alaska and Canada. Global Change Biology 19, 3111-3122.

He, M., J.S. Kimball, S. Running, A. Ballantyne, K. Guan, and F. Huemmrich, 2016. Satellite detection of soil moisture related water stress impacts on ecosystem productivity using the MODIS-based photochemical reflectance index. Remote Sensing of Environment, 186, 173-183.

Kim, Y., J.S. Kimball, D.A. Robinson, and C. Derksen, 2015. New satellite climate data records indicate strong coupling between recent frozen season changes and snow cover over high northern latitudes. Environmental Research Letters 10, 084004.

Kimball, J.S., L.A. Jones, K. Zhang, F.A. Heinsch, K.C. McDonald, and W.C. Oechel, 2009. A satellite approach to estimate land-atmosphere CO2 exchange for Boreal and Arctic biomes using MODIS and AMSR-E. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 47(2), 569-587.

Madani, N., J.S. Kimball, M. Nazeri, and L. Kumar, 2016. Remote sensing derived fire frequency, soil moisture and ecosystem productivity explain regional movements in emu over Australia. PLoS ONE 11, 1.

Whited, D.C., J.S. Kimball, J.A. Lucotch, N.K. Maumenee, H. Wu, S.D. Chilcote, and J.A. Stanford, 2012. A riverscape analysis tool developed to assist wild salmon conservation across the north pacific rim. Fisheries 37 (7), 305-314.

Zhang, K, J.S. Kimball, R. Nemani, S. Running, Y. Hong, J. Gourley, and Z. Yu, 2015. Vegetation greening and climate change promote multidecadal rises of global land evapotranspiration. Scientific Reports 5, 15956.


See CV for a complete publication list


 - NASA science team member for SMAP, MODIS and AMSR Earth observation missions;

 - IEEE Senior Member;

 - Contributor to the USGCRP National Climate Indicators program;

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for a successful SMAP mission pre-launch field campaign;

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for contributing science algorithm and calibration/validation activities for the Soil Moisture Active Passive Mission (SMAP);

 - NASA Group Achievement Award for outstanding achievement in the development of the SMAP science data processing system and algorithms for producing global data for the science community and general public.


International Experience

Visiting Professor, Dept. of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing China.


-  Director, NTSG

-  NASA Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) science team

-  National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) working group

-  NASA MODIS and AMSR instrument science teams

-  NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission science team

-  NASA Earth Science Data System Working Group (DSWG)

-  Member: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

-  Senior Member: IEEE Geoscience & Remote Sensing Society