Assaad Mrad

Overview of My Research


Research Projects

Ecohydrology and Vegetation Dynamics across scales

My research revolves around studying vegetation dynamics, gas exchange, and wildfire spread as features of a holistic ecohydrological system.

Plant Hydraulics: from xylem anatomy to branch loss of hydraulic function

What fascinates me is that plants can move hundreds of gallons of water per day without a pumping mechanism. Understanding the functional anatomy of  their conductive tissues is therefore of interest not only to biologists, but to ecologists, physicists, and engineers.

Featured article: Mrad, A., J.-C. Domec, C.-W. Huang, F. Lens & G. Katul (2018). A network model links wood anatomy to xylem tissue hydraulic behavior and vulnerability to cavitation. Plant, Cell & Environment 41 (12), 2718-2730.

Hardwood xylem.jpg


An extension to my work on plant hydraulics is to study how vegetation interacts with its microclimate. For example, how do plant transpiration and carbon assimilation change as a result of drought? Also, how does crop production weight change as a result of groundwater depletion?

Featured article: Mrad, A., G. G. Katul, D. F. Levia, A. J. Guswa, E. W. Boyer, M. Bruen, D. E. Carlyle-Moses, R. Coyte, I. F. Creed, N. van de Giesen, D. Grasso, D. M. Hannah, J. E. Hudson, V. Humphrey, S. Iida, R. B. Jackson, T. Kumagai, P. Llorens, B. Michalzik, K. Nanko, C. A. Peters, J. S. Selker, D. Tetzlaff, M. Zalewski, B. R. Scanlon (2020). Peak grain forecasts for the US High Plains amid withering waters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (42) 26145-26150.


This is a new research thrust that I have undertaken during the start of my postdoc in January 2021. I will be studying the emergent features of wildfire spread, such as the probability density of wildfire sizes, as well as the impact of fires on vegetation dynamics.



I'm an environmental scientist and, specifically, an ecohydrologist. I'm interested in the role of vegetation in coupling the fluxes of water and carbon between land and atmosphere. My over-arching research objective is to connect scientific advances spanning several scales. For example, how does the anatomy of plant xylem drive its behavior to droughts? I'm currently a postdoc studying wildfire spread and the vegetation dynamics pre- and post-fire. As an engineer by training, I'm interested in applying tools from physics and engineering to my environmental science questions. Such tools are graph theory, percolation theory, and the calculus of variation.
I graduated with a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Duke University in 2020 and a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Beirut in 2016.


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