Who We Are

Changwoo Ahn (Creator & Chair)

 Changwoo Ahn’s research centers on wetland ecosystem ecology, system ecology, and ecological engineering. Ahn’s dissertation work focused on designing and constructing wetlands to improve water quality by reuse of combustion by-products (i.e., wastes for landfills) from power plants in the Midwest, incorporating system ecological approaches. Ahn studied biogeochemical and ecological processes in a human-created wetland complex at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park (ORWRP), now designated as the 24th RAMSAR (i.e., a wetland of international importance) site in the United States. Ahn served as a consultant and participant in the making of the television documentary titled “Restore wetlands as a resource for the future” by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) for the RAMSAR International Conference in 2008. Ahn’s work also includes planning, designing, and analyzing different scenario (simulation)-based restoration options for the Illinois large river-floodplain ecosystem targeting the Emiquon site, the largest floodplain re-connection project on the Upper Mississippi River, working with The Nature Conservancy, National Science Foundation, Corps of Engineers, USGS, farmers, landowners, and other stakeholders.

Upon joining GMU in 2003, Ahn launched a long-term study of functional development and design elements for created mitigation wetlands, specifically collaborating with Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. and USGS. The work includes microtopography, hydrologic connectivity, and planting diversity as design elements that can be created and managed to enhance the development of ecological functions, thus restoring ecosystem services of wetlands while mitigating the loss of natural wetlands. Since 2009, when he built the Ahn Wetland Mesocosm Compound (http://esp.gmu.edu/facilities/infrastructure/wetland-mesocosm-compound/) on the west campus, he has carried out teaching and research activities related to wetland ecology and ecological sustainability in the compound. The facility has also been used for K-12 summer internships and education. The Wetland Mesocosm Compound currently houses 60, 150-gallon stock tanks to study the effects of plant diversity on the developments of wetland ecosystem structure and functions, which includes plant morphological characteristics, carbon accumulation efficiency, soil microbial community patterns, denitrification, and biomass production.  The compound has been visited by Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Chinese delegation of Shandong Department of Forestry, students and scholars from Korea University, students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Northern Virginia Community College, The Washington Youth Summit on the Environment, and Global Problem Solving Consortium.

To date, Ahn has published over 100 peer-reviewed abstracts and journal articles, authored several book chapters, and participated in translating two books (Ecological Engineering and Ecosystem Restoration; Silenced Rivers) into Korean.  He is currently serving on the editorial boards of Ecological Engineering, Wetland Science and Practice, Environmental Engineering Research, and The Ecological View and is also a book review editor for Ecological Engineering-the Journal of Ecosystem Restoration. Ahn also attended ART + ENVIRONMENT  conference 2014 at Nevada Museum of Art and presented at Balance-Unbalance (Water, Climate, Place Reimagining Environments) 2015.

Ahn is currently a Professor in Environmental Science and Policy, and an affiliated faculty member with Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Ahn teaches Wetland Ecology and Management, Ecosystem Modeling and Analysis, Ecological Sustainability, Ecological Engineering, and Ecosystem Restoration at GMU. Ecological Sustainability (EVPP 378/BIOl379) is a green leaf course sponsored by the Sustainability Office and also a R&S (Research and Scholarship) intensive course for undergraduates sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence. Ahn is dedicated to developing and innovating methods of teaching that will incorporate strong research experiences into undergraduate science education.

Changwoo is originally from Seoul, South Korea.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in Forest Resource and Master’s in Environmental Planning from the Graduate School of Environmental Studies, both at Seoul National University. He completed his Ph.D. at The Ohio State University, followed by postdoctoral research in the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming to GMU. Changwoo is deeply interested in ecological design principles and system approaches applicable to land and water management. Changwoo enjoys the writings of Haruki Murakami, the painting of Georgia O’ Keeffe, and the music of Keith Jarrett.

Web: Ahn Wetland Ecosystem Lab & Studio

Student Leadership Group Members

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Jesse Glendon

Major: Information Systems and Operations Management


Andy Sachs

Major: Integrative Studies


Khafre Barclift

Major: Film and Video Studies


Kathryn Faulcouner

Major: Biology


Alexander Krupp

Major: Environmental Science & Policy


Anthony Frank

Major: Art and Visual Technology


Zhi Chen

Major: Environmental Science & Policy


Cameron Evans

Major: Film/Video Studies


Sharon Dorsey

Major: Environmental Science


Carlos Cruz 

Major: Communication


Aekta Bandodker

Major: Integrative Studies


Julio Torres

Major: Biology


Sophie Smith

Major: Music


Thomas Lippincott

Major: Environmental Science


Christopher Yi

Major: Environmental Science


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