Dr. Kiang conducts research on the interaction between the biosphere and the atmosphere, focusing on life on land. Through photosynthesis and the evapotranspiration of water from plant leaves, seasonal cycles of growth and decay, and occasional big events like fires, the biosphere on Earth exchanges heat, water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen in different forms, and many other compounds with the atmosphere. These exchanges result in the biosphere actively controlling the climate and spectral properties of the Earth.
Dr. Kiang also relates this work to research in astrobiology, particularly with regard to how photosynthetic activity produces signs of life at the global scale (e.g., biogenic gases like oxygen and photosynthetic pigments like chlorophyll) and how these may exhibit adaptations to alternative environments on extrasolar planets, resulting in other "biosignatures" that might be detected by space telescopes.
Her work includes computer simulation modeling of vegetation dynamics coupled to atmospheric general circiulation models (GCMs), occasional fieldwork, and theoretical studies on the thermodynamic efficiency of photon energy use in photosynthesis. Dr. Kiang splits her time between New York and Los Angeles.
Mielke, S.P., N.Y. Kiang, R.E. Blankenship, M.R. Gunner, and D. Mauzerall, 2011: Efficiency of photosynthesis in a Chl d-utilizing cyanobacterium is comparable to or higher than that in Chl a-utilizing oxygenic species. Biochim. Biophys. Acta Bioenerg., 1807, 1231-1236, doi:10.1016/j.bbabio.2011.06.007.
Kiang, N.Y., 2008: The color of plants on other worlds. Sci. Amer., 298, no. 4, 48-55. (Cover article)
Kiang, N.Y., A. Segura, G. Tinetti, Govindjee, R.E. Blankenship, M. Cohen, J. Siefert, D. Crisp, and V.S. Meadows, 2007: Spectral signatures of photosynthesis II: Coevolution with other stars and the atmosphere on extrasolar worlds. Astrobiology, 7, 252-274, doi:10.1089/ast.2006.0108.
Kiang, N.Y., J. Siefert, Govindjee, R.E. Blankenship, and V.S. Meadows, 2007: Spectral signatures of photosynthesis I: Review of Earth organisms. Astrobiology, 7, 222-251, doi:10.1089/ast.2006.0105.