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James Knighton is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) with a PhD in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University (2019) and an M.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (2013). Prior to Cornell, he worked as a PE for eight years in the nuclear industry and government performing risk analysis for power generation facilities and urban environments.
His research centers on how regional forests cover and synoptic-scale atmospheric mechanisms of extreme rainfall drive flooding risks. He is currently working on research to evaluate why forest cover change has varied impacts on flooding risks worldwide. He is also interested in how individuals and governmental organizations make investment decisions for flood mitigation. Specifically, he is working to understand how local hydrology and population demographics come together to influence the generation of flooding insurance claims from urban environments in New York State through a collaboration with the New York Water Resources Institute. Finally, he is interested in bridging the gap between emerging methods in isotope-hydrology and modern tools used for flooding risk forecasting. Working collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team, he is carrying out modeling experiments drawing on data from both lab- and field-scale studies of isotopic transport and tree root water uptake with the goal of incorporating the functional traits of tree rooting structures into land surface models.