Susan Riha

Susan J. Riha

Charles L. Pack Professor of Forest Soils


Dr. Riha joined the Cornell faculty in 1980 as the Charles L. Pack Research Professor of Forest Soils. Her research interests are in the area of the interaction of plants with their physical environment and in dynamic simulation modeling. Riha works on both environmental and plant production problems on the state, national and international levels. She is a member of the graduate fields of Soil and Crop Sciences and of International Agriculture.

Research Interests

Riha's research program addresses the dynamic interactions of plants with their physical environment. The general approach has been to use biophysical models to analyze experimental data collected as part of growth chamber, greenhouse and field studies. The studies undertaken have contributed to our understanding of the impact of flooding on plant water relations, the impact of soil drying on plant growth and water use, and the importance of different surfaces to vapor transport under various crop, forestry and agroforestry systems. The process of utilizing biophysical models to analyze experimental data has in turn layed the groundwork for me to use plant-environmental simulation models to address a number of applied problems. These include such issues as the response of agriculture to climate change, the impact of climate variability on crop yield, improving the use of stored soil water by crops growing in a semi-arid environment, devising drought stress indicators for forest productivity and biodiversity, and enhancing water use in agroforestry systems. As Riha's research program centers on soil-plant atmosphere systems and involves both modeling and experimental work, the studies often cross boundaries between more traditional areas of research (for example, soil physics and plant physiology, or agronomy and forestry) and research methodologies (experimental and theoretical).

Teaching Interests

Environmental biophysics, modeling soil-plant-atmosphere systems, Earth system evolution.

Selected Publications

  • Riha, Susan, C. Tonitto.  2016. "Planning and implementing small dam removals: lessons learned from dam removals across the eastern United States.."  Sustainable Water Resources Management 2 (4): 489-507.
  • Vedachalam, S., B. V. Lewenstein, K. A. DeStefano, S. D. Polan, Susan Riha.  2016. "Media discourse on ageing water infrastructure.."Urban Water Journl 13 (8): 861-874.
  • Vedachalam, S., KT Spotte-Smith, Susan Riha.  2016. "A meta-nalysis of public compliance to boil water advisories.."  Water research 94: 136-145.
  • Vedachalam, S., P. Singh, Susan Riha.  2016. "Sewage pollution in New York, USA: Impact of the 'Right to Know' act.."  19 (2): 1303-1316.
  • Carter, E. K., J. J. Melkonian, Susan Riha, S. B. Shaw.  2016. "Separating heat stress from moisture stress: analyzing yield response to high temperature in irrigated maize.."  Water Policy 11 (11).

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Fellow (American Society of Agronomy) 2006


  • BA (Religion), Smith College, 1971
  • MSc (Plant and Soil Science), University of Massachusetts, 1974
  • Ph D (Soil Science), Washington State University, 1980