Jaakko Putkonen has spent his career on field expeditions studying the landscapes and changing climate in extreme environments including Arctic, Antarctica, high Himalaya, and deserts of the SW US. He has published papers related to effects of climate change on Arctic animals, such as Musk Oxen, Caribou, and Reindeer. Many of these animals are critical for subsistence hunters and native populations of the North, and thus his research provides window into the future challenges for these populations.
For over twenty years Putkonen has traveled to Nepal where he has mounted expeditions to high Himalaya to study the geology and climate of the high mountains. He has also led a number of field geology courses for US students thus preparing the next generation for international research.
Putkonen has led numerous Antarctic field expeditions to study the landscape evolution and geologic history of the coldest and driest continent on Earth. On his expeditions he has had the privilege to visit parts of Earth where no human has been before. Currently he is working on an ice core that his research group drilled in Antarctica which is believed to be one of the oldest ice surviving on Earth.
Landscape evolution affects all of us in the form of catastrophic landslides, but mostly by small intermittent movement of surficial sand and pebbles that undermines structures, and affects all constructed environment. Much of his effort has gone to determining the rate of surface erosion in the deserts of the SW US. This research is illuminating the effects of the past changes in the climate on Earth surface.