Bob Swap

Research Professor · Ph.D. University of Virginia, 1997

Contact Information

Bob Trieste Headshot

Robert (Bob) Swap, Ph.D., is a Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. Much of his research has focused on the linkages between land-atmosphere-ocean systems as evidenced by aerosols and trace gas emissions, transports and depositions, especially those in developing regions of the world (Brazil, southern Africa and most recently, southeast Asia).   He is probably best known for his seminal work on the transport and impact of Saharan dust in the Amazon basin.  He and his students have used an interdisciplinary approach (e.g. atmospheric science, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem ecology) of in situ and remotely sensed studies of these linkages.

His big picture science questions and ability to assemble collaborative interdisciplinary teams have led to an evolving role in programmatic science leadership, best exemplified by his role as the U.S. Principal Investigator of the award winning Southern Africa Regional Science initiative known as SAFARI-2000.  He also leveraged SAFARI-2000 to develop a regional knowledge network, the Eastern/Southern Africa Virginia Networks and Associations – ESAVANA, which seeks to address issues of resilient trans-boundary management of the coupled human-natural environment of southern/eastern Africa.

Prof. Swap’s research continues to evolve around coupled human natural systems and the exploration of approaches to more resilient and sustainable systems, especially in developing areas of the world.  Leveraging his strong foundation in the environmental sciences and global development studies, he continues to develop, publish and lecture on innovative global experiential learning pedagogies and student opportunities around transdisciplinarity, resilience thinking and practice, conservation ecology, and global service learning and community engagement.  He has been recognized multiple times as an educator both internally (e.g. 2008 Z-Society Distinguished Faculty of the Year, 2012 All University Teaching Award for Excellence in Education Abroad and as a 2014 inductee into the University of Virginia Academy of Teaching) and nationally (the 2012 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/CASE Virginia Professor of the Year). His contributions to the field of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, especially related to novel approaches to engaging STEM students has led to a number of opportunities to present as an invited guest of Zhejiang University and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Arizona State University and the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Prof. Swap has also been actively engaged with the practice, study and education of science diplomacy especially related to collaborative knowledge networks in developing regions.  Over the past two decades, he has been a participant in activities that have ranged from Fulbright Senior Specialist (Mozambique, 2001-02), lead staffer of an external review of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, delegation member of the U.S. Department of State and their Global Dialogues on Emerging Science and Technology in Africa in 2008, AAAS invited speaker both in Brazil (2010) and Myanmar (2010, 2012). During the summer of 2014 and 2015, he also served as an invited lecturer in the AAAS/TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy for Emerging Nations held in Trieste, Italy.

As of October 2014 to present, he is currently serving as a rotating IPA (Intergovernmental Personnel Act) program officer with the Radiation Sciences Program of the Earth Sciences Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters where his responsibilities include supporting the Atmospheric Composition Focus Area programs.

Specialties: long-range transport of aerosols; integrated coupled human/natural system research; international consortium development; community engagement; international program development; transformative international research, educational and outreach; sustainable development; servant leadership; leadership; and professional mentoring.


Selected Recent Publications:

R.J. Swap and J. A. Walter, An approach to engaging students in a large-enrollment, introductory STEM college course, accepted pending revisions in the Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, July, 2015.

C. Berinyuy, H. Eilerts, M. McDaniel, D. Chapman, S. Pendlebury, C.J. Ford, and R. J. Swap, 2014. The Adaptive Cycle as a Lens for Service Learning – Community Engagement, Partnerships: A Journal of Service Learning and Civic Engagement, Vol. 5, No. 2, 153-177.

K. Soderberg, J. Henschel, R. J. Swap & Stephen A. Macko, 2014. Sulphur isotopes in the central Namib Desert ecosystem, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 69:3, 217-223, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/0035919X.2014.976778

A. Aslam, I. Navarro, A. Wen, M. Hassett, and R. J. Swap, 2014. Stuck in Cement: Breaking from Conventional Mindsets in Student-Led Service Learning Partnerships. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 135-149.

S. Walther, L. Intolubbe-Chmil, and R.J. Swap, 2014. Promoting Sustainability Through Enhancing Resilience: Transdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the Cross Cultural Context of ESAVANA. In: Teaching Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Wendy Petersen-Boring and William Forbes. Eds.). Stephen F. Austin University Press.

R. J. Swap & Wayland, K. 2014. Working Across Disciplines and Chipping Away at Silos with SLCE: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Educating Science and Engineering Students. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, 120-136.

M. Lahsen, M. M. C. Bustamante, R. Swap, E. McNie, J. P. H. B. Ometto, T. Schor, H. Tiessen, S. Andelman and H. Annegarn. 2013. The Contributions of Regional Knowledge Networks Researching Environmental Changes in Latin America and Africa: a Synthesis of what they can do and why they can be policy relevant. Ecology and Society, 18 (3): 14. [online] URL:

H. Annegarn and R. Swap. “SAFARI 2000: A Southern African Example of Science Diplomacy in Practice,” Science and Diplomacy, retrieved at, Fall 2012.

L.G. Intolubbe-Chmil, C.A. Spreen, & Swap, R.J. 2012. “Transformative Learning Through ESAVANA: Participant Perspectives on International Experiential Education,” Journal of Research in International Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp.165-180.

S. Ravi, P. D’Odorico, D. Brashears, J. Field, A. Goudie, T. Huxman, J. Li, G. Okin, R. Swap, A. Thomas, R. S. van Pelt, J. Whicker and T. Zobeck, 2011. “Aeolian processes and the biosphere: Interactions and feedback loops,” Reviews of Geophysics, doi:10.1029/2010RG000328, Vol. 5, 45 pp.


Full C.V.

Recent Publications


Ethics, Protocols, and Practice of International Research (EVSC 1050)

Conservation Ecology:Biodiversity and Beyond (EVSC 2220)
Studies ecological science relevant to sustaining populations, species, ecosystems, and the global biosphere. Includes discussion of genetic inbreeding, critical population size, community structure and organization, maintenance of critical ecosystem function, and global biogeochemistry. Case studies from around the world demonstrate links between human-driven environmental change and the health of the biosphere, at all levels, from the organism to the planet.

Resilience & Sustainability (EVSC 3559)

Graduate Students

Sonja Long (Ph.D.)