Washington, DC—New powerhouse scientific talent with broad expertise ranging from marine and freshwater biogeochemistry to terrestrial ecosystem science to climate change adaptation and mitigation are burnishing the already sterling reputation of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology for addressing the most urgent questions surrounding the sustainability of the Earth System.
Four new faculty are joining the department in 2022, and one Carnegie Department of Plant Biology staff member recently assumed a new joint position.
“Carnegie scientists were involved in establishing the discipline of ecology in the early 1900s at our former Desert Laboratory in Arizona. In 2002, recognizing the urgency of climate change and the need to address the related challenges of safeguarding energy security, food security, water sustainability, and biodiversity, Carnegie established the Department of Global Ecology to bring together a transdisciplinary group of experts to tackle these challenges at the global scale,” said department Director Anna Michalak. “We are thrilled that 2022 has brought us so much new talent on the 20th anniversary of our department’s founding and eager to welcome our new colleagues.”
The new faculty come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, but their work is interwoven by a common thread of revealing how interactions between human activity and Earth’s natural systems manifest themselves at regional to global scales. This understanding is critical for developing successful climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Elena Litchman joins the department from Michigan State University, where she was an MSU Foundation Professor of Aquatic Ecology. She studies phytoplankton, which form the foundation of the aquatic food chain, with a particular focus on how environmental factors, including climate change, influence microbial community structure.
“I’m excited to join Carnegie because it is such a great institution with a very different, forward-looking way of doing science,” Litchman said.
Emily Zakem explores how marine microorganisms affect, and are affected by, the climate system at large scales. A member of Carnegie’s prestigious early career Staff Associate program, she arrived from the University of Southern California, where she was a Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.
Another new Staff Associate, Lorenzo Rosa, joins Carnegie from the Institute of Energy and Process Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, where he was a postdoctoral fellow. His work aims to assess the potential benefits and unintended climate and environmental consequences of innovations engineered to satisfy the increasing global demands for energy, water, and food.
Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso, who joined Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology as a Staff Associate in late 2019, was also granted a joint appointment at the Department of Global Ecology. He conducts large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments to understand whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with a changing climate.
Lastly, Jeffrey Dukes will join the department in May from Purdue University, where he directed the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and is currently a professor in departments of Forestry & Natural Resources and Biological Sciences. His research elucidates how ecosystems respond to environmental pressures, including climate change and invasive species.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Carnegie since I first learned about it when I was in graduate school,” Dukes said. “It’s got an amazing culture and an amazing history in my field, and I’m really excited to join.”
Since its founding in 1902 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the institution has pursued its mission “to encourage, in the broadest and most liberal manner, investigation, research, and discovery and the application of knowledge to the improvement of [hu]mankind.” The organization’s philosophy aims to devote its resources to “exceptional” individuals, giving them the freedom to follow the path of discovery and explore the most intriguing scientific questions as they arise.
A Growing Community
Dukes’ research examines how plants and ecosystems respond to a changing environment, focusing on topics from invasive species to climate change.
Exposito-Alonso's lab is investigating how a plant’s genetics constrain its ability to adapt to the environment.
Litchman studies marine and freshwater ecosystems, focusing on phytoplankton, major primary producers in most aquatic environments.
Rosa aims to assess the potential benefits and unintended climate and environmental consequences of innovations engineered to satisfy the increasing global demands for energy, water, and food.
Zakem aims to improve understanding of the connections between microbial ecosystems, global biogeochemistry, and the climate system.