Directors Statement

I am pleased to present my final report as Director of the Earth Research Institute.  These past fourteen years as Director of the Institute for Computational Earth System Science (ICESS), as co-Director of the merged unit (CrICESS for the first year of the merge between the Institute of Crustal Studies and ICESS), and then as the newly formed Earth Research Institute, have brought about significant changes. 

This year, we continued efforts to address the recommendations from the External Review held in 2014.  We submitted the 2015 Earth Research Institute (ERI) Interdepartmental Academic Plan last year, which included a FTE request for campus environmental science research program.  ERI was allocated an FTE focusing on Climate Dynamics and I am proud to welcome Qinghua Ding to campus in this position. We also submitted the 2016 Earth Research Institute (ERI) Interdepartmental Academic Plan to campus in March and hope the trend of recruiting new faculty persists.

Outstanding research continues to be completed by ERI participants on a wide variety of research areas.  Examples include findings from Christopher Costello, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which demonstrated that by 2050, applying improved fishing approaches could increase profits from the world’s ocean fisheries by 204% above what can be expected if business continues as usual. A new theory by Matthew Jackson, published in Nature Geoscience, postulates that the bulk composition of a planet plays a critical role in determining the planet’s tectonic and climatic regimes and therefore its habitability.  Matthew Jackson was also part of an effort identifying a geochemical signature of material dating from early melting events that were part of the Earth’s formation. These results were published in the journal Science.  Alex Simms, in Geological Society of America Bulletin, demonstrated that the Pacific coastlines of North America are not uplifting as rapidly as previously estimated.  Prior research had not considered the Earth’s response to the melting and growth of past ice sheets.  In examining fossils dated at between 782 and 742 million years ago from the Chuar Group in the Grand Canyon, Susannah Porter found evidence that may determine if predation was one of the driving factors in the diversification of eukaryotes.  Her findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Leila Carvalho and Charles Jones edited a book, The Monsoons and Climate Change, examining climate. Using both historic observations and data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the book clarifies the risk of human-induced climate change.  Sally MacIntyre was part of an effort looking at sources of methane, a source of greenhouse gas.  In the results published in Nature Geoscience, Dr. MacIntyre and colleagues found that global warming, and the resulting ice-free seasons, are likely to fuel methane release from lakes, potentially causing methane emissions to increase 20 to 50 percent before the end of this century. Roberta Rudnick, as published in the journal Science, in an analysis of trace element ratios that correlate to magnesium, found that plate tectonics began approximately 3 billion years ago.  Colleagues Mark Brzezinski, Craig Carlson and myself were part of a NASA team developing a Science Plan for a comprehensive field program aimed at quantifying present conditions in the ocean’s carbon cycle and developing tools to predict its future states.  From deep time to planning future scientific endeavors, the exceptional research of ERI participants is too abundant to cover within the Director’s Statement.  The abstracts contained within this report provide more details of these varying and remarkable efforts.

ERI Researchers continued to garner awards this past year. Josh Schimel was named to Thomson Reuters’ 2015 list of Highly Cited Researchers. Galen Stucky was elected as fellows to the National Academy of Inventors and received the “Spirit of Innovation” award.  John Cottle was awarded the Geological Society of America’s (Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology & Volcanology division) MGPV Early Career award.  Tim DeVries was awarded a NASA New (Early Career) Investigator award in Earth Science.  Christopher Costello was awarded the Peter Benchley Ocean Award. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names honored Bruce Luyendyk by naming a peak after him; Mount Luyendyk is located in the remote Fosdick Mountains in Antarctica.

In this, my final report, I would like to thank the ERI participants for their outstanding body of work, their collaborations over the past fourteen years, and their contributions to ERI. I would like to thank Susannah Porter, the ERI Associate Director, for partnering with me in the oversight of ERI.  I would like to thank both Jennifer Thorsch and Katja Seltmann for their leadership of CCBER. I would like to thank and acknowledge campus leadership for their collaboration with ERI these last fourteen years.  Campus support for our initiatives, from the merge to FTE Plans, has been essential to our success. Last but not least, I would like to thank the exceptional administrative and compute staff members within ERI.  ERI would not be as strong as it is without the contributions of each of these groups. I am pleased to hand the Directorship over to Kelly Caylor, successfully recruited from Princeton and joining both Geography and Bren as a Professor of Ecohydrology.  I wish him well in undertaking the leadership of ERI and look forward to collaborating with him in the future.



David A. Siegel

(Outgoing) Director