For three decades, Chris Field has pioneered novel approaches to ecosystem research to understand climate and environmental changes. He is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology on the Stanford University campus—home to a small, but remarkably productive team of researchers who investigate the basics of climate change. Field has authored more than 200 scientific publications and is cochair of the U. N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 2. The IPCC Fourth Assessment, for which Field was a coordinating author, was published in 2007. He was coeditor of the March 2012 IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), and he  is overseeing the Working Group 2 report on the predicted impacts of climate change for the IPCC Fifth Assessment, published in 2014.

Field routinely testifies before U. S. Congressional committees and is a world-renowned “go to” expert on climate science and sustainability. He is sought by major media outlets to explain his work and comment on the work of other researchers. He interviews have appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN and leading news and science radio programs.

Field’s research looks at the interactions among the climate, the carbon cycle, and ecosystem processes, from the molecular to the global scale. His work includes major field experiments on responses of California grassland to multi-factor global change, integrative studies on the global carbon cycle, and assessments of impacts of climate change on agriculture. His model research includes studies on the global distribution of carbon sources and sinks and studies on environmental consequences of expanding reliance on biomass for energy supply.

Field received his A.B in biology from Harvard and his Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University. In 2013 he was awarded one of Germany’s most prestigious prizes, the Max Planck Research Prize. He is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and was elected Member, US National Academy of Sciences in 2001. In 2000, he was selected by the Ecological Society of America as the Aldo Leopold Fellow among other honors. Learn more at

Scientific Area: 

Explore Carnegie Science

December 6, 2017

Washington, DC— The climate models that project greater amounts of warming this century are the ones that best align with observations of the current climate, according to a new paper from Carnegie’s Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira published by Nature.  Their findings suggest that the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on average, may be underestimating future warming.

Climate model simulations are used to predict how much warming should be expected for any given increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“There are dozens of prominent global climate models and they all project different amounts of

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Airborne Observatory, Greg Asner.
December 4, 2017

Washington, DC— About 40 percent of northern Malaysian Borneo’s carbon stocks exist in forests that are not designated for maximum protections, according to new remote sensing and satellite mapping from Carnegie’s Greg Asner and his colleagues.

Asner’s flying laboratory, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, was able to map carbon stocks that—together with satellite imaging and other geospatial data—will guide conservation efforts undertaken by the Sabah Forestry Department in Malaysian Borneo, the Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), the PACOS Trust, BC Initiative and other organizations.

“We are proud to be part of this groundbreaking endeavor in the

November 20, 2017


Tuesday, November 17, 2017: 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017: 


Sunday, November 12, 2017:


Thursday, November 9, 2017:


Monday, November 6, 2017:

We’ve all seen the photos. Long panel tables full of people from around the globe hashing out the intricacies of how to best fight climate change for endless grueling hours.

But what’s it like to be in the room?

Carnegie’s Geeta Persad will be there and she’ll checking in with us periodically to offer an insider’s look at the 3rd Conference of

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Shutterstock
October 9, 2017

Washington, DC— There is considerable opportunity for generating wind power in the open ocean, particularly the North Atlantic, according to new research from Carnegie’s Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira. Their work is published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Because wind speeds are higher on average over ocean than over land, wind turbines in the open ocean could in theory intercept more than five times as much energy as wind turbines over land. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines. But it was unknown whether the faster ocean winds could actually be converted to increased amounts of electricity.


No content in this section.

Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.


Chris Field is a co-principal investigator of the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in northern California. The site, designed to exploit grasslands as models for understanding how ecosystems may respond to climate change, hosts a number of studies of the potential effects from elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, elevated temperature, increased precipitation, and increased nitrogen deposition. The site houses experimental plots that replicate all possible combinations of the four treatments and additional sampling sites that control for the effects of project infrastructure. Studies focus on several integrated ecosystem responses to the

Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass over a specific time. Joe Berry was part of a team that took an entirely new approach by using satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis as shown by the artwork.

The plant produces fluorescent light when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll. Satellite instruments sense this fluorescence yielding a direct

Leopoldo Infante became the director of the Las Campanas Observatory on July 31, 2017.

Since 2009, Infante has been the founder and director of the Centre for Astro-Engineering at the Chilean university. He joined PUC as an assistant professor in 1990 and has been a full professor since 2006. He was one of the creators of PUC’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and served as its director from 2000 to 2006. He also established the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) and served as its president from 2009 to 2010.

Infante received his B.Sc. in physics at PUC. He then acquired a MSc. and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada.

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.

Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s inner core structure; core-mantle coupling; tectonic-volatile cycling; orbital migration—how Earth’s orbit moves—and tidal dissipation—the dissipation of tidal forces between two closely orbiting bodies. He is also interested in planetary interiors, dynamos, upper planetary atmospheres and exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars. He uses large-scale numerical simulations in much of his research