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Stephen W. Pacala

Stephen Pacala

Stephen W. Pacala is the Director of the Princeton Environmental Institute and The Frederick D. Petrie Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He also co-directs the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, a collaboration among Princeton University and British Petroleum to find solutions to the greenhouse warming problem.

Dr. Pacala conducts research on a wide variety of ecological and mathematical topics. At Princeton, his work focuses on problems of global change with an emphasis on interactions among the biosphere, greenhouse gases and climate. He is also active in research on policy to solve the carbon and climate problem. His work includes the wedges analysis, first published in the journal Science (Pacala and Socolow 2004), an analysis of individual emissions aimed at the fair partitioning of carbon mitigation efforts among nations (Chakravarty et al. 2009), and current work on the interaction of the energy, climate, food, water and biodiversity problems.

Dr. Pacala is active in non-governmental organizations. He is co-founder and Board Chairman of Climate Central, an organization that produces print, TV and web-based media about climate and energy. He also serves on several boards including: the Environmental Defense Fund, where he chairs the science section; Microsoft Research; BP’s Energy and Sustainability Challenge; and the Global Climate and Energy Project, which is funded by GE, Exxon Mobile, Toyota and Schlumberger.

Dr. Pacala is committed to education and teaching. He teaches a variety of courses at Princeton including: a graduate seminar on earth system modeling, an undergraduate ecological field course in Panama, and Introductory Biology. He is the designer, founder, and co-director of Princeton’s Grand Challenges Program. The Grand Challenges is designed to give undergraduates a hands-on, interdisciplinary and experiential education on problems that confront humanity. Grand Challenges is currently focused on three problems: energy and climate, sustainable development in Africa, and global health and infectious disease. It funds a large multi-investigator research program in each of these areas, which employ hundreds of Princeton students each summer. Students link these summer experiences with specialty courses taught during the regular academic year, while still completing a traditional disciplinary major. They then complete a senior thesis that extends their summer experiences. In aggregate they get a second major on a practical problem at the intersection of environment, technology and policy. The program currently serves over 10% of Princeton undergraduates.

Professor Pacala completed an undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in biology at Stanford University. He has been awarded numerous honors including the David Starr Jordan Prize, the George Mercer Award, MacArthur Award and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.