Associate Provost for Sustainability
Acacia Professor of Ecology, Evolution, Environment and Society
Office: 85 Waterman St – Room 208
Address: Institute at Brown for Environment and Society
Providence RI 02912
My interests lie at the intersection between the natural sciences and human society, and revolve around the societal transition to a more sustainable future. As Associate Provost for Sustainability, I guide Brown’s decarbonization and other sustainability efforts while working to enhance research and teaching in this space. I also work to leverage the work we do here on campus to build sustainability solutions beyond our campus. I co-chair the committee tasked with implementing and continually iterating on Brown’s Strategic Sustainability Plan. As Acacia Professor in the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, as well as Ecology, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology, I work with students and postdocs interested in topics ranging from the biogeochemistry of soybean production in the Amazon to the potential for carbon storage through enhanced rock weathering to the best path to lower emissions from Brown’s dining services. I believe that every student, indeed every person, can play a role in rising to the sustainability challenges that threaten our future, and that by focusing on solutions, not just on the problems, we can succeed in making the world a better place.
My path to sustainability solutions science
I grew up in New York City, but developed a love for the outdoors in places like Vermont and New Brunswick, Canada. After graduating from an international high school associated with the U.N., I went to Amherst College, where I majored in history and wrote my senior thesis on the history of Vermont during its fourteen years as an independent republic (1777-1791). During that time, I got hooked by geology, because it taught me to look at the natural world in a fundamentally different way than I ever had. After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, since I was really interested in many different things, and I took time off to teach skiing while I decided. I went back to get a M.S. in geology from the University of Montana in 1997, and spent the next three years teaching earth science in New York. Finally I came across what would become my true intellectual passion, understanding the way the earth’s living systems function, and in 2000 I went back to get my Ph.D. in Ecology from Stanford University, where I worked on landscape and ecosystem development in the Hawaiian Islands. I hadn’t completely left my geologic roots, however, as my post-doc (also at Stanford) was in the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department integrating tectonic geomorphology into my understanding of how ecosystems develop. I started at Brown in 2007, and spent the first 15 years of my career focused on tropical rainforests, agroecosystems and restoration. But I became more and more focused on rising to the threat of climate change and other sustainability challenges, and decided to change paths to focus on institutional and regional solutions. In 2018 I was proud to be appointed as the university’s, and the country’s first Associate Provost for Sustainability. In this role I guide the university’s sustainability efforts, work to integrate those efforts into our research and teaching missions, and to share what we learn with the broader community in order to advance solutions.