Fellow Facts: On Climate Change

Ansel Adams photograph

There are myriad Fellows whose work is concerned with climate change, sustainability, and the protection of our planet. Here are a few select names. 

Ansel Adams (1946, 1948, and 1959 Fellow in Photography) was a photographer known especially for his black-and-white landscapes of the American West. A lifelong conservationist, he contracted with the United States Department of the Interior to photograph national parks and advocated for their existence, helping to expand the National Park system. As a result, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

F. Sherwood Rowland (1961 Fellow in Chemistry) was a Nobel Laureate and chemist who proved that chlorofluorocarbons (such as freon and propellants in aerosols) contribute to ozone depletion. This discovery led to the creation of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out substances causing harm.

Charles David Keeling
Charles David Keeling at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory. (Photo via

Charles David Keeling (1961 Fellow in Earth Science) was the first person to develop a way to accurately measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, producing evidence that carbon dioxide levels were steadily increasing. His discovery helped elevate global warming to a widespread concern. This measurement is still known as the Keeling Curve.

W. S. Merwin (1973 and 1983 Fellow in Poetry) was a United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner. His work had a particular focus on ecology and conservation. In 2010, he founded the Merwin Conservancy, an organization that has succeeded in helping to repopulate the island of Maui with native palm trees.

Michael Oppenheimer (1978 Fellow in Astronomy and Astrophysics) is one of the country’s top climate scientists and activists. He is credited with elevating climate change to a matter of international concern, through his participation in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also influenced the development of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, worked as the director of climate and air pollution activities for two decades at the Environmental Defense Fund, and founded the Climate Action Network.

Cynthia Rosenzweig (2001 Fellow in Geography and Environmental Studies) is a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where she has led the Climate Impacts Group since 1993.Like Oppenheimer, her work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Task Force was recognized by the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2022, she was awarded the World Food Prize for her work studying the impact of climate variability on world food security.

Cynthia Rosenzweig
Cynthia Rosenzweig (Photo via NASA by Kisha Bari)

Maureen E. Raymo (2003 Fellow in Earth Science) is the co-founding dean emerita of the Columbia Climate School who studies the history and causes of climate change. Her research has focused on discovering why and establishing how the earth’s climate has changed in the past to better understand the present and future changes the planet may endure.

Marina Zurkow (2011 Fellow in Film and Video ) is a media and participatory practice artist whose work  uses animation, data and technology, and even food to respond to the climate crisis and associated issues like invasive species, flooding, and the use of fossil fuels. These works have included dinner series, videos charting the pathways of emissions, and an audio series centering on the life of sea creatures.

Lydia Millet (2012 Fellow in Fiction) is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of 14 novels and short story collections, including Love in Infant Monkeys (2010), A Children’s Bible (2020), and Dinosaurs (2022). Millet has worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity as a staff writer; as such, climate change, the animal world, and natural disasters feature prominently in her writing. Recently, Millet was the subject of a New York Times feature entitled “The Climate Novelist Who Transcends Despair.”

Jeff Goodell (2020 Fellow in General Nonfiction) is a writer known for his focus on energy and environmental issues. A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, he has written multiple books including Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future, How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remarking of the Civilized World, and, this year, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet. 

Header image: Denali and Wonder Lake, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 1947. Photograph by Ansel Adams. © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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