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William Schlesinger

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William H. Schlesinger is President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a private ecological research institute on the grounds of the Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, NY.  Completing his A.B. at Dartmouth (1972), and Ph.D. at Cornell (1976), he moved to Duke University in 1980, where he was Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and James B. Duke Professor of Biogeochemistry. He moved to the Cary Institute in 2007.

Schlesinger is the author or coauthor of over 200 scientific papers on subjects of environmental chemistry and global change and the widely-adopted textbook 'Biogeochemistry: An analysis of global change' (3rd edition with Emily S. Bernhardt, Elsevier, 2013). He was among the first to quantify the amount of carbon held in soil organic matter globally, providing subsequent estimates of the role of soils and human impacts on forests and soils in global climate change. He was elected a member of The National Academy of Sciences in 2003, and was President of the Ecological Society of America for 2003-2004.  He is also a fellow in the American Geophysical Union, the Soil Science Society of America, the Ecological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.   

His past work has taken him to diverse habitats, ranging from Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Mojave Desert of California, and three times as a Duke alumni tour guide to Antarctica. His research has been featured on NOVA, CNN, NPR, and on the pages of Discover, National Geographic, the New York Times, and Scientific American.  Schlesinger has testified before U.S. House and Senate Committees on a variety of environmental issues, including preservation of desert habitats, global climate change and carbon sequestration.  He blogs on environmental issues at www.nicholas.duke.edu/citizenscientist. A compilation of his writings was published (Translational Ecology) in 2017 (https://www.nhbs.com/browse/search?q=translational+ecology).

Schlesinger currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC; New York), and the Southern Environmental Law Center (Charlottesville).

He and his wife, Lisa, live in Lubec, Maine, where they enjoy birdwatching, strong spirits, gourmet cooking and coastal life.


Research areas: Biogeochemistry, Ecosystem analysis, Global change, Soil science

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