A scientist known internationally for research on climate and ecosystems – and who has a track record of getting wide-ranging groups of experts to focus on environmental issues – was welcomed as the inaugural dean of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment on July 1, 2010.
As College of the Environment Dean, Lisa Graumlich, former Director of the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, leads a college with 1,400 students, 11 core units and 185 faculty members. That’s more faculty than the environmental schools at Duke, Michigan and Yale combined.
Approved by the UW regents in June 2008, courses were offered under the new college for the first time in the of fall 2009. Units of the college are focused on areas such as natural resources, climate, Earth sciences, oceanography and sustainability. They received more than $140 million in grants and funding and more than $10 million in private support in fiscal year 2012.
“The power of the College of the Environment is our research muscle and interdisciplinary rigor, combined with our commitment to developing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Phillis Wise, the Provost, who led efforts to create the new college. “We provide some of the best thinking and research on the complex environmental challenges of the day – and never has there been a more critically important time to have our best minds focused on those challenges.”
An environmental institute is being formulated as part of the new college as an additional way to foster collaboration between researchers from different disciplines, both on and off campus.
Graumlich has led similar efforts during her career, which spans postdoctoral work at the University of Minnesota and positions with the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Arizona, Columbia University and Montana State University. For example, while on the faculty at Arizona from 1988 to 1999, she served as director of the cross-disciplinary Institute for Study of the Planet Earth. From 1999 to 2006 at Montana State University, one of her positions was as director of the university’s Big Sky Institute, where she fostered partnerships between researchers and managers working on conserving biodiversity in areas such as the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
“The environment plays a key role in most of the grand challenges currently confronting society,” Graumlich said. “I’m excited to have joined the University of Washington’s College of the Environment as it marshals its considerable intellectual resources to generate new knowledge and discover solutions to these challenges.”
Graumlich, who received a doctorate in forest resources from the UW in 1985, investigates how ecosystems and human societies adapt to climate change, with a special focus on droughts, something Washington state experiences both east and west of the Cascade Mountains.
“The college is a great resource for the entire state,” said Dennis Hartmann, professor of atmospheric sciences and former interim dean. “We produce and house many of the top experts knowledgeable about natural resource and natural hazard issues in Washington, extending from the forests, plains and streams of Eastern Washington to the geological activity beneath the ocean near our Pacific shore.”
The units most recently joining the college are Friday Harbor Laboratories and Washington Sea Grant. Other units comprising the college are the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, School of Oceanography, Program on the Environment and Washington NASA Space Grant consortium.