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Joint Global Change Research Institute Appoints New Director

November 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Renowned scientist Ghassem R. Asrar has been named director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaborative effort of the University of Maryland and the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The institute, based in College Park, houses an interdisciplinary team dedicated to understanding the problems of global climate change and potential solutions.

Renowned scientist Ghassem R. Asrar has been named director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaborative effort of UMD and the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.Asrar begins his appointment Nov. 11. He comes to the institute from Geneva, Switzerland, where he has been director of the World Climate Research Programme, which coordinates international climate research and is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the International Council for Science and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

"There is a growing need for action-oriented and science-based information at the intersection of energy, environment and economy in a rapidly developing world," Asrar said. "JGCRI is uniquely positioned based on its capabilities and track record to be an authoritative source of such information."

Before joining the WCRP, Asrar worked at NASA for several decades, serving as deputy associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate and associate administrator of the Office of Earth Sciences, as well as chief scientist for the Earth Observing System, a satellite-based program that transformed scientific understanding of the climate system. While at NASA, Asrar also established the Earth System Science graduate fellowship, as well as New Investigator Programs to promote the training of promising earth scientists and engineers.

"Dr. Asrar's past experience, particularly with NASA's Earth Science Enterprise and as director of the World Climate Research Program in Geneva, gives him a particularly broad perspective on how science can help inform our understanding of pressing environmental concerns," said Nathan Hultman, associate director of the institute and public policy professor at UMD.

Asrar, who holds two master's degrees in environmental biophysics and civil engineering, and an interdisciplinary doctorate degree in the field of environmental physics from Michigan State University, also worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as deputy administrator for Natural Resources and Agricultural Systems for the Agricultural Research Service from 2006 to 2008.

Marc Imhoff, interim director of the institute, said Asrar's vast experience in the scientific community will help the institute make progress toward its many goals. "He will bring a wealth of leadership experience working across a broad suite of national and international government agencies, organizations and businesses in developing and advancing research and applications in Earth sciences and climate change."

"Asrar is very comfortable and effective at working in interagency and international contexts," said Antonio Busalacchi, director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland, who worked with Asrar while on a World Climate Research Programme committee. "He'll take the institute to the next level."

That level, Asrar said, is seizing the opportunity to offer practical solutions to competing forces that don't always agree: environmental stewardship, energy independence and economic development. "There is a growing need for action-oriented and science-based information at the intersection of energy, environment and economy in a rapidly developing world," Asrar said. "JGCRI is uniquely positioned based on its capabilities and track record to be an authoritative source of such information."

The University of Maryland is a recognized leader in atmospheric, climate and earth science research, education and public policy. UMD and its adjacent research park are home to one of the largest concentrations of earth, climate and weather scientists in the world.  The Joint Global Change Research Institute is just one of many partnerships the university has with federal agencies.  Others include UMD's Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), which partners with NASA Goddard, and two major collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): the Cooperative Institute for Climate Studies, a national, UMD-led NOAA institute and an academic and research partnership with the NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate, whose building is in the University of Maryland Research Park, M Square next door to JGCRI and ESSIC.

Image courtsey of World Climate Research Programme.

 

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