The Harvard University Center for the Environment recently announced the recipients of its inaugural Environmental Fellowship for postdoctorate candidates. Among the research these seven fellows plan on conducting over the next two years: the development of new materials for fuel cells, the distribution of vegetation in arid landscapes, and an examination of the role of Alaska in Americas environmental imagination. As a group, they will enhance environmental scholarship at Harvard and help tie together many of the Universitys academic departments and graduate schools.

“Each of the Environmental Fellows has demonstrated enormous talent and potential in his or her field,” said Daniel P. Schrag, professor of earth and planetary sciences and director of the Center for the Environment. “From a large field of applicants from around the globe, the center selected these seven because of their achievements to date and the likely impact of their research on scholarship at Harvard and on environmental problems confronting the planet.”

2006 fellows are as follows:

Peter Alagona has studied the history of conservation biology and will receive his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles, this year. He will work with Professor Sheila Jasanoff at the Kennedy School of Government to continue his studies of social theory, particularly as it applies to the environment and the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. Alagona will complete work on a book to be titled “Biodiversity in California: Science, Conservation, and Political Economy.”

Nicole Smith Downey has examined the uptake of molecular hydrogen by soils and will receive her Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering this summer from the California Institute of Technology. She will start work in the fall on an integrated model of the terrestrial biogeochemical cycle of mercury, working with Professor Daniel Jacob in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Peter Huybers is an expert in ice ages and global climate change. He received his Ph.D. in climate physics and chemistry from MIT in 2004 and received a prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Postdoctoral Fellowship in Climate and Global Change to continue his work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Geology and Geophysics Department. Huybers will work with Professor Eli Tziperman in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He will try to solve a problem that has intrigued climate scientists for decades: glacial cycles in the Pleistocene. The work is relevant to contemporary questions of how glaciers respond to climate change.

Valeriy Ivanov is a hydrologist interested in the interaction of climate, landscapes, water, and vegetation. A native Russian, Ivanov received his Ph.D. earlier this year from MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will work with Professor Steven Wofsy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences on how vegetation organizes itself in arid and semi-arid areas.

Alex Johnson is a physicist who will use his experimental and theoretical skills to design, build, and test a new generation of fuel cells that might be used to power portable electronics or cars and accelerate the transition to a hydrogen-based economy. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 2005 and will work with Assistant Professor Shriram Ramanathan in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

David Thompson is a string theorist who earned a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 2005. He will work on climate change problems with Assistant Professor Zhiming Kuang in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Thompson will build an analytical model of moist convection over the tropical oceans, then develop a three-dimensional numerical model that will illuminate the relationship between warming temperatures and hurricanes.

Roxanne Willis is a scholar of American environmental history and literature and will receive her Ph.D. in American Studies this spring from Yale University. She will use her fellowship to write a scholarly book intended to reach a broad nonscholarly audience: “Alaska and the American Environmental Imagination.” As an Environmental Fellow, Willis will work with Professor Lawrence Buell in the Department of English and American Literature and Language.

Generous gifts from Robert Ziff and the Beagle Foundation will support the fellows’ research. Huybers, Ivanov, Johnson, and Thompson will be known as the Ziff Environmental Fellows at Harvard. Alagona, Downey, and Willis will be the Beagle Environmental Fellows at Harvard. The fellows will begin the two-year program this fall.

The center expects to name six more fellows in the fall of 2007 and six more each year thereafter, so that there will always be approximately a dozen Environmental Fellows in residence throughout the University. Details of the next application process will be posted on the center’s Web site later this spring.

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