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June 22, 2004

MBL Climate Change Expert Jerry Melillo to Speak at June 25 Friday Evening Lecture

WOODS HOLE, MA—Jerry Melillo, co-director of the MBL's Ecosystems Center will present the Laboratory's next Friday Evening Lecture titled, Biology, Earth's Atmosphere, and Climate Change: Making Connections and Looking to the Future on June 25 at 8:00 PM in the MBL's Lillie Auditorium, located on MBL Street in Woods Hole. The presentation is free and open to the public. Marine Biological Laboratory Director and CEO William Speck will introduce Melillo.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning ever larger amounts of fossil fuels and thereby returning to the atmosphere carbon that was fixed by photosynthesis millions of years ago. Enough of this carbon has remained in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide to increase the concentration of this gas from about 280 parts per million in the middle of the 19th century to about 375 parts per million today. Because carbon dioxide has the ability to “trap and hold” heat being radiated from the earth into space, one of the effects of an increase in the carbon dioxide concentration of the lower atmosphere is to warm the planet—the greenhouse effect.

Over recent decades, understanding the links between the chemistry of the atmosphere, global warming, and associated climate changes has been the focus of thousands of scientists from many disciplines. The biological components of the problem are particularly challenging and have been a defining research area at The Ecosystems Center since its inception.

In this lecture, Melillo will discuss how The Ecosystems Center is researching these questions, present some of their findings, and put their results into a policy context. He will use examples from Ecosystems Center research in the temperate forests of New England and the tropical forests of the Brazilian Amazon.

Jerry Melillo is the co-director of The Ecosystems Center at the MBL and has conducted research there since 1976. He specializes in the impacts of human activities on the biogeochemistry of terrestrial ecosystems. Melillo has studied carbon and nitrogen cycling in ecosystems across the globe, including arctic shrublands in northern Sweden, temperate forests in North America, and tropical forests and pastures in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. He holds a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Wesleyan University and an M.F.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University. From 1996 to 1997, Melillo served as the Associate Director for Environment in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and was the Director of the Ecosystems Studies Program for the National Science Foundation from 1986 to 1988. He is currently the President of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, the environmental assessment body of the International Council for Science. He was recently elected President of the Ecological Society of America and will begin his term this August. Melillo has served as a Trustee of the MBL and is currently on the Board of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. He serves on a number of advisory committees for national and international scientific organizations including the National Science Foundation’s Biological Sciences Directorate and the Swedish Royal Academy’s Arctic Research Program. His recent awards include a Distinguished Alumni Award from Wesleyan University and an honorary Professorship in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. His publication record includes more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, two ecology textbooks and three edited volumes on biogeochemistry.

The Friday Evening Lecture Series will continue throughout the summer at the MBL.  A complete listing of lectures can be found at http://www.mbl.edu/inside/what/news/events/events_friday.html


The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere.