UCI’s James Randerson is elected to National Academy of Sciences

Wed, 05/03/2017
Earth system scientist is honored for climate change studies

UCI Earth system scientist James Randerson, a new member of the National Academy of Sciences, uses satellite data and climate models to predict change in the planet’s various ecosystems.

Picture Credit: 
Steve Zylius / UCI
Brian Bell
UCI News

James Randerson, whose studies on the relationships among humans, the ecosystem and the environment have advanced our understanding of the effects of climate change, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

He is one of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates announced May 2 by the academy. Considered one of the highest honors in science, NAS membership is based on distinguished and continued achievements in original research.

“I am grateful to be recognized by the National Academy of Sciences and by the community,” said Randerson, a Chancellor’s Professor in the University of California, Irvine’s Department of Earth System Science. “The commitment to interdisciplinary environmental research here at UCI is remarkable and is a big factor in my ability to conduct research about the changing Earth system. I am also very thankful to my fellow faculty, colleagues, students and postdocs here.”

Physical sciences dean Kenneth Janda said he considers Randerson a key member of the Earth system science team at UCI, adding: “We are very fortunate that Professor Randerson has chosen the UCI School of Physical Sciences as his academic home. He has done groundbreaking work on the impact of climate change on ecosystems and has contributed significantly to improving the predictability of such effects.”

Janda noted that Randerson will soon helm UCI’s new Center for Geospatial Data Solutions for Climate & the Environment, with the goal of moving toward more reliable solutions to environmental problems and applying those solutions at a more local level.

UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said that Randerson’s research is making a difference in Southern California and around the world. “His work has influenced policymakers who are concerned about public safety, giving him a prominent place in the longstanding tradition of UCI scientists conducting research for the common good,” Gillman said.

“He joins more than 40 other current UCI faculty members who have been welcomed into one of the National Academies. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of his achievement.”

Randerson is well-known in the scientific community for his research into changes in the global carbon cycle, wildfires and climate change. His work has been instrumental in efforts to design effective solutions for sustainably managing ecosystems, including fire prediction.

He and his colleagues use remote sensing data from a network of NASA satellites, most notably the Earth-observing Aqua, Terra and Aura spacecraft; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory; the Gravity Recovery & Climate Experiment; and Landsat 8. His group employs a suite of models to interpret the data and assess future climate change scenarios.

“I feel that my work has gotten more engrossing over the years as my group has had access to increasingly richer remote sensing data and stronger models,” Randerson said. “These tools are giving us the ability to develop a real-time picture of what’s happening around the globe, which is enabling us to provide information to better inform policymakers, other academic researchers and agencies trying to manage ecosystems.”

The National Academy of Sciences has 2,290 active members, including 23 from UCI; nine of those are in the School of Physical Sciences.