Campbell Receives 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award


We are recognizing Dr. Elliott Campbell for his creative research in multiple areas of global environmental change. His contributions are more than just original research. Elliott’s creative use of the atmospheric trace gas carbonyl sulfide as a chemical analogue of carbon dioxide led him to make a major breakthrough in quantifying the “carbon–climate feedback” problem, which is one of the largest uncertainties in modeling the future trajectory of the greenhouse effect. Elliott did more than use carbonyl sulfide to measure photosynthesis. He also recognized that it could be used to falsify model calculations of the continental-scale carbon cycle.

A second area where Elliott has made brilliant contributions to understanding global environmental change is in life-cycle assessment, a discipline that evaluates the sustainability of policies and products. Most notable was his finding that land use constraints on bioenergy production create critical advantages for bioelectricity over ethanol. He found biomass electricity to be superior for both climate change mitigation and energy security goals, in comparison to the use of land and crops for ethanol production. His papers have become widely cited by science and policy communities, as well as the national and international press, in part because they focus on potential solutions to the land use impacts that are prominent in public discussions. His findings go well beyond solid contributions. They represent fresh insight from someone who digs deeper to link brilliant research with public policy.

The quality of Dr. Campbell’s research and the impact on his field, and on the nation and the global debate, over a sustainable future are exceptional. At a time when developing climate solutions is paramount, it is fitting that we recognize a leader whose pioneering work informs both research and workable policy.

—Roger Bales, University of California, Merced


Thank you, Roger, for your nomination and generous citation. Your remarkable contributions to science, sustainability, and service at UC Merced and beyond are a constant source of inspiration.

I am grateful for the work of the letter writers and the Global Environmental Change award committee for carrying out this honors program. Their selfless efforts help to encourage our scientists and invigorate our community to focus on the most important environmental problems of our time.

My deepest gratitude goes to the advisers who have led me to this point. Jeff Koseff hooked me on research as an undergraduate at Stanford. Jerry Schnoor, Charlie Stanier, and Greg Carmichael were exceptional graduate mentors at the University of Iowa. Chris Field not only offered extraordinary postdoc mentoring at Carnegie Institution but also provided proper refreshments from a bicycle blender.

I would not be here today without the many scientists I have had the great pleasure to work with and learn from. While there are too many to list, I want to make special mention of Joe Berry for sharing his warm spirit and brilliant vision and to the postdocs and students who are advancing science while striving to make AGU a more diverse and welcoming community.

One of the common traits that I’ve noticed in these inspiring scientists is confidence. Their confidence helps them to propose new hypotheses, to commit to a program of research in the face of criticism, to admit mistakes, and to share the credit of discoveries. My attempts to emulate this trait are possible only because of the love and support from my partner, Liz; my children, Hazel and Beatrice; and my parents, Toni and Scott.

Thank you again to AGU for this honor.

—Elliott Campbell, University of California, Santa Cruz