James Syvitski, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been named the chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. Syvitski will lead the Scientific Committee, IGBP's main decision-making body. His appointment begins Jan. 1, 2012.
Syvitski is the executive director of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System and former director of INSTAAR (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research). He has authored and co-authored numerous publications and has been involved in IGBP projects since the organization's inception in 1987.
IGBP's vision is to provide essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society onto a sustainable pathway during rapid global change. The international research program is sponsored by the International Council for Science.
"The defining research question of our age is how do we manage the Earth system – the planet's physical, chemical, biological and social components – responsibly, whilst feeding, clothing and protecting a population predicted to grow to nine billion people? IGBP and its partners are at the center of this research," Syvitski said.
The coastal-zone researcher is widely regarded as a leader in Earth-system science. He specializes in research on rivers, deltas, polar environments, sediment transport and continental margins. More than half of the planet's population lives on the coasts, making research in Syvitski's areas of expertise a priority for international research programs.
In 2009, Syvitski and colleagues published an influential paper revealing that most of the world's major deltas are sinking, largely as a result of human influence including mining, water extraction and damming.