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New Collaborative for the Earth to Be Led by Heather Lynch

Stony brook, ny; stony brook university: science on stage member heather lynch
Stony brook, ny; stony brook university: science on stage member heather lynch
Heather Lynch

The recently announced Collaborative for the Earth at Stony Brook University will be led by a renowned researcher who uses quantitative ecology to address pressing issues and questions related to wildlife in Antarctica in the face of climate change and human activity.

Heather Lynch will serve as the inaugural director of the Collaborative for the Earth, following an internal search conducted by the Provost’s Office. Lynch is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the first Endowed Chair for Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science.

“Dr. Lynch has an ideal combination of experiences that make her especially well-suited to this role,” said Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president. “She’s a prolific and interdisciplinary researcher, a skilled public communicator, and a highly respected member of the Stony Brook community who is eager to partner across the university to harness collective strengths to address the effects of multiple crises facing the health of the planet.”

As director of the Collaborative for the Earth, Lynch will play a key role in realizing the vision to establish Stony Brook as a global leader in pursuit of solutions toward a thriving, healthy Earth. The Collaborative for the Earth is an “action tank” for facilitating university-wide research, education, and public/policy engagement on global-scale environmental crises.

One of the first priorities for the Collaborative for the Earth is hosting an international forum series on Earth system challenges designed to place Stony Brook at the forefront of thought and action, and guiding campus-wide conversations on how to maximize our potential in defining and implementing solutions to global environmental challenges.

“I am thrilled to be named the Collaborative’s inaugural director and humbled by the challenges we face as global citizens trying to address our many environmental challenges,” Lynch said. “Stony Brook University is well-positioned to lead the way forward in creative and interdisciplinary problem solving, and the enthusiasm of the faculty and students is palpable.”

Her research sits at the intersection of statistical ecology, geography, applied math, and computer science. A core part of her lab’s research activities are their efforts to understand the dynamics of Antarctic wildlife, primarily but not exclusively Antarctic penguins, in the face of climate change, fishing, and tourism.

Lynch has been awarded over $10 million in grant funding from federal (NSF, NASA), NGO (Pew Foundation), and industrial (Microsoft, National Geographic) sponsors for her work at the interface of remote sensing and computer vision and ecological theory. In 2019, she was awarded the Blavatnik National Award for Life Sciences, the world’s largest unrestricted prize for young scientists, becoming the first ecologist and the first Stony Brook faculty member ever to be awarded this honor. Other recent honors include being named a Pew Marine Conservation Fellow and a AAAS Leshner Leader Institute Public Engagement Fellows.

She has made numerous media appearances across television and print, including the New York Times, BBC News, Animal Planet, PBS, CBS, NBC, and National Geographic.

She received her A.B. in physics from Princeton University in 2000, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the American Physical Society’s LeRoy Apker Award for the best undergraduate physics thesis in the US. She completed her master’s in physics and Ph.D. in organismal and evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

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