New Leadership Appointed to the Princeton Environmental Institute

Holly Welles ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute
François M. M. Morel
Francois M. M. Morel – New Director of Princeton Environmental Institute and the Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences.

Two members of the Princeton University faculty have been appointed to leadership positions at the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). François M. M. Morel, the Albert G. Blanke, Jr. Professor of Geosciences and renowned marine scientist, has been named director of PEI. Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Kelly K. Caylor, has been appointed director of the Program in Environmental Studies (ENV Program).

Morel succeeds Stephen W. Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who recently completed a nine year term as director from 2005 to 2014.

“As PEI celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, François is the right person at the right time to oversee the next phase of PEI. Having previously directed the Institute from 1998 to 2005 and subsequently serving on its executive committee, he has a strong grasp of the Institute’s ongoing research and teaching initiatives,” said Deborah Prentice, dean of the faculty and the Alexander Stewart Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. “In addition, his stature as a world leader in oceanography and aquatic ecosystem research, combined with his passion for teaching, make him eminently qualified to play a leading role in shaping the next phase of environmental research and teaching at Princeton.”

Morel came to Princeton in 1994 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he served on the faculty since 1973. At Princeton, he joined the Department of Geosciences and was jointly appointed in PEI as its first faculty member. Four years later, in 1998, he was appointed PEI Director.

In his previous term, Morel spearheaded several initiatives that were formative in establishing PEI’s research and teaching programs.  Among those were garnering the financial and institutional support to enhance the undergraduate program in environmental studies and related undergraduate lab curriculum and the establishment of two major research centers within PEI: the Center for Environmental Bio-Inorganic Chemistry in 1998 and the Carbon Mitigation Initiative in 2000. In collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, Morel oversaw the creation of the PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Fellowship Program and two visiting professorships — the Currie C. and Thomas A. Visiting Professorship in the Environment and Humanities and a Visiting Professorship in Environmental Economics. These initiatives have facilitated ties between the environmental sciences and the humanities and social sciences at Princeton.

Morel earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Grenoble, France, and his Ph.D. in engineering science from the California Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettre ed Arti, and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geochemical Society. Among his awards are the Patterson Medal from the Geochemical Society in 2001, the Urey Medal from the American Geophysical Union in 2005, the 2010 Eni Environmental Award from the Eni Foundation, and the 2012 Dickson Prize in the Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University.

Morel’s current research focuses on the interaction of trace metals and microorganisms in the environment with particular emphasis on the role of metals in the global cycles of carbon and nitrogen in marine and terrestrial systems. Morel is an active participant with the Grand Challenges Program with projects exploring the biological effects of ocean acidification and the response of polar marine systems to global change. As a principal investigator in the CMI carbon science group, Morel studies the impact of global change on high-latitude phytoplankton.

Kelly K. Caylor
Kelly K. Caylor – New Director of Program in Environmental Studies and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Caylor joined the Princeton faculty in 2007 from Indiana University where he was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography. As Director of the ENV Program, he succeeds Lars O. Hedin, professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who led the Program from 2010 to 2014.

Through his research, Caylor examines how land use and climate change affect global drylands with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. He is developing new methods for using stable isotopes in water to improve the measurement and prediction of ecosystem water use efficiencies under varying pastoral land tenure regimes and subsistence agricultural practices. He is designing and deploying low-cost environmental sensors for improved monitoring of agriculture and ecosystem function. Along with David Wilcove, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs, Caylor leads ENV 201 Fundamentals of Environmental Studies: Population, Land Use, Biodiversity and Energy. Like Morel, Caylor has been active with the Grand Challenges Program including several investigations involving water, land use, and climate impacts affecting  drought and ecosystem function.

Caylor earned his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Virginia. He received Early Career Awards from both the National Science Foundation and the American Geophysical Union.

“Princeton has been fortunate to have Steve Pacala and Lars Hedin in leadership roles at PEI over the past several years,” said Prentice. “As the baton passes to François and Kelly, I have no doubt that PEI will continue to thrive and to make significant contributions toward addressing today’s most urgent environmental challenges.”