Marsh Award for Climate Change Research

This Award recognises an ecologist from anywhere in the world who has made an outstanding contribution to climate change research.

Entries for the Award are judged by a Nomination Committee who consider the following criteria:

  • An outstanding body of research which is making a significant and demonstrable impact on the understanding of how climate change influences ecological systems or processes;
  • An excellent publications record in the climate change and ecological research literature;
  • Invitations to speak at international conferences;
  • Service on national and international committees/advisory boards related to climate change.


Pictured above: Professor Chris Thomas, winner of the 2011 Marsh Award for Climate Change Research.

Professor Ruth S. DeFries 2021

Ruth is the co-founding Dean at Columbia Climate School and Denning University and is a Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University, New York. Her areas of expertise include climate change, land use and tropical forests; conservation; social-ecological systems; sustainability science.

She uses images from satellites and field surveys to examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes affect climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, as well as human development. She has also developed innovate education programmes in sustainable development and has published over 100 scientific papers and 2 books.

Previous Winners

Dr Wendy Foden

Wendy is the General Manager of South African National Parks’ Cape Research Centre and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. She is a conservation biologist, best known for her work on climate change impacts on biodiversity. Her main research areas include climate change vulnerability assessment, adaption planning, biodiversity monitoring and indicators, African conservation, and systems ecology. She has a specific interest in translating science for a practical conservation use and in fostering conservation leadership.  

Since 2012, Wendy has chaired a group of 50 experts from around the world that provides guidance to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission. This group won the prestigious Chair’s Citation of Excellence award and in 2019, Wendy won the George Rabb Award for Conservation Innovation in Abu Dhabi.  

Dr Susan Trumbore

Susan is an award-winning earth systems scientist focusing on the carbon cycle and its effects on climate. She is especially recognised for her research on the application of radiocarbon to study the dynamics of carbon cycling in plants and soils and how this is modified by climate change. Using radiocarbon, she has demonstrated rapid exchange between soil carbon and atmospheric carbon dioxide driven by temperature change, and provided novel estimates of residence times, sequestration rates and partitioning fluxes of soil carbon. This work has laid the foundation for much of our current understanding of how soil organic matter responds to global environmental change in a range of ecosystems.

Susan is a director at the Max Panck Institute for Biogeochemistry and a Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California. She has been recognised with a fellowship in the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, membership in the National Academy of Sciences, and receiving the Benjamin Franklin medal.

Professor Josep Peñuelas

Josep Peñulas is a Research Professor at the National Research Council of Spain and the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF). He is a highly cited scientist in ecology, plant and animal sciences, agricultural sciences, geosciences and many other fields.

Recently, Josep has focused his research on glocal ecology and change, climate change, atmospheric pollution, environmental sustainability and food security, among other things. He has made many outstanding contributions to these fields including:

• Discovery of ecophysiological mechanisms linked to the carbon and oxygen use that help to explain species distribution
• The development of increasingly used remote sensing techniques to assess plant and ecosystem functioning and climate change impacts
• The report of current evidences of global change, climate change, and air pollution interactions with the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems
• The study of biochemistry, function and effects of the emissions of the volatile organic compounds by plants and ecosystems, the introduction of metabolomics in field ecology, as well as the development of policies for environmental protection and sustainable development.

Richard Pearson

Richard Pearson has pioneered analytical methods to measure the risk of extinction faced by species under climate change. His work incorporates ecological theory into cutting-edge analytical models, using modern GIS approaches, and has influenced science, policy and public interest in climate change and species extinctions from rapid environmental change.

Richard’s research focuses on the biogeography of animals and plants, especially considering the impacts of climate change. He bases his work in ecological and evolutionary theory and employs a range of computational technologies, including Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and ecological modelling. He is especially concerned with undertaking analyses that will support the development of effective conservation strategies in a time of rapid global environmental change.

He was a pioneer in studying the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, undertaking some of the earliest work on the relationships between ecological niches, climatic variation and geographic distributions.

Richard has been identified as one of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers in the field of Environment/Ecology. He has been Principal Investigator on research projects funded by the US National Science Foundation and by NASA, and his doctoral and postdoctoral research was funded through the European Commission. Richard is a Subject Editor for the journal Global Change Biology and an Associate Editor for Journal of Biogeography. He serves on the steering committee for the IUCN Species Survival Commission Climate Change Specialist Group, is a contributing author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is a member of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s Peer Review College.

Yadvinder Malhi and Professor Bridget Emmett

Professor Yadvinder Malhi

Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests. His work focuses on understanding the ecosystem ecology of tropical forests and how this will change as a result of global atmospheric change and direct anthropogenic change, and conversely how tropical forest conservation can assist in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

Yadvinder’s research employs a range of tools from intensive field studies through to satellite monitoring and ecosystem modelling. His work has focussed largely on Amazonia, where he was the co-founder of RAINFOR forest plots network and the ABERG elevation transect in the Andes. More recently his research has spread to the forests of Africa and Asia, and he has designed (and leads) the Global Ecosystems Monitoring network of intensive forest monitoring sites across the topics.

More generally, Yadvinder is interested in understanding how the resilience and viability of the tropical forest biome in the context of the Anthropocene can be maximised, and in strengthening the scientific capacity of tropical forest nations to understand and manage ecosystems through the climate change and other challenges of the 21st century.

Professor Bridget Emmett

Bridget Emmett has 25 years of experience working in the environment research sector. Her initial training was in plant science, in which she received a first class honours degree from the University of Aberdeen, before she moved into soil ecology for her postgraduate studies, receiving a PhD from Exeter University.

She joined the Natural Environment Research Council’s Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in 1988, which later merged with three sister institutes to become the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Bridget was appointed as the Head of Bangor in 2001, and has since doubled the size of the staff and student numbers there and moved the operation into a new purpose built ‘green building’ to deliver integrated ecosystem science across the land-marine interface.

Bridget initially specialised in air pollution impacts before moving on to climate change impacts, and most recently land management, ecosystem services and natural capital. Her work frequently focusses on integration across disciplines and land-water-air interfaces, working with a large number of generous and inspiring collaborators. Bridget’s research has had a strong policy and applied focus, helping to improve the evidence base for policy development, assessing policy outcomes and developing tools and approaches to improve decision making supported by Research Councils UK, Defra, devolved administrations, public agencies, the EU and industry.

Professor Camille Parmesan

Camille Parmesan’s research focuses on the current impacts of climate change on wildlife and she works in collaboration with a number of governmental agencies and NGOs to develop tools and strategies aimed at preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change.

Camille is a Professor at the Marine Institute at Plymouth University and a Professor in Geological Sciences at the University of Texas. She has received a number of scientific awards, including being ranked the second most highly cited author in the field of Climate Change from 1999 to 2009.

Professor Peter Smith

Peter Smith has a key interest in science that helps to address the impacts of climate change on real world problems and helps to make complex scientific knowledge accessible to non-scientific stakeholders. He also conducts research on environmental and agricultural sustainability, the global carbon cycle, food security, ecosystem services and bioenergy.

As well as conducting extensive research, Peter also encourages the use of science in policy through his role as Science Director of Scotland’s ClimateXChange and through his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for over 20 years.

Johan Rockström

Johan Rockström is internationally renowned in Climate Change research and policy, through his leadership of the Stockholm Environmental Institute from 2004-2012, and his innovative ideas surrounding the Planetary Boundaries framework for human development in the face of rapid global change.

Joan has published over 100 scientific papers and has received national accolades for his innovative and influential work on environmental issues. He is also Vice-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chairs the visioning process on global environmental change of ICSU, the Future Earth transition team.

Professor Steve Long

Steve Long’s work focuses on linking plant responses to climate change. His research on climate change has been directed towards understanding the mechanisms of plant responses to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and the thinning of the ozone.

Steve is working towards establishing the potential for the moderation of atmospheric change through the use of herbaceous energy crops which can be harvested and then used as an alternative source of renewable energy.

Professor Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas is one of the UK’s leading conservation biologists working on human impacts on ecological systems. His inspiring and influential research focuses on how climate change and land use change will affect the distributions of species on the landscape and rates of survival and extinction amongst organisms.

Chris and his team have been responsible for some remarkable insights into how climate change affects organisms and what the impact may be for global extinctions and is heavily involved in discussions about what can be done to prevent them.

Professor Ian Woodward

Ian Woodward has over 40 years’ experience in research and teaching on plant science and ecology, the majority of which has focused on climate change, long before the critical importance of the issue was known globally.

Ian produces prolific and important research, writing over 200 publications and helping to train hundreds of students, some of whom have gone on to become distinguished scientists in their own right. He has been a member of numerous grant panels, editorial boards and international scientific committees, contributing to a long and distinguishes record of service to the scientific community.

Professor John Grace

John Grace is Professor of Environmental Biology at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a former president of the British Ecological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has designed, led and taught many MSc programmes, and currently leads a research MSc in Global Environmental Change.

John’s earlier work focused on aspects of plant physiology as influenced by the natural environment and his current research areas include carbon fluxes in disturbed forests; carbon dioxide sinks in the tropics; savanna ecosystems; methane fluxes from tropical ecosystems; innovation in instrumentation for measuring plant-atmosphere interactions. He has published over 300 papers and chapters in peer-reviewed international journals and symposia, edited or authored ten books, and was the founder co-editor of Functional Ecology.