Dr. William H. Schlesinger is President Emeritus (2007-2014) of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Before coming to the Institute, he served in a dual capacity at Duke University, as both the James B. Duke Professor of Biogeochemistry and Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.
A graduate of Dartmouth College (A.B.) and Cornell University (PhD.), he has been investigating the link between environmental chemistry and global climate change for over 30 years. His recent work focuses on understanding how trees and soil influence atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
He is the author or coauthor of over 200 scientific papers on subjects of environmental chemistry and global change and the widely-adopted textbook Biogeochemistry: An analysis of global change (Academic Press, 2nd ed. 1997). He has published editorials and columns in the Charlotte Observer, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Raleigh News and Observer.
Schlesinger was among the first to quantify the amount of carbon held in soil organic matter globally, providing subsequent estimates of the role of soils and human impacts on forests and soils in global climate change. He was elected a member of The National Academy of Sciences in 2003, and was President of the Ecological Society of America for 2003-2004. He is also a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the Soil Science Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
His past work has taken him to diverse habitats, ranging from Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Mojave Desert of California, and three times as a Duke alumni tour guide to Antarctica. His research has been featured on NOVA, CNN, NPR, and on the pages of Discover, National Geographic, the New York Times, and Scientific American. Schlesinger has testified before U.S. House and Senate Committees on a variety of environmental issues, including preservation of desert habitats, global climate change and carbon sequestration.
Schlesinger currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (New York), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC; New York), and the Southern Environmental Law Center (Charlottesville) and on the Board of Scientific Advisors for Terrapass LLC (San Francisco).