MIT Environmental Research Council

September 24, 2008

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the appointment of the MIT Environmental Research Council. The Council is part of the response to the report of the special committee appointed by the Provost and Chancellor in 2007 and chaired by Professor Maria Zuber (EAPS) to assess our research and teaching activities related to the environment. The report ("Creating a Sustainable Earth: An MIT Research, Teaching, and Public Service Initiative for Understanding, Restoring and Managing the Environment") can be found here.

The central recommendation of the Zuber report is that MIT should launch a research initiative focused on the development of new insights into Earth's natural systems to support science, technology, design, policy, and management of interventions that advance environmental sustainability. This approach links our past research strength to the frontier where important new opportunities for discovery exist.

Professor Dara Entekhabi (CEE) will serve as chair of the Council. The first task of the new Council will be to develop an Institute-wide Environmental Initiative. A proposal for this new initiative is due by February 15, 2009. This proposed program would become the core of a major new initiative for which we will seek funding.

In addition to Professor Entekhabi, the members of the new Council are:

Sallie (Penny) Chisholm - CEE
Michael Greenstone - Economics
Judith A. Layzer - DUSP
John C. Marshall - EAPS
Dianne K. Newman - Biology
Daniel G. Nocera - Chemistry
Martin F. Polz - CEE Ronald G. Prinn - EAPS
Daniel H. Rothman - EAPS
John Sterman - Sloan
J. Phillip Thompson - DUSP
James Wescoat - Architecture

The Council will take a global perspective on the environment. In this regard, it will build on the existing momentum of the MIT Earth System Initiative (ESI) that was established in 2002. The ESI will continue its activities as one of the Environmental Initiative goals of breaking new ground on the science and stewardship of the global environment.

The Council will also engage faculty in all schools and departmental programs, particularly those focused on environmental research and education. The Council will consult with the MIT Energy Initiative on important areas of interface, including especially educational programs. The Council will engage various student organizations interested in the environment, both from the point of view of education and research.

Full information about the Council and its charge can be found at We expect the MIT Environmental Research Council to have a life of five years and may be renewed. At the end of each year, the Council will submit a report and the administration will review the charge and the membership of the Council.

We thank Professor Entekhabi, and all the faculty members of the Environmental Research Council, for their willingness to serve in this important activity.


L. Rafael Reif

Phillip L. Clay