USDA Forest Service research scientists share in Nobel Prize

December 10, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. December 10, 2007. The October announcement that several PNW Research Station scientists shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, came as a surprise to many employees. Even to the winners.

Ralph Alig, Ron Neilson, and David L. Peterson, co-recipients of the Prize with former Vice-President Al Gore, were recognized for their work on the climate change synthesis report as members of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel was honored for its efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about human-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Alig, along with Neilson, contributed to the 1998 Special Report on Regional Impacts. "My contributions centered on the team's development of a large-scale model to examine opportunities in forestry and agriculture to sequester greenhouse gases," explains Alig, team leader for Land Use and Land Cover Dynamics. "We continue to enhance the model [and to] examine adaptation and mitigation opportunities."

"An e-mail was sent around the office," recalls Neilson about how he learned of the announcement, "but at first, I didn't put two and two together. It's still a bit of a shock. It's still sinking in." The Mapped Atmosphere-Plant-Soil-System Model developed by Neilson and his team was part of the report on regional impacts of climate change. The model helps predict vegetation distribution, growth, and disturbance dynamics under current and future climatic conditions.

Peterson says he heard the announcement about the Nobel Prize while driving in the Colorado Rockies after attending a climate change meeting. Peterson, team leader for Fire and Environmental Research Applications, contributed research findings on understanding the effects of climate on fire and other ecosystem disturbances. "It's great that the scientific community can work together across disciplines and borders to address the issue of climate change," says Peterson who is a member of the 1995 Second Assessment Report, Working Group II. "It seems appropriate; shows what the international scientific community can do when focused on a critical issue that affects everyone on the planet."
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The IPCC was founded in 1988 in Geneva, Switzerland. The IPCC reports are written by teams of authors from all over the world who are recognized experts in their fields.

The panel was created in response to a growing concern about the risk of anthropogenic climate change. The General Assembly of the United Nations asked the two UN bodies most engaged in the issue, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, to set up the panel to provide balanced, objective information to policymakers. About 11 Forest Service scientists contributed to the IPCC report, according to Al Solomon, the Forest Service's National Program Leader for Global Change Research.

To read the entire IPCC report, visit www.ipcc.ch/. Al Gore received the prize today during ceremonies in Oslo, Norway. The ceremony will be streamed on the Nobel Prize Web site www.nobelprize.org.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. It has 11 laboratories located in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and about 500 employees.

USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station

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