On November 14, the University of Maryland announced the creation of the Council on the Environment, and named Director of ESSIC, Antonio Busalacchi, as the council chair.
In a memo sent by Provost Ann Wylie and Vice President for Research Patrick O’Shea to Deans, Directors and Department Chairs at the University of Maryland, they noted that, “The Council on the Environment will serve as an advisory group on research, education, outreach, and economic development related to the environment.”
The new council aims to encourage the involvement of many different departments at the university as well as outside organizations in hopes of pushing Maryland to the front of developments in environmental and earth system science.
“We’re trying to make ourselves more competitive, more visible and position ourselves to do the trans-disciplinary research that society is asking us to do these days,” said Busalacchi, who noted that the council would affect many different departments on campus. “Clearly the hope is that the council will be a forum to advance the work of not just ESSIC but all of the environmental relevant departments, groups and centers on campus.”
The Council on the Environment will have both national and international impact. On the national level, the council will support the goals of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) which aims to address the advances for understanding the Earth system as well as its interaction with the human system. The council will also help the University of Maryland get involved with the international Earth System Sustainability initiative which aims to help countries around the world meet goals for the progress of sustainability in their country.
“For me, it’s a spectrum,” said Busalacchi about the way in which the council is expected to address issues right here at the University of Maryland as well as those on national and international levels. “I think it’s a spectrum here at home, nationally and internationally. I think we have to be good citizens in all three of those areas. And, we do have legitimate expertise in all of those areas. In some sense, we have a responsibility to take advantage of this expertise and take what we have to the next level.”
This council has been in the works for some time, said Busalacchi. The council was actually first brought up about two years ago in a step to determine the direction that environmental science on campus should be going. As it progressed, Busalacchi was approached to take the position as chair of the council.
So far, part of Busalacchi’s actions as chair of the council have included hiring Cathy Stephens who will play an important role in the communications and coordination activities of the council.
Stephens said that part of her job will include reaching out to different departments to communicate the impact that the council can have on the broader community.
Stephens previously worked in the U.S. CLIVAR office and will transition from working on an agency level to a university level.
“My next step would be to get the website up and running and some blogs and hopefully some promotional material about the council and what the council can do for the university,” said Stephens.
With the November announcement of the council and Busalacchi’s chair appointment, the council is progressing steadily, and one of the next steps is to find people to actually sit on the council.
“I’ve just recently met with most of the deans,” said Busalacchi. “In early January, I’ll be approaching people and asking if they’d be interested in sitting on the council. Then, we want to start raising the awareness across campus.”
(Related: See ESSIC News Highlight on the chair appointment.)