Climate/Paleontology Resesarcher Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Climate/Paleontology Resesarcher Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Paul E. Olsen, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Membership, given for excellence in original scientific work, is one of the highest honors for a scientist or engineer in the United States. He will be inducted in April 2009 at the Academy’s 146th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., along with 71 others.

“Everyone at Lamont-Doherty is proud of Paul's achievement. His election to the National Academy of Sciences is an appropriate and timely recognition of the fundamental contributions that he has made to the understanding of our earth,” said G. Michael Purdy, director of Lamont-Doherty, which is part of Columbia’s Earth Institute.

Two other Columbia scientists also received the honor this year. David Hirsh, the university’s executive vice president for research, said, “Columbia has a long tradition of scientific research excellence. It is a proud day to see another three of our faculty recognized.” Columbia now has 41 members elected to the Academy. The other two elected this year are Gary Struhl, a professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Carol Prives, the DaCosta Professor and former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Olsen is the Storke Memorial Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences. His overall research focus is on the evolution of continental ecosystems, especially the pattern, causes and effects of climate change on geological time scales. He also studies mass extinctions and the effects of evolution on biogeochemical cycles, including the cycling of carbon. His recent projects have included drilling and studying 22,600 feet of core from 210 million-year-old lake beds to understand the influence of variations of the earth's orbit on climate; analysis of the mass extinction 201 million years ago that led to the dominance of dinosaurs; and excavations at major fossil vertebrate sites throughout North America and Morocco. The author of over 170 publications, he has also appeared in numerous documentaries on the history of life and climate. He earned a B.A. in geology and a Ph.D. in biology, both from Yale University.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the Academy has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. For more information, and the full list of newly elected members, visit