Earth Institute Staff Directory

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)

The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) is a laboratory in the Earth Sciences Division (ESD) of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The ESD is part of GSFC's Sciences and Exploration Directorate.

Following approval by NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan in December 1960, the institute was established by Dr. Robert Jastrow in May 1961 (originally as the New York City office of GSFC's Theoretical Division) to do basic research in space sciences in support of GSFC programs. Research areas included the structure of Earth, Moon, and other planetary bodies; the atmospheres of Earth and the other planets; the origin and evolution of the solar system; the properties of interplanetary plasma; Sun-Earth relations; and the structure and evolution of stars. The institute was sited in New York on the premise that conducting theoretical research in the space sciences would be facilitated by being near the leading universities in the greater metropolitan area. Further, it was thought that the location would promote interest at the universities in NASA programs.

The institute's early study of the Earth and planetary atmospheres using data collected by satellites and space probes eventually led to GISS becoming a leading center of atmospheric modeling and of climate change. Led by Dr. James E. Hansen from 1981 to 2013, research at GISS emphasized a broad study of global change, which is an interdisciplinary initiative addressing natural and man-made changes in our environment that occur on various time scales — from one-time forcings such as volcanic explosions, to seasonal/annual effects such as El Niño, and on up to the millennia of ice ages — and that affect the habitability of our planet. In 2014, Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt was named chief of GISS.