Peter Reich is an ecologist recognized for his research on plants and ecosystems across a range of scales. He is known for working with collaborative networks to develop three new directions in the field of ecology: (1) functional biogeography, (2) global change biology and (3) biodiversity and ecosystem functioning research. Reich has been instrumental in turning the largely descriptive comparative biogeography sensu von Humboldt and Schimper into a modern quantitative science, and in developing ecologically realistic, and physiologically and biogeochemically rigorous, experiments testing plant and ecosystem response to rising carbon dioxide, climate warming, changing rainfall patterns, and to loss of biodiversity. He is also well regarded for translating knowledge across hierarchical, temporal and spatial scales, and helping incorporate such knowledge into models at continental to global scales. Reich received a B.A. degree in creative writing and physics from Goddard College, Plainfield VT (1973); a M.S. from University of Missouri (1977); and a Ph.D. from Cornell University (1983). He has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin (1985-1991) and the University of Minnesota (1991- present). He also helped found and nurture a new research institute, the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, at Western Sydney University, Australia. Reich is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Laureate in Ecology and Conservation Biology.

Research Interests

Reich's research addresses a wide variety of questions in physiological, community and ecosystem ecology, global change biology, and the sustainability of managed and unmanaged terrestrial ecosystems. He wants to know how and why individuals, species and ecosystems are similar or differ in their properties, structure and function, across the range of historical and anthropogenic conditions they face; and what the implications of this are for people, nature and the planet. His work focuses regionally on the forests and grasslands of mid-North America and globally on terrestrial ecosystems in general. This includes helping to advance the field of trait-based global ecology, running long-term experimental field studies of climate change and biodiversity loss effects on grasslands and forests; observational studies using field and inventory data; and advancing the incorporation of biological realism into complex global carbon cycling models. Reich also is interested in communicating about science and global environmental change to policy makers, the press, and the public, including through the science education video channel ?MinuteEarth?.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology