Distinguished professor: Clark raises awareness of climate change impacts


Peter Clark has been teaching and leading research on climate change well before most people were even aware of it.

When Clark started teaching a baccalaureate core class on climate change 20 years ago, enrollment was small and awareness was low. Today, the course is oversubscribed, and students are much more informed about climate change issues.

“And that’s good because I tell them this is the defining issue of their generation,” Clark says.

With more than $4 million in research funding brought to Oregon State, Clark has studied glaciers and ice sheets — both those of today and from the distant past — to help determine what may be the long-term impacts of human-caused climate change, rising greenhouse gases and sea levels. Clark, his colleagues and students in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences have been monitoring Mount Hood’s Eliot Glacier and others in the Cascades Range since the 1980s.

Clark served as coordinating lead author for the chapter on sea-level rise for the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has more than 40 publications in Nature, Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the highest levels of publication in these journals among Oregon State faculty. Clark is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He was named a distinguished professor in 2016, the highest academic honor Oregon State University can bestow on a faculty member.

“Peter is renowned as an educator at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” says Roy Haggerty, interim dean of CEOAS and Hollis M Dole Professor of Environmental Geology. “Peter’s students have adopted his ‘big think’ approach to science and have gone on to very successful careers in science themselves.”

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