July 5, 2013

Chris Field has been named co-recipient of the 2013 Max Planck Research Prize, one of Germany’s top science awards. Field, a member of the Stanford University faculty and director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology, shared the prize with Markus Reichstein of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany. Each prizewinner will receive 750,000 euros ($969,000) to finance their research and fund cooperation with other scientists working in Germany and abroad. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Berlin on Nov. 13.

The Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation award the research prize annually to a scientist in Germany and a scientist doing similar work in another country. Funding is provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Field and Reichstein were recognized for having "significantly increased our knowledge of how life on Earth responds to climate change, and what reactions can be anticipated between the biosphere and the atmosphere," according to a statement by the Max Planck Society. "Not only have they generated groundbreaking fundamental knowledge, their work also helps us to estimate the consequences of climate change for the people of the planet."

Field was cited for his California grasslands studies, which showed how individual plant productivity is altered by climate change. Much of the research was conducted at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, where Field serves as faculty director.

"The findings from these studies served as the experimental basis for Chris Field to represent biogeochemical and ecological relationships in global models, which can also be used to determine the influence of climate change on the biosphere,” the Planck Society statement said.  “Even today, this work is still considered groundbreaking for all subsequent models that reflect and predict the Earth system’s reactions to global change.

"Carbon sinks are constantly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Net primary production [of plants] is significant, not least because it enables the size of carbon sinks, such as forests, to be estimated. Field calculated the size of the carbon sinks in the USA, thereby solving the riddle of why the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rises at a slower rate than the volume of greenhouse gases released around the world by burning fossil fuels."

At Stanford, Field is the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system sciences, and a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy an at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He also co-chairs Working Group II of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and was a coordinating lead author of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Field received a PhD in biology from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University. In June, he was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers, one of two governing boards of the university.