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Ruth DeFries

Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University

Ruth  DeFries

RUTH DEFRIES is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. She uses images from satellites and field surveys to examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes affect climate, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services, as well as human development. She has also developed innovate education programs in sustainable development. DeFries was elected as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, one of the country’s highest scientific honors; received a MacArthur “genius” award; and is the recipient of many other honors for her scientific research. She has authored over 100 scientific papers, and she is also committed to communicating the nuances and complexities of sustainable development to popular audiences, most recently through her book The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis. DeFries is committed to linking science with policy, and has done so through activities such as her involvement with the High Carbon Stock study on sustainable palm oil, the Environmental Defense Fund, Science for Nature and People, and reconciling conservation and development in central India.