Monthly Newsletter – July 2015

Monthly Newsletter of WHRC

Dr. Philip DuffyWHRC Receives Top Ranking – Again!

Dr. Philip Duffy, President & Executive Director

As I hope you know by now, WHRC has been named the world’s #1 climate change think tank for the second year in a row. (I had been warning that when you are #1 there’s only one direction to go, but I guess we kicked that particular can down the road.) It’s wonderful to have this recognition, and the staff deserves tremendous credit for earning it. (I do not, however, since the ranking is based on work done in 2014, before I arrived here.)

The ranking by the International Center for Climate Governance is based on “the quality of a think tank in conducting research and its role in influencing climate and energy policy.” These two elements—conducting research and influencing policy—are exactly what WHRC tries to be good at. It’s difficult to succeed at either one, and even more difficult to do well at both. But for WHRC, these two elements are linked, because being good researchers is what gives us credibility in the policy world.

A great example of how that can work is our recent involvement in arctic policy. Because they are known as credible experts, WHRC scientists Max Holmes and Sue Natali were able to brief staff from Congress, the White House, and State Department on the importance of keeping permafrost frozen. The State Department in particular “got the message,” and we’re now advising them on policies that can impact the problem.

And by the way, the problem is big and scary. Permafrost contains enough carbon to cause truly catastrophic warming, and warming itself is causing that carbon to be released to the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change. It’s absolutely essential that this process not get out of control.

Although it may be the most apocalyptic, this is only one of the important problems that we think about every day at WHRC. It’s great to be recognized as being good at what we do, but what we’d really like the world to recognize is the importance and urgency of the problems we work on. Thanks as always for your interest and support.

WHRC #1 Climate Change Think Tank for Second Year Running

ICCGFor the second year in a row, WHRC has received top ranking as the world’s foremost think tank in the field of climate economics and policy. The award was created three years ago by the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG) to recognize exceptional organizations addressing global climate issues. In those three years, WHRC has ranked #3, #1, and #1. This year 244 think tanks were evaluated.

The ICCG is a scientific and socio-economic research institution focused on disseminating mitigation and adaptation policy and governance strategies to local, national and international policy makers and the general public. Excluding university-affiliated think tanks, the ICCG Think Tank Ranking classifies the most efficient think tanks using 15 different indicators, including events, number of IPCC authors, peer-reviewed journal articles and participation in selected international energy and climate conferences. The analysis includes both a Standardized Ranking, which considers per capita productivity, and an Absolute Ranking, which considers the overall productivity of think tanks. The award was determined based on the Standardized Ranking.

Following WHRC, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Resources for the Future, and the Basque Centre for Climate Change were ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. The full report is available for download here:

For more information about ICCG and this award, see:

WHRC welcomes PEP students Erica Valdez and Michelle Willis

The Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) was created to promote diversity in the Woods Hole scientific community. PEP is part of a wider science effort to broaden participation in science (STEM) and offers college juniors and seniors practical experience in marine and environmental science through a four-week course and a sixto ten-week field research project. As part of that program, WHRC has welcomed 2015 PEP students Erica Valdez of DePaul University and Michelle Willis of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.

Erica ValdezErica Valdez is working with Research Associate Kathleen Savage and Research Assistant Holly Hughes at Howland Forest in Maine, one of the longest running carbon measurement sites in the world. Erica is investigating greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) from the soils of this northern forest. Erica took a course in Estuaries and Oceanography, which was her first experience in “thinking like a scientist.” She has published two articles in DePaul Discoveries, the university’s undergraduate research journal.

Michelle WillisMichelle Willis is working with Research Associate Patrick Jantz studying the concentrations of mesopredators (mid sized mammals such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons) found around Falmouth. She has placed 13 motion activated still cameras in strategic locations in the hope of capturing wildlife activity. She will create a map of mesopredator distribution around Falmouth to understand some of the legacy effects of land fragmentation from road building and other development. She hopes to publish the results of her work with WHRC.

PEP was launched in 2009 by a consortium of institutions committed to increasing diversity in the Woods Hole science community. The 2015 program runs from May 30 to August 8. For more information about the program:

WHRC in the News, Publications, and Events

WHRC in the News

Associate Scientist Alessandro Baccini and Postdoctoral Fellow Johanne Pelletier presented three WHRC papers at the “Our Common Future under Climate Change” conference in Paris, France. The event was part of the lead-up to the next international climate conference (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Paris in December.

Senior Scientist Richard Houghton‘s paper “Carbon emissions from land use and land-cover change” is among the top 10 most cited Biogeosciences articles of 2014.


The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, increasing arctic shrub growth and further exacerbating climate change. Research Assistant Kevin Guay and colleagues co-authored a new study, published in Nature Climate Change, which measures, as the title suggests, “Climate sensitivity of shrub growth across the tundra biome.” The team found that shrub growth is most sensitive to climate in the parts of the tundra biome where the greatest climate change impacts are expected to occur.

A new paper led by Research Assistant Seth Spawn is the first to quantify the amount of carbon dioxide and methane released as a byproduct of the processing of terrestrial carbon by streams and rivers in the Arctic. The paper, published in Inland Waters, suggests that warming temperatures could lead to greater greenhouse gas releases from arctic streams and rivers.

Associate Scientist Jonathan Sanderman co-authored a paper published in Geoderma, which examined rates of decomposition and greenhouse gas emissions of different forms of soil organic carbon under a warming climate, an issue which has huge ramifications for the carbon balance of a warming world. This study demonstrated an important interaction between organic chemistry and microbial community structure in controlling the fate of stable soil carbon.

Published in the Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, a new paper co-authored by Assistant Scientist Marcia Macedo and Senior Scientist Michael Coe discusses how the conversion of forest to agriculture in the central Amazon has affected the hydrology of the region. Using data collected at the Fazenda Tanguro research station and from computer model simulations, the authors found that converting natural vegetation to agriculture triples streamflow in the farm fields compared to that of the native forest due to a 40% reduction in evaporation in fields.

Mosses are an important component of tundra ecosystems, but there is still considerable uncertainty about how tundra moss communities will respond to climate change. A new paper co-authored by Assistant Scientist Susan Natali examines the response of mosses to experimental permafrost thaw, air warming and soil warming in the subarctic tundra in Alaska. The paper, published in Ecosystems, finds that warming may lead to changes in tundra moss community, which can alter tundra carbon and nitrogen cycling.


Please join us on Thursday, July 23, at 5:30 pm for a community lecture, “Flexing Their BICEPs: How leading businesses are working to stabilize the climate.” Anne Kelly, Senior Director of the Policy Program at Ceres, a nonprofit that seeks to mobilize investor and business leadership to build a more sustainable global economy, will lead the conversation. RSVP to or 508-444-1521.

WHRCtreeWoods Hole Research Center is an independent research institution where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration, and economic development around the globe.