The position was created with a $1 million gift from The Kavli Foundation, which was founded by Santa Barbara entrepreneur Fred Kavli. The foundation donated the gift to the Department of Earth System Science so that an internationally prominent researcher in the geosciences could hold the new chair.
"Michael Prather's scientific contributions to our understanding of the atmospheric processes behind such phenomena as global warming makes him a fitting recipient of the Kavli Chair," said UCI Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone, who also is an Earth system science researcher. "He is a wonderful colleague and has been instrumental in building UCI's reputation as a leader in this vital scientific field."
"UCI has made an excellent appointment. Michael Prather's scientific accomplishments and expertise in global climate change make him ideally suited to be the first holder of this chair," Kavli said. "I am pleased to be a contributor to UCI's quest for excellence in Earth science."
Prather, who came to UCI in 1992 as a professor of Earth system science, has gained international recognition for research on atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as methane and ozone. In his work, he creates detailed mathematical models that simulate the physical, chemical and biological processes determining the composition of the atmosphere. With these computer models, he can predict the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and show how different human activities and natural factors can interact, leading to changes in the atmosphere that were not anticipated.
His research has proven essential in understanding how greenhouse gases impact global climate change as well as the role of ozone depleting gases. His work has been influential in the drafting of international environmental standards such as the Montreal and Kyoto protocols.
A member of the International Ozone Commission, Prather has participated in key United Nations' environmental efforts. He was lead author on a half-dozen U.N. assessments involving either ozone depletion or climate change, including the most recent reports from the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In addition, Prather regularly addresses both government and business groups and is a scientific participant in major global environmental summits.
"This is a great honor. As the first Fred Kavli Endowed Chair in Earth System Science, I take special pride in the opportunity that the position provides the department and its researchers," Prather said. "My own work would not have been as effective or far-reaching without the contributions of my colleagues."
Prather received undergraduate degrees in mathematics from Yale University and physics from Oxford University and a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics from Yale. Prior to joining the UCI faculty, he directed research at Harvard University and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. A fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, he served from 1997 through 2001 as editor-in-chief of Geophysical Research Letters, the leading journal in its field.
Kavli, president of Sunbelt Enterprises in Oxnard and founder and chairman of The Kavli Foundation, is one of the leading private supporters of scientific research in Southern California. His interest in UC Irvine's Department of Earth System Science stems from a broader interest in multidisciplinary science projects that involve multiple institutions and address major issues of the day. The Kavli Foundation has also made a significant grant to the UC Santa Barbara Institute for Theoretical Physics, which has been renamed The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and other grants to Southern California universities for the advancement of science and technology. Kavli also donated $100,000 toward construction of UCI's John V. Croul Hall, a 68,000-square-foot research center for the Department of Earth System Science.
Founded by Cicerone in 1989, the Department of Earth System Science has gained international attention for its research into atmospheric changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions, most notably F. Sherwood Rowland's findings on stratospheric ozone depletion, for which he received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. A 1998 analysis by the Institute for Scientific Information cited UCI as the university with the greatest impact in the field of geosciences.
UCI is a top-ranked public university dedicated to the principles of research, scholarship and community. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,200 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact that exceeds $2.65 billion.
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