Science Committee

The Science Committee ensures that Future Earth science is of the highest quality and makes recommendations on new and existing projects, as well as emerging priorities for research.

The committee provides guidance on new activities for Future Earth, oversees the transition of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS activities into Future Earth and has secured a strong partnership with the WCRP community. The Science Committee comprises 18 members, including a Chair and two vice-Chairs, representing the full spectrum of global environmental change science from natural science to social sciences, humanities and engineering. Future Earth is committed to gender and geographical balance.

Mark Stafford Smith - Chair

Dr Mark Stafford Smith coordinates adaptation and global change research in CSIRO, Australia’s strategic-applied national research organisation. He oversees a highly interdisciplinary programme of research on many aspects of adapting to global change. He has more than 30 years’ experience in drylands systems ecology, management and policy, including senior roles such as Program Leader of CSIRO’s Centre for Arid Zone Research in Alice Springs, and then CEO of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre. During this time he was a task leader under the Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems core project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). He was also a key contributor to the AridNET international network of drylands researchers that devised the Dryland Development Paradigm. In the past decade his research focus has turned more to adaptation to climate change, particularly at the national policy level. He was an ICSU-appointed member and vice-chair of IGBP’s Scientific Committee from 2003-2009. He also served as co-chair of the “Planet Under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions” conference on global environmental change in the lead up to Rio+20 in 2012. He sits on a variety of advisory boards and is now in his second (and final) 2 year term as chair of the Science Committee.

Belinda Reyers - Vice-Chair

Belinda ReyersDr Belinda Reyers is a Chief Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Stellenbosch, South Africa where she leads the Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Research Group. Her research, student supervision and policy inputs focus on ecosystem services: their condition, management and links to social development and poverty alleviation, as well as the implications of global change for these relationships. She is also an extraordinary Associate Professor in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and a senior research fellow of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden. Dr Reyers is a Board Member of the Society for Conservation Biology: Africa Section, a Scientific Committee member of DIVERSITAS and co-chair of the working group on Ecosystem Services of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON). She has been an advisor to the South African government on biodiversity and ecosystem service targets and indicators, and supported the South African chief negotiator in the plenaries of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Melissa Leach - Vice-Chair

Melissa Leach is Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK. Between 2006 and 2014 Melissa directed the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre ( A geographer and social anthropologist, her research in Africa and beyond has integrated social science with science-policy and natural sciences across many environmental, agricultural, health, technology and gender issues, resulting in extensive publications including the books Misreading the African Landscape (Cambridge, 1996); Reframing Deforestation (Routledge, 1998); Science, Society and Power (Cambridge, 2003); The Lie of the Land:  Challenging Received Wisdom on the African Environment (James Currey, 1996);  Dynamic Sustainabilities: Technology, Environment, Social justice (2010, Earthscan), and Green Grabbing (2012, Taylor and Francis).

She has led and managed many large, interdisciplinary research and policy engagement programmes including ‘Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto’ (, 2010 ongoing) and the 19-partner, Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium (2011 – 2015) funded by the Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA).

Xuemei Bai

Xuemei Bai is a Professor of Urban Environment and Human Ecology at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.

Her research focuses on urban sustainability sciences, including urbanization and environmental change at local, regional and global scales, urban system spatial and temporal dynamics,  cities and climate change, urban policy and governance, the impact of urbanization on agricultural productivity and food security, and environmental policy in China. Her work has a strong focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Professor Bai served as a Vice Chair of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and a member of the Science Steering Committee of the IHDP Industrial Transformation Core Project. She was a Lead Author on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Global Energy Assessment. She has served on several high level policy related study committees in China and Japan, and the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Eduardo Brondizio

Eduardo S. Brondizio is Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Sciences at Indiana University-Bloomington, United States where he chaired the Anthropology Department (2005-2012) and is associated with the Anthropological Center for Training & Research on Global Environmental Change and the Vincent & Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory & Policy Analysis. He is currently a Fellow at the Institut d'etudes avances-Paris. He is a member of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Scientific Committee and collaborator of IHDP and DIVERSITAS.

An environmental anthropologist dedicated to longitudinal, field-based and interdisciplinary research among rural populations in the Amazon, his research also contributes to conceptual frameworks examining interactions among socioeconomic, demographic, institutional and environmental change at multiple levels. Brondizio has published extensively on land-use change and agricultural intensification, small-farmers’ livelihood, adaptation to environmental change and interactions with commodity chains, and more broadly rural development and poverty, urbanization, ecosystem services, and institutional analysis of resource systems. His current research applies complexity theory to analyze interactions among rural, urban, conservation and indigenous areas in the Amazon. He was involved with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and more recently the UN’s Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Sandra Díaz

Sandra Díaz is Professor of Community and Ecosystems Ecology at Córdoba National University and Senior Principal Researcher of the National Research Council of Argentina. She is interested in plant functional traits, their interactions with global change drivers and their effects on ecosystem properties. Recently she has had a strong influence in the development and practical implementation of the concept of functional diversity and how it affects ecosystem properties and the benefits that different people derive from them.

She was elected Foreign Associate Member of the USA National Academy of Sciences in 2009, and Member of the Academies of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS) and of Argentina in 2010. She was awarded the Argentine Botanical Society Prize (1998), the J S Guggenheim Fellowship (2002), the Cozzarelli Prize of the USA National Academy of Sciences (2008), the Sustainability Science Award of the Ecological Society of America (2009) and the Interciencia Award of the Interciencia Association and the Canadian Government (2011). She participated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  She is a member of the DIVERSITAS Scientific Committee, and founder and director of the international initiative Núcleo DiverSus on Diversity and Sustainability.

Heinz Gutscher

Heinz Gutscher is Professor Emeritus of Social Psychology at the University of  Zurich (UZH). His interests include the form, functions and mechanisms of social influence processes, trust and confidence, social psychological aspects of sustainability issues, risk perception and risk communication, change management, planning and evaluation of large-scale social interventions/campaigns, application of social psychological know-how in the fields of energy, mobility, consumption and acceptance of new technologies.

He is President of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences. He also acts as chair of ProClim – the Swiss Forum for Climate and Global Change. ProClim is located at the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), the leading Swiss institution concerned with global change. Since 2013 he has been a member of the scientific steering committee of the Swiss Biodiversity Forum, SCNAT. All in all he has been working for more than two decades with the social psychological aspects of environmental and sustainability sciences.

Corinne Le Quéré

Corinne Le Quéré is Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (UK). Her research focuses on the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle, including both the natural environment and society. She developed innovative methods to quantify the physical and societal drivers influencing atmospheric CO2 concentration, combining global models and observations.

Prof Le Quéré was author of the 3rd, 4th and 5th (ongoing) IPCC Assessments and of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. She is exiting co-Chair of the Global Carbon Project. She plays a leading role in the annual publication of Global Carbon Budgets, an effort that brings together the international carbon research community and influences climate science and policy worldwide.

Prof Le Quéré completed a Ph.D. in oceanography at the University of Paris VI (1999), an M.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from McGill University and a B.Sc. in physics from the University of Montréal. She conducted research at Princeton University in the United States, the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany, and the British Antarctic Survey in the UK. She is originally from Canada.

Dahe Qin

Dr Dahe Qin is a glaciologist and climatologist. He is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and of the Third World Academy of Sciences. He specializes in the study of physical processes related to the Antarctic ice sheet and snow.  He is an expert on paleontological records of climate and environment and the founder of the State Key Laboratory on Cryospheric Science. He was also Administrator of the Chinese Meteorological Administration and led the development of the Strategic Plan for Chinese Meteorological Services. He is a leading author of the third, co-chair of the fourth and fifth IPCC scientific assessment reports. 

Dr. Qin has received numerous awards and accolades during his scientific career.  He was a key contributor to the IPCC team that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the recipient of the International Meteorological Organization Prize for his outstanding scientific contribution.  He has published more than 300 scientific publications, including many peer reviewed journal articles and books.

Youba Sokona

Dr Youba Sokona recently joined the South Centre as Special Advisor on Sustainable Development. The South Centre is an Intergovernmental Organization of Developing Countries intended to meet the need for analysis of development problems and experience, as well as to provide intellectual and policy support required by developing countries for collective and individual action, particularly in the international arena. Until May 2012, he was Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Prior to leading the ACPC, he was the Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) in Tunis, Tunisia from 2004 to 2010.

A citizen of Mali, his focus is on the energy, environment and sustainable development nexus and he has broad experience in the African context in policy development. Before joining OSS, he worked for  “Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde,” in Dakar, Senegal. Prior to that, he served as professor at Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieur of Bamako in Mali. Throughout his career, he has served in various advisory capacities to African governments. He has published several books and articles on the issues of energy, environment and development with a focus on Africa. He is one of the co-chairs of IPCC Working Group III for the Fifth Assessment Report.

Carolina Vera

Carolina Vera is the Director of the Center for Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences (CIMA) and UMI/IFAECI, a joint institute with the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), Argentina’s National Council of Sciences (CONICET) and CNRS (France). She is also Full Professor of the School of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires.

She obtained her Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences at the University of Buenos Aires in 1992. Her current research interests focus on understanding and predicting climate variability and change in South America.

She is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change (IAI). She has been an Officer member of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) Joint Scientific Committee, Co-Chair of the WCRP/CLIVAR Panel for the Variability of the American Monsoon Systems (VAMOS), and Chair of the American Meteorological Society STAC Committee for Meteorology and Oceanography of the Southern Hemisphere.

Dr. Vera has extensive experience with integrated research projects focused on developing climate information and tools for stakeholders from different socio-economic sectors sensitive to climate (e.g. water, agriculture, health). She was a lead author for the IPCC’s Special Report on "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation" (SREX).

Tetsuzo Yasunari

Professor Tetsuzo Yasunari is Director General of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) in Kyoto, Japan. He has a Ph.D in meteorology from Kyoto University. His research interests were originally in monsoon and tropical meteorology and climatology and have extended to vegetation-climate interaction, human impact on monsoon climate and inter-disciplinary environmental issues in Asia.

He was assistant professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies of Kyoto University (1977-1982), associate and full professor of climatology at the Institute of Geoscience, University of Tsukuba (1982-2002), and professor at Hydrospheric  Atmospheric Research Center of Nagoya University (2002-2012). He also adjunctly worked as Program Director, Hydrological Cycle Research Program of the Frontier Research System for Global Change in JAMSTEC.

He conducted the GEWEX Asian Monsoon Experiment (GAME) under WCRP (1996 -2002).  He served as a member and vice-chair of the GEWEX SSG, and later a member of the Joint Scientific Committee of WCRP. He has been working as SSC member of the ESSP/MAIRS (Monsoon Asia Integrated Regional Studies), now serving as vice-chairman.  He is working as a Review Editor of of the 5th assessment report (AR-5) of the IPCC Working Ggroup 1.  He is a council member of the Science Council of Japan, and chairman of the joint Japan national committee for IGBP ,WCRP and DIVERSITAS . He has published about 200 scientific papers and books.