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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Scientist Concludes Climate Change is Real

After reviewing more than 1,500 studies on global coastal ecologies, a respected University of Mississippi aquatic biologist has concluded that climate change is, indeed, real.

Stephen Threlkeld, UM biology professor, has served for the past nine years as managing editor of Estuaries and Coasts, the journal of the Estuarine Research Federation. He has handled the review of research manuscripts examining the ecology of estuaries and coasts around the world.

“Coastal areas have already started to change, and they’ll definitely be different from today within 100 years,” said Threlkeld, who recently received the Estuarine Research Federation’s Distinguished Service Award.

“In our scholarly community, research excellence is usually exhibited by publishing papers in refereed scientific journals,” said Paul Lago, chair of UM’s biology department. “To have one of our faculty members help edit one of those journals is a feather in our cap.”

In the mid 1990s, Threlkeld worked as a technical editor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released four assessment reports on climate change dating back to 1990. IPCC assessments, based on peer-reviewed scientific and technical literature, are compiled by recognized experts from around the world.

“Each of these reports was basically done by different scientists,” he said. “In fact, only about 10 (percent) to 20 percent of the scientists have worked on multiple IPCC reports. To me, this independence validates the findings published in the previous reports. The same data keeps coming up, and it is obvious that climate change is real.”

The IPCC shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore last year for work on global climate change.

“The chairman of the IPCC accepted the Peace Prize on behalf of all of the scientists and authors who have contributed to its work, so that’s an honor I feel privileged to share,” Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld said the Peace Prize is a wake-up call to the globe and is hopeful it will raise public awareness of climate change and restore some of the public’s respect for environmental science.

“Societies that mismanage their natural resources eventually come to regret it,” he said. “It’s not too late, but it’s going to be painful.”

The Estuarine Research Federation is an international organization of estuarine and coastal scientists. As managing editor of Estuaries and Coasts, Threlkeld got UM’s Department of Information Technology to help construct a Web site for the journal and recruited UM art students and faculty to help redesign its cover. He also helped streamline the journal’s manuscript publishing procedures and produced a set of CD-ROMs containing 40 years of the journal’s back issues.

“None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the help of a great many colleagues at the university and around the world,” Threlkeld said.

Intrigued by pond life and high school biology classes, Threlkeld received his bachelor’s degree in biological oceanography from the University of Washington. He also earned a doctoral degree in zoology from Michigan State University.

Before joining the UM faculty in 1991, Threlkeld taught at the University of California-Davis and University of Oklahoma. He also served as director of the National Science Foundation’s population biology and physiological ecology program and was director of Fordham University’s field station.

Throughout his 30-year career, Threlkeld has received more than $6 million in funding from federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.