Jesse H. Ausubel, M.A.Director and Senior Research Associate
Program for the Human Environment
Mr. Ausubel studies environmental science and related industrial evolution. His research focuses on long-term technical change; its relationship with the evolving productivity of energy, materials, land and other resources; and consequences for human populations. Underlying the work are studies of the mathematics of growth and diffusion. The program houses research, organizes meetings on topics of interest to the campus community and encourages collaborations ranging from complex international fieldwork to studies of the genetics of sushi with Manhattan high school students.
Under auspices of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Mr. Ausubel helped carry out the Census of Marine Life, an international observational program to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans. Involvement in the marine census led to an interest in environmental genomics, and researchers in the program now advance the use of short DNA sequences for species identification, the so-called “Barcode of Life.” Current studies focus on birds and aligning datasets of thousands of sequences to improve understanding of evolutionary patterns.
In addition, Mr. Ausubel and his collaborators participate in the growing Encyclopedia of Life, a Web portal that aims to include pages for all of Earth’s 1.9 million named species. Under Sloan auspices, the program also helps plan and operate the cooperative international Deep Carbon Observatory, which is searching for the origin and limits of life and for the roots of petroleum and natural gas. In coming years the program expects to help develop the International Quiet Ocean Experiment to assess effects on marine life of rising levels of sound added by human activities. Another stream of work analyzing changes in land use addresses the question “How much land can 10 billion people spare for nature?”