Jesse H. Ausubel is the Director of the Program for the Human Environment and Senior Research Associate at The Rockefeller University, chair of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, a former executive of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and an environmental scientist. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and two master’s degrees from Columbia University.
Ausubel’s work over the course of forty years has spanned marine life to forests and farms, human population, energy and materials, and climate in an effort to elaborate the vision for a large, prosperous society that emits little or nothing harmful and spares large amounts of land and sea for nature. Ausubel has focused attention on technological solutions for environmental problems, including dematerialization, decarbonization, and land-sparing. Private foundations including Sloan, MacArthur, and Robert Wood Johnson have supported him, as well as US Federal government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the departments of Energy and Defense.
Ausubel has developed numerous successful large-scale cooperative international research programs. He is probably best known for the Census of Marine Life (2000-2010), which assessed the diversity, distribution, and abundance of all life in the oceans. Other programs in which he played a major role include the World Climate Program; International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (Global Change Program); Encyclopedia of Life, an online compendium aiming for a webpage for every species; and the Deep Carbon Observatory (2009-2019), which explored the origins of oil and gas as well as the origins of life. At present Ausubel continues deeply involved in measuring marine biodiversity through loose DNA in seawater (eDNA), an offshoot of the Barcode of Life Initiative. He is also a founder of the International Quiet Ocean Experiment, which has benefited from the reduction of human noise added to the oceans during the COVID-19 pandemic to learn about effects of sound on marine ecology. He was also a founder of Industrial Ecology, which aims at large reductions in waste and a more circular economy.
Ausubel has been awarded honorary doctorates from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. A genus of Bryozoans, the Jessethoa, as well as a deepwater lobster, the Dinochelus ausubeli, are named in his honor.
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