George M. Woodwell

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George M. Woodwell (born October 23, 1930) is an ecologist. He co-founded the Environmental Defense Fund, and did pioneering research on the effects of ionizing radiation on forest ecosystems [1] He is an alumnus of Dartmouth College, class of 1950.[2]

Woodwell founded the Woods Hole Research Center in 1985 in Woods Hole, MA as an institute for global environmental research.

He is retired, but retains the title of Director Emeritus.[3] He was one of the first scientists to sound the alarm on climate change, and he first testified to Congress about climate change impacts in 1986.[4][5]

In 1997 he was awarded the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Environment [6] and in 2001 he was awarded the Volvo Environment Prize.[7]


Woodwell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to parents who were educators.[8] He spent most of his child-hood summers on family owned farmland in Maine which exposed him to the environment, and ecology that surrounded the farm.[8] He attended the Boston Public Latin School[9][10] and completed his bachelor's degree in zoology in 1950 from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.[8] He then enlisted in the US Navy for 3 years before obtaining his master's degree and Ph.D. from Duke University in 1956 and 1958 respectively.[8] After his doctorate, Woodwell began teaching at the University of Maine while working as an ecologist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory where he then later moved onto to become founder and Director of the Ecosystems Center in 1975 at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.[8]

Research and Significance[edit]

His research on pesticides focused on DDT where he and other fellow scientists were one of the first to document about the harmful effects of DDT on wildlife which led to the ban of DDT in the US.[8] The banning of DDT gave rise to the Environmental Defense Fund along with the Natural Resources Defense Council which Woodwell contributed significantly to.[9] Woodwell has done extensive research on carbon budgeting in North American forests, and estuaries.[10] He applied the knowledge of Dr. Charles David Keeling's carbon monitoring work to develop a theory that climate change was associated with human activities where he raised concerns to the US Congress.[11]


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  4. ^ Hauter, Wenonah, Frackopoly (2016)
  5. ^ Mooney, Chris. "30 years ago scientists warned Congress on global warming. What they said sounds eerily familiar". Washington Post. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  6. ^ The Heinz Awards, George Woodwell profile
  7. ^ Volvo Environment Prize
  8. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia. 2003. Woodwell, George Masters (1928 – ) American Ecologist.
  9. ^ a b George M. Woodwell, President 1977-1978. 1977. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 58(3): 7
  10. ^ a b The Woods Hole Research Center. 2015. George Masters Woodwell Biography.
  11. ^ The Climate Times. 2016. Dr. George Woodwell, Climate Science Pioneer, Woods Hole Research Center.