Ruth DeFries

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Ruth DeFries
DeFries in 2014
Born(1956-10-20)October 20, 1956
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis;
Johns Hopkins University
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship
Scientific career
FieldsEnvironmental geography
InstitutionsColumbia University;
University of Maryland, College Park
Doctoral studentsB. Clark

A. Neelakantan N. Schwartz M. Agarwala M. Cattau M. Jain M. Fagan M. Marlier V. Gutierrez-Velez K. Wurster S. Zeigler D. Morton J. Dempewolf L. Anderson

M. Songer

Ruth S. DeFries (born October 20, 1956) is an environmental geographer who specializes in the use of remote sensing to study Earth's habitability under the influence of human activities, such as deforestation,[1][2][3] that influence regulating biophysical and biogeochemical processes.[4] She was one of 24 recipients of the 2007 MacArthur Fellowship,[5][6] and was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2006.[7]


DeFries received her Ph.D. in 1980 from the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and her B.A. in Earth Science in 1976 from Washington University in St. Louis. In April 2016, Columbia University named her a University Professor, its highest academic rank. She had previously been the Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development in Columbia's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. Before moving to Columbia in 2008, she was a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park with joint appointments in the Department of Geography and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.[4]

An Ecomodernist Manifesto[edit]

In April 2015, DeFries joined with a group of scholars in issuing An Ecomodernist Manifesto.[8][9] The other authors were: John Asafu-Adjaye, Linus Blomqvist, Stewart Brand, Barry Brook, Erle Ellis, Christopher Foreman, David Keith, Martin Lewis, Mark Lynas, Ted Nordhaus, Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Rachel Pritzker, Joyashree Roy, Mark Sagoff, Michael Shellenberger, Robert Stone, and Peter Teague[10]



  • The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis (2014) Basic Books[11]

Scientific papers[edit]

DeFries is the author or co-author of over 100 scientific papers on such topics as: impacts of tropical fires on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions; land use, nutrition, and food security; land use and conservation in the tropics; climate and tropical agriculture; processes of tropical deforestation and degradation; methods for remote sensing of land cover; and reviews and conceptual papers.[12]



  1. ^ "Maryland-Led Research Revises Estimates of Tropical Deforestation". Ascribe Higher Education News Service. 2002-10-14. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  2. ^ "An Improved Method For Monitoring National And Global Deforestation". ScienceDaily. 2001-06-05. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  3. ^ "Growth In Amazon Cropland May Impact Climate And Deforestation Patterns". ScienceDaily. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  4. ^ a b "Ruth DeFries biography". The Earth Institute, Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  5. ^ "MacArthur Fellows 2007". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  6. ^ Roylance, Frank D.; Emery, Chris (2007-09-25). "'Genius' rewarded: Hopkins physician, UM geographer are among 24 awarded $500,000 MacArthur grants for research". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  7. ^ "A Conversation with UM's Ruth DeFries, Newly Elected to the National Academy of Sciences". University of Maryland. Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  8. ^ "An Ecomodernist Manifesto". Retrieved April 17, 2015. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.
  9. ^ Eduardo Porter (April 14, 2015). "A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2015. On Tuesday, a group of scholars involved in the environmental debate, including Professor Roy and Professor Brook, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif., issued what they are calling the "Eco-modernist Manifesto."
  10. ^ "Authors An Ecomodernist Manifesto". Retrieved April 17, 2015. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.
  11. ^ DeFries, Ruth. "The Big Ratchet". Ruth DeFries.
  12. ^ DeFries, Ruth. "Publications". Columbia University.
  13. ^ "Ruth DeFries Announced as 2015 Paradigm Award Winner". The Breakthrough Institute. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.

External links[edit]