The US academic is Executive Director of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System and brings extensive experience directing large national and international research institutes and programmes. He is co-author on more than 150 publications and has been involved in IGBP projects since IGBP's inception in 1987.
"This is an important time to join IGBP," says Professor Syvitski who is based at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "The defining research question of our age is how do we manage the Earth system - the planet's physical, chemical, biological and social components - responsibly, whilst feeding, clothing and protecting a population predicted to grow to nine billion people? IGBP and its partners are at the centre of this research," he adds.
The coastal-zone researcher is widely regarded as a leader in Earth-system science. He specializes in research on rivers, deltas, polar environments, sediment transport and continental margins. Over half the population of the planet live on the coasts, making research in Professor Syvitski's areas of expertise a priority for international research programmes.
In 2009, Professor Syvitski and colleagues published an influential paper revealing that most of the world's major deltas are sinking, largely as a result of human influence including mining, water extraction and damming.
Science communication is clearly important to Professor Syvitski: "IGBP faces a public with limited understanding of the complexities of global-change science. We have a duty and a responsibility to communicate to the widest possible audience the gravity and consequences of the global changes we are revealing."
Professor Syvitski's appointment begins 1 January 2012, and he will succeed Professor Carlos Nobre.
The Brazilian academic says, "I am delighted IGBP's Scientific Committee has appointed James Syvitski as Chair. He will bring a range of expertise and leadership skills to IGBP at this crucial time."
Professor Nobre added, "We are in the midst of a great transition. IGBP Is fully engaged with the International Council for Science's visioning process for the future of Earth System Science."
Since 2005, Professor Nobre has provided two consecutive terms of inspirational leadership to IGBP. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has recently appointed Professor Nobre to lead the Secretariat of Policies and Programs in Research and Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology in Brazil. In the wake of the severe floods and landslides affecting Brazil in 2011, Professor Nobre will lead the task team directed to create a disaster risk reduction strategy for the country.
Professor Nobre will be part of the Brazilian team developing the United Nations Rio+20 Summit in 2012. IGBP through the 2012 Planet Under Pressure conference in London will build close links with the Rio+20 Summit.
The appointment of Professor Syvitski as IGBP Chair has been formally endorsed by the International Council for Science.
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IGBP's vision is to provide essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society onto a sustainable pathway during rapid global change.
IGBP, which began in 1987, is an international research programme sponsored by the International Council for Science.
IGBP closed at the end of 2015. This website is no longer updated.