Stanford ecologist Chris Field awarded the 2022 Japan Prize

Stanford ecologist Chris Field awarded the 2022 Japan Prize

Stanford University ecologist Chris Field has won the 2022 Japan Prize, one of the world’s foremost awards for contributions to progress in science and technology and advancement of world peace and prosperity. He will receive the prize, which includes 50 million yen (approximately $438,000), in mid-April. The prize is awarded by the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan in the presence of the Emperor of Japan.

Chris Field (Image credit: Paul Sakuma/Courtesy of Stanford Woods Institute)

“Prizes like this always reflect the work of a wide range of people,” said Field, a professor of biology and the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a professor of Earth system science in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “I’m humbled and honored to be named, but I am thrilled to share the credit and to underscore the importance of continuing work on understanding the causes of and solutions for climate change.”

Field, who is also the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, won the award in the field of biological production, ecology/environment. The foundation’s announcement cited him for his “outstanding contributions to estimation of global biospheric productivity and climate change science using advanced formulas based on observation.”

Stanford ecologist Chris Field awarded the 2022 Japan Prize

Much of Field’s work has been focused on understanding and quantifying nature’s contributions to carbon removal. He has been deeply involved with national and international efforts to advance understanding of global ecology and climate change, including leading Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report working groups.

“Chris Field’s research and leadership of the Woods Institute squarely align with the Japan Prize’s recognition of advancement in science in the cause of peace and prosperity,” said Stephan Graham, the Chester Naramore Dean of Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Each year two particular fields of science and technology are designated for an award. The other field selected for 2022 is materials and production, and the co-winners are Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, scientists whose pioneering research contributed to the development of mRNA vaccines like the first vaccines developed for COVID-19.

In brief remarks during the announcement webcast on Jan. 25, Field said the award “underscores the role of nature in helping solve the climate crisis.” He referred to carbon uptake that occurs across land ecosystems and the oceans as “a massive free subsidy from nature” that depends on the protection of the ecosystems that drive it. To that end, Field called for a 10-fold increase in the rate of progress on global emissions reductions.

“We can still take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Field said. “My work highlights some of the opportunities. But the real progress must come from increased ambition, investment and commitment around the world.”

Field is the third Stanford faculty member to be awarded the Japan Prize. In 2010, Peter Vitousek won the award in the field of biological production and environment for his “contributions to solving global environmental issues based on the analysis of nitrogen and other substances’ cycles.” In 1985, John Pierce won for his “outstanding achievement in the field of electronics and communications technologies.”

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