Science Leadership Council

The Science Leadership Council (SLC) provides advice and impetus for the MRI's scientific activities. SLC members are observers of the strategic environment. They are also key contributors to research on mountain regions, and through their own activities carry forward the MRI's scientific agenda.

The Science Leadership Council meets on a regular basis to discuss the MRI's strategic and operational issues, as part of their engagement within the MRI Governing Body

Find a list of our former SLC members here.


SLC Members 2022

World Agroforestry Centre
Kenya

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About

Aster Gebrekirstos has over twenty years of experience in research, tertiary level teaching, and consulting.  Currently, she is a scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), where she leads the Dendrochronology Laboratory, and she is affiliated with Erlangen University, Germany. She is also a principle investigator, representing ICRAF, at the USAID-funded Africa RISING project, and is involved in several other projects across Africa and Asia. She lectures at universities in Germany and as part of the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change (WASCAL) PhD programme in Cote d’Ivoire.

Aster Gebrekirstos holds a Diploma and a BSc degree in Forestry from Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Alemaya University in Ethiopia, respectively. She won the Netherlands Fellowship Program for her MSc at Wageningen University (1996-1998) and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for her PhD at Gottingen University (2001-2005). She has published over 80 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, and conference papers and book chapters. She has supervised PhD and MSc students from across Africa, and given keynote speeches and presentations at major international conferences. She also serves as a member of several editorial boards.

Aster Gebrekirstos has played an active role in developing science in Africa. She established ICRAF’s Dendrochronology Laboratory in 2013 and the laboratory at Ethiopia’s Wondo Genet College of Forestry in 2010. She also established an Agroforestry demonstration plot at Wondo Genet Forestry College in 2000.

In recognition of her research and contributions, Aster Gebrekirstos has received a number of distinctions. Notably, she was recognized for her outstanding contribution to the advancement of science in Africa by the African Academy of Sciences with the conferment of the status of Fellow in 2017, and received the prestigious African Climate Award for excellence in research in climate change adaptation and mitigation in 2014. In 2016, she was awarded a visiting professor position under the University of Dresden’s Eleonore Trefftz Programme for Visiting Women Professors. She also received the 2009 Special Award for Ground Breaking Science – African-wide Young Professionals and Women in Science Competition.

Research Interests

Keywords: Climate Change, Dendroecology, Restoration Ecology, Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Intensification, Stable Isotope Research, Plant Ecophysiology.

Aster Gebrekirstos’ areas of specialization and research include climate change (dendrochronology, plant-climate interactions and applications of isotopes to reconstruct climate history, the study of plant eco-physiological and hydrological processes and global climate changes), forest ecology and management (carbon, water, and nutrient balance of forest and agroforestry systems, and the effects and consequences of global change on biodiversity and livelihoods), silviculture, agroforestry, sustainable intensification, and restoration of degraded landscapes.

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World Agroforestry Centre

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French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD)
France

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Ignacio Palomo is a researcher at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) at the Institute of Environmental Geosciences (IGE) in Grenoble, France, where he is laureate of the Make Our Planet Great Again research program.  

He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratory of Alpine Ecology (LECA) in France, and at the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) in Spain. He developed his PhD at the social-ecological systems Laboratory at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) under the supervision of Berta Martín López and Carlos Montes. Ignacio has participated as Lead Author and Fellow of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). He is member of the World Commission on Protected Areas of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a member of the Global Young Academy (GYA).

Research Interests

Keywords: Social-ecological systems, Ecosystem services, Climate Change, Nature-based Solutions, Mountain environments.

Ignacio Palomo´s research is located at the intersection of social-ecological systems, ecosystem services and climate change in mountain environments, with a special focus on nature-based solutions and transformative change. He is also interested in the synergies and trade-offs of climate action towards different socio-environmental goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). He currently coordinates the Pathways for Transformation in the Alps project in these domains.

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Institute of Environmental Geosciences, University of Grenoble, France

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National Autonomous University of Mexico
Mexico

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Irasema Alcántara-Ayala is former Director and current Professor and Researcher at the Institute of Geography at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). 

She previously served as a member of the Committee of Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR) of the International Science Council (ISC, former ICSU), and as Vice-President of the International Consortium on Landslides (ICL), the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG), and the International Geographical Union (IGU).

Irasema is currently a member of the International Geoscience Programme Council (IGCP) Scientific Board, UNESCO; Chair of the Disaster Risk Reduction Steering Committee of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, International Science Council (ISC-ROLAC); and Vice-President of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk programme of the International Science Council (ISC-IRDR). Since 2000, she has also been working in collaboration with the National Centre for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) in Mexico.

Research Interests

KeywordsLandslides, Disaster Risk, Integrated Research, Forensic Investigations of Disasters, Hazards, Vulnerability, Risk Perception, Risk Communication.

Irasema Alcántara-Ayala’s research seeks to understand the root causes and drivers of disaster risk, and to promote an integrated research perspective on disaster risk. She is interested in disaster risk perception and communication, the development of early warning articulated systems for landslides and other hazards, and in bridging the gap between science and policymaking.

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Información Profesional - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

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Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences
China

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Principal Scientist and Regional Coordinator, World Agroforestry Center, East & Central Asia
Distinguished Professor, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Distinguished Professor, Institute of Animal Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Jianchu Xu is an ethnobotanist working on land systems in coupled social-ecological systems. He has a strong background in interdisciplinary research on agroforestry systems. He is the top 1% of global scientists for the most cited researchers in plant and animal sciences in 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. His current research includes investigations of early warning signals of global change, ecosystem restoration, forest management, fungi ecology, and integrative tree-crop-livestock systems. After more than thirty years of living and working in the eastern Himalayas, he has excellent scientific research networks in Asia. Professor Xu has published over 300 SCI journal articles including Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Fungal Diversity, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Global Environmental Change, PLOS Biology and Conservation Biology. He is coordinating the Mountain Futures Program, which is a global initiative to support knowledge innovations for smallholders in mountain regions worldwide.

Research Interests

Keywords: Germplasm, Agroforestry, Circular Economy, Mountain Futures, Social Value Chain.

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ICIMOD
Nepal

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Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Austria

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About

Margreth Keiler studied geography and earth sciences at the University of Innsbruck and the University of Aberdeen. After receiving her doctorate from the University of Innsbruck in September 2004, she undertook research and taught at the Institute for Geography and Regional Research at the University of Vienna. Research stays have taken her to the University of Exeter in the UK, the Santa Fe Institute in the USA, and to Duke University in the USA where she was a Fulbright Visiting Professor. In August 2011, Margreth Keiler took over as head of the Geomorphology, Natural Hazards, and Risk Research Group at the University of Bern’s Institute of Geography. She habilitated in 2012 at the University of Vienna and the University of Bern, where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2017. Since 2014, Margreth Keiler has been a researcher in the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern, and took over as co-leader of the Lab in 2016. In addition to her professorship at the Institute of Geography, Margreth Keiler is also the new director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) in Innsbruck.

Research Interests

Keywords: Mass Movements, Debris Flows, Sediment Flux, Spatial and Temporal Trajectories of Alpine Geomorphologic Systems, Complex System Research, Human-Environment Interactions, Risk Analysis, Vulnerability Assessment, Multi-Hazards and Risks, Risk Evolution, Risk Management/ Governance, Coupled Human-Landscape Systems.

In her research, Margreth Keiler deals with long-term as well as short-term changes of natural hazards and risks in mountain regions in connection with global change (climate change, land use change). The development and application of interdisciplinary approaches, which consider natural and social processes equally, is central to this. Integration between different approaches remains a challenge. Her main research priorities are therefore the analysis of the interface between natural hazard processes and socio-economic processes under changing conditions, and, building on this, the development of models for coupled human-landscape systems. The main motivation of her research is a better understanding of the different interactions, identification and monitoring of dynamic change of natural hazards, and the development of risk and resilience in mountain areas. Through these findings, she aims to advance sustainable management decisions.

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Institut für Geographie, Universität Innsbruck

University of Reading
UK

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Maria Shahgedanova is a climate scientist with a strong interest in glaciers. Maria has a combined BSc/MSc degree in Meteorology from Moscow State University in Russia, and DPhil in Climatology from the University of Oxford, UK. She joined University of Reading in 1998, where she is currently Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science. 

Maria specializes in high-elevation climate change and in assessments and modelling of impacts of climate change on mountain glaciers and water resources. She led many international projects set in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Siberia funded by EU FP7, EU Horizon 2020, Newton Fund, UK Global Challenges Research Fund, and other national and international funding bodies. Most of her current work is conducted in the Tien Shan Mountains, Central Asia. Among her experimental field sites is Tuyuksu Mountain Observatory located at 3440 m a.s.l. in the northern Tien Shan. She works in close collaboration with many regional research institutions, universities, and stakeholders, including regional disaster risk reduction agencies.

In her role as an MRI Science Leadership Council member, Maria is coordinating our Mountain Observatories project. She is also a contributing author for the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) chapter on High Mountain Areas.

Research Interests

Keywords: Climate Change and Variability, Glacier Change, Climate-Glacier Interactions, Glacier-Related Hazards, Glacier Lakes, Regional Climate Models, Water Resources, Mineral Dust in the Atmosphere and At-Surface Radiative Forcing of Light-Absorbing Impurities.

Maria Shahgedanova’s research interests focus on climate change and variability and their impacts on glaciated environments and water resources. These interests fall into the following themes: Climate change and variability, predominantly in the mountains of Eurasia; glacier change and climate-glacier interactions; impacts of climate change on water resources in glaciated catchments and arable agriculture downstream; glacial hazards (evolution of glacier lakes, glacier lake outbursts floods, debris flow); impacts of light-absorbing impurities on snow and glacier melt with emphasis on desert dust; environmental modelling including regional climate models, hydrological and glacier modelling.

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Web Link ImageDepartment of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading  

National University of Tucumán
Argentina

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Ricardo Grau is an Agronomy Engineer from the National University of Tucumán (1989), and holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (1999). Since 2000 he has been based in Tucumán, Argentina. Currently he is Director of the Institute of Regional Ecology, Professor of Landscape Ecology at the National University of Tucumán, and Principal Investigator of CONICET, the Argentine Research Council. In addition to his role as an MRI SLC member, he is also a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Land Programme.

Research Interests

Keywords: Land Use/Cover Change, Vegetation Dynamics, Andean Wetlands, Andean Forests, Fire-Climate-Land Use Interactions, Land Use Efficiency, Urbanization, Globalization and Influence on Ecosystems.

Ricardo Grau's research seeks to explore the following questions: 

• What are the drivers, patterns, and consequences of globalization-driven land use change in Latin America?
• How do climate, mining, tourism, and land use determine vegetation dynamics and biodiversity conservation in high Andean ecosystems?
• How does the interaction between climate change and disturbances (fire, grazing) affect montane forest dynamics?
• How do global and local priorities/decisions interact to drive socioecological processes?

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Instituto de Ecologia Regional

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Global Land Programme

University of York
UK

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Rob conducted his PhD research at the University of Hull, producing a 50,000-year record of forest history from Bwindi-Impenetrable Forest in Uganda to understand forcing mechanisms (climatic, human, and ecological) responsible for sedimentary and vegetation change. From this, he moved to the University of Amsterdam to pursue his interests in the spatio-temporal character of vegetation change, now focusing in Latin America through the Biome 6000 project. In 2003, Rob took a Marie-Curie research fellowship in the School of Botany, Trinity College, Dublin, where he has been developing and using a pollen database for Ireland. His main research area remains in tropical environments, and he is currently working on projects in Colombia, Amazonia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The research he has done has been funded by research councils (e.g., UK’s National Environmental Research Council, The Netherlands Foundation); international agencies (e.g. WWF, the EU); and national governments (e.g. United Kingdom and The Netherlands).

Research Interests

Keywords: Tropical Ecosystems, Climate Change, Palaeoecology, Ecosystem services, Livelihoods

Rob Marchant's research and teaching interests focus on the theme of vegetation dynamics and ecosystem change. In particular, Rob uses palaeoecology, vegetation modelling, and archaeological, biogeographical, and ecological data to determine the role of past events in shaping the present day composition and distribution of tropical vegetation. 

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Web Link ImageDepartment of Environment and Geography, University of York

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York Institute for Tropical Ecosystems (KITE)

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University of Calgary
Canada

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Shawn Marshall is a glaciologist and climatologist based at the University of Calgary in Canada, where he held a Canada Research Chair in Climate Change from 2007-2017. Dr. Marshall studies glacier-climate processes through a combination of modelling and field studies in the mountain regions of western and Arctic Canada, Iceland, and Greenland.  He is currently seconded to the Government of Canada for a two-year term as the Departmental Science Advisor at Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019-2021). Dr. Marshall also serves as the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) Cryosphere Working Group representative for Canada (2017-2022), and he sits on the research co-ordinating committee of the Canadian Mountain Network. 
 

Research Interests

Keywords: Glaciology, Glacier Modelling, Arctic, Greenland, Mountain Weather, Cryosphere-Climate Processes, Climate Downscaling, Paleoclimate

Shawn Marshall's research interests include modelling of glacier and ice sheet response to climate change in mountain and Arctic regions. This includes modelling of glacier dynamics, coupling of glacier and climate models, and downscaling of meteorological fields in mountain regions. Field studies in the Canadian Rockies, Arctic Canada, and Greenland focus on glacier energy balance processes and distributed modelling of glacier mass balance. Mountain weather conditions are notoriously difficult to interpolate or 'downscale' from climate models and reanalyses, and much of his group's research has focused on synoptic meteorological controls on temperature lapse rates. This includes the establishment of the Foothills Climate Array, a meteorological mesonet in the Canadian Rockies, to examine spatial and temporal patterns of temperature and precipitation, their relation to terrain, and the influence of prevailing weather systems on lapse rates and inversion structure.

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Web Link ImageDepartment of Geography, University of Calgary

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