Jessica Tierney: "The need to understand how the Earth's climate responds to higher levels of greenhouse gases has never been more pressing." (Photo © Dan Griffin)
Jessica Tierney: "The need to understand how the Earth's climate responds to higher levels of greenhouse gases has never been more pressing." (Photo © Dan Griffin)

UA Geoscientist Awarded Packard Fellowship

Paleoclimatologist Jessica Tierney, one of only 18 awardees this year, will receive a research grant of $875,000 over five years.
Oct. 15, 2015
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For the complete list of the UA's Packard Fellows: http://bit.ly/1G6Dhe8

Jessica Tierney, a University of Arizona associate professor of geosciences, has been awarded one of this year’s prestigious Packard Science and Engineering Fellowships.

One of only 18 such awardees this year, she will receive a grant of $875,000 over five years to pursue her research.

"I’m extremely delighted and honored to receive this award," Tierney said. "This award will facilitate new directions in my research."

Tierney is a paleoclimatologist who uses the Earth's history to gain perspective on past and future climate change. Her research uses paleoclimate data to assess the ability of computer climate models to simulate changing climates. Recently, she led research showing that the Horn of Africa has become increasingly arid in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century and at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years. 

"As CO2 levels in the atmosphere exceed 400 parts per million for the first time in 4 million years, humanity faces the challenge of adapting to a climate unfamiliar to our species," Tierney wrote in her fellowship application. "The need to understand how the Earth's climate responds to higher levels of greenhouse gases has never been more pressing."

Tierney is the first member of the UA’s Department of Geosciences to be awarded a Packard Fellowship and the ninth UA faculty member to receive the award. She is the only UA Packard Fellow for 2015.

"Jess's Packard Fellowship is a great reflection of the importance and potential of Jess's work," said Peter Reiners, head of the UA geosciences department. "She's combining cutting-edge chemistry, statistics and geology to understand paleoclimate and a huge range of other past environmental secrets. The kinds of things she's developing and doing have huge potential in a wide range of geosciences."

Said Tierney: "To know where we’re headed in the future, we have to know what happened in the past. This is why studying paleoclimate is so important. The only way we can really understand the full range of the variability of the Earth’s climate system is to study the geological record to see how the climate has changed."

Each year, the Packard Foundation invites the presidents of 50 universities to nominate two early-career professors. Packard Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators on research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering, and they must be within the first three years of their faculty careers.

The foundation established the fellowships program in 1988 to provide early-career scientists with flexible funding and the freedom to take risks and explore new frontiers in their fields.

The fellowships program was inspired by David Packard’s commitment to strengthen university-based science and engineering programs in the United States, recognizing that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Co., which he cofounded, was derived in large measure from research and development in university laboratories.