Anna Michalak joined Carnegie in 2011 from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. She was named Director of the Department of Global Ecology in 2020. Her research focuses on characterizing complexity and quantifying uncertainty in environmental systems to improve our understanding of these systems and our ability to forecast their variability. She is looking at a variety of interactions including atmospheric greenhouse gas emission and sequestration estimation, water quality monitoring and contaminant source identification, and use of remote sensing data for Earth system characterization.

The common theme of her research is to develop and apply spatiotemporal statistical data methods for optimizing the use of limited in situ and remote sensing environmental data. She is also interested in the environmental policy, economic and legal impact, and applicability of environmental research.

Michalak received her bachelors from the University of Guelph, Canada, in Environmental Engineering. She received both her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She conducted her postdoctoral work at the Earth System Research Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder Colorado. Learn more at http://dge.stanford.edu/labs/michalaklab/  

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An artist's conception courtesy of HOK.
October 3, 2022

Pasadena, CA—The state of California designated $20 million in its 2023 budget to help fund a new state-of-the-art Carnegie research facility in Pasadena where scientists will cross disciplinary boundaries to tackle the greatest climate challenges facing humanity today.  

Representing a proactive investment in the fight against climate change, the 135,000-square-foot structure is designed to house 200 new and relocated staff who will comprise Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering. There, a diverse array of experts will draw on Carnegie’s long-standing expertise in exploring the natural world across scales to probe the

Artwork is courtesy of Mark Belan | artscistudios.com.
September 22, 2022

Palo Alto, CA—Climate change and habitat destruction may have already caused the loss of more than one-tenth of the world’s terrestrial genetic diversity, according to new research led by Carnegie’s Moises Exposito-Alonso and published in Science. This means that it may already be too late to meet the United Nations’ proposed target, announced last year, of protecting 90 percent of genetic diversity for every species by 2030, and that we have to act fast to prevent further losses.

Several hundred species of animals and plants have gone extinct in the industrialized age and human activity has impacted or shrunk half of Earth’s ecosystems, affecting

Stephanie Hampton
August 12, 2022

Washington, DC— Aquatic ecologist Stephanie Hampton joined Carnegie as Deputy Director of Carnegie’s newly launched Division of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering at the end of July. She arrived from the National Science Foundation, where she was the director of the Division of Environmental Biology. She was also a professor and the former director of an interdisciplinary environmental research center at Washington State University.

“Stephanie’s experience leading the primary funder of basic ecological and evolutionary research in the U.S. has given her a 10-thousand-foot view of the field, which will help us as we implement a new, cross-disciplinary vision

Cauvery River image purchased from Shutterstock
August 10, 2022

Washington, DC— India could be facing a water quality crisis as climate change affects the monsoon season, according to a new study from Carnegie’s Anna Michalak and Eva Sinha published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Rainfall and other precipitation wash nutrients like nitrogen from fertilizers into waterways. When rivers, lakes, and coastal areas get overloaded with this runoff, a dangerous phenomenon called eutrophication can occur, which sometimes leads to toxin-producing algal blooms or low-oxygen dead zones called hypoxia.

For several years, Sinha and Michalak have been studying the effects of nitrogen runoff and the ways that anticipated

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Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.

Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass over a specific time. Joe Berry was part of a team that took an entirely new approach by using satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis as shown by the artwork.

The plant produces fluorescent light when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll. Satellite instruments sense this fluorescence yielding a direct

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation