Professor: Multiple disciplines needed to understand climate change

By Carol Clark | Emory Magazine | Feb. 19, 2014

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Environmental sciences professor Eri Saikawa hopes new knowledge will brighten the outlook for the planet's future. Photo by Kay Hinton.

Most of the faculty in Emory's Department of Environmental Sciences look forward to getting into the field, whether it's to track wild primates through an African rainforest, chase after bumblebees in a Rocky Mountain meadow or just splash through metro-Atlanta streams to monitor mosquitoes and their larvae.

Eri Saikawa, however, loves nothing better than being indoors, battling computer-programming bugs as she wades into murky problems involving mathematics, atmospheric chemistry, and global environmental policy.

"I was never an outdoor person," says Saikawa, assistant professor of environmental sciences. She smiles at the irony as she sits before her computer, wrapped in a comfy throw to ward off the fall chill seeping through the windows of her fifth-floor office. Using a numerical model, she is able to analyze the link between current emissions, air quality, and the climate to understand the impact of economic activities on the environment in different parts of the world.

Saikawa is an eclectic mix of interests, experience, and knowledge. Her research into public policy and the science of emissions linked to air pollution, ozone depletion, and global warming forms a patchwork quilt of expertise that covers many of the major environmental issues facing the world today.

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