School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
January/February 2021

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Professor elected to National Academy of Medicine

Michelle Bell, the Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Environmental Health at the YSE, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Bell’s research focuses on how human health is affected by environmental conditions, including air pollution, weather, and climate change, and also examines environmental justice. Her work, which is largely based in epidemiology, biostatistics, and environmental engineering, is designed to be policy-relevant and contribute to decision making that better protects human health and benefits society. “It’s a great honor,” says Bell, who also holds a secondary faculty appointment at the Yale School of Public Health. “It’s particularly humbling to be chosen at a time when there is growing recognition of the work performed by those in the public health field—work that is improving and saving lives.”

‘Devastating’ increases in nitrous oxide emissions

A team of researchers, including Peter Raymond, professor of ecosystem ecology at YSE, and postdoctoral fellow Taylor Maavara, has found nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are increasing at a “devastating” rate, faster than predictions introduced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Not as much attention is paid to nitrous oxide, but it’s extremely important,” says Maavara; in addition to being an ozone-depleting chemical, she explains, nitrous oxide can take more than a century to completely break down in the atmosphere and has a climate-warming potential nearly 300 times higher than carbon dioxide. The “devastating” increases, the study finds, are due in large part to agricultural activity, the cause of nearly 70 percent of global human-derived N2O emissions over the past decade. 

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