Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Climate Change Expert to Head Environmental Studies Program

Story posted May 06, 2008

Philip Camill, a leading expert on climate change in boreal and arctic ecosystems, will join the Bowdoin faculty as the Rusack Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, beginning July 1, 2008.

Phil Camill

Camill will be the new director of the Environmental Studies Program, one of College's most vibrant, interdisciplinary programs.

Camill, a plant ecologist, comes to Bowdoin from Carleton College, where he conducted a significant National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research program on the impacts of climate warming on terrestrial, wetland, and lake ecosystem dynamics. His research has been featured in both Science and Nature and he has published extensively in professional journals.

An inventive teacher and active science pedagogue, Camill has published 21 formal case studies that help students learn how to integrate science with policy and ethical dimensions. He is the author of the textbook, The Environment: Understanding and Responding to Global Change (forthcoming, W. H. Freeman Press), which covers the fundamentals of environmental science, brings together many of his case studies, and looks at potential solutions to current and imminent environmental problems.

"It is an exciting opportunity to become part of an environmental studies community that is already so strong," says Camill. "The three primary areas of my research—arctic, coastal, and environmental—integrate so well with the existing strengths of the College. I look forward to working with faculty across campus. I believe there are some terrific opportunities to make Bowdoin's ES program a national model for interdisciplinary education."

Endowed Professorships

Increasing the number of faculty is a key component of The Bowdoin Campaign, which ends in 2009. This will allow us to deepen and diversify several existing programs, stay competitive, and maintain the close student-faculty interactions that are a hallmark of a Bowdoin education..

Camill is deeply committed to undergraduate research and has directed student research programs in coastal marine ecology and environmental science, in addition to the inclusion of undergraduates in his own research.

A recent renewal of his NSF Career grant will support new collaborative research on past and present climate change in northern peatland and boreal forests in the Canadian arctic and will include research opportunities for Bowdoin students. Field research will include gathering soils cores, lake sediments, and wetland peat cores for developing a sediment archive to help determine ecosystem changes over the past 8,000 years.

"There is much excitement on the campus about the strengths that Phil Camill will bring to Bowdoin," notes Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd. "He is a big thinker and ready to take on the role of leading a wide-ranging academic program. And, given that his own work brings together arctic, coastal and environmental concerns, he is uniquely qualified to deepen interdisciplinary connections among Bowdoin faculty members who already are addressing climate change from many perspectives.

"Bowdoin now has a unique collection of scholars," adds Judd. "We have essentially formed a small institute, creating a "critical mass" of 22 faculty members who are offering students an extraordinary opportunity to have rich and intelligent discussion of environmental change, and to have firsthand experience in the lab, field and classroom. The national and international community will also quickly recognize the collective strength of this group."

Bowdoin's Environmental Studies (ES) program was established in 1970, and is among the most popular of the College's areas of study. One-fifth of all students take at least one course from the ES curriculum, which includes courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts. The program offers extensive community-based research opportunities, with long-term studies of the Androscoggin River and Merrymeeting Bay, among others.

"The program has wonderful energy," notes Thomas F. Shannon Director of Environmental Studies DeWitt John, who has led the program since 2000 and will continue to teach in the program. "It's an intellectually lively place that challenges students to work very deeply. Phil is coming to a program with strong foundations and is the perfect person to lead it to the next step. Not only is he a major presence in environmental biology, but he also has a very strong commitment to interdisciplinary environmental studies."

Camill is the first Rusack Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, an endowed professorship created through the generosity of Trustee Geoffrey C. Rusack '78 and his wife, Alison Wrigley Rusack, as part of Bowdoin's Capital Campaign.

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