Desert ecologist earns top faculty honor

Osvaldo Sala Osvaldo Sala, an ecologist and distinguished sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was named a Regents' Professor at Arizona State University. To be awarded the distinction, scholars must be full professors, with outstanding achievements in their fields, who are nationally and internationally recognized by their peers. Sala has spent more than 35 years studying the driest places on Earth: the Patagonian steppe, the annual grasslands of California, the Kalahari in southern Africa, the Loess Plateau in China and the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico. His publications are among the most cited in the fields of ecology, sustainability and biology. He has more than 200 publications and 40,000 citations. Sala is also the founding director of the Global Drylands Center. Sala’s work is particularly important in the Age of the Anthropocene. “People who live in Africa and Asia are very dependent on natural resources, herders of cattle and goats and camels,” he said. “They also live in nations that are the most politically volatile, who are going to be affected first by climate change. Once there is climate change we are going to see prolonged droughts that are going to affect their ability to raise cattle, that is going to cause famines, and that’s going to create unrest and political instability.” That, in turn, affects global sustainability — the biggest problem of our age. “It’s impossible to figure out the sustainability puzzle without figuring out what to do with the drylands because of the immensity of all the things we talked about,” Sala said. Read more about Sala's work in ASU Now.