James J. McCarthy is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, and from 1982 until 2002 was the director of Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ). He holds faculty appointments in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS). He was one of the architects of Harvard’s undergraduate degree program in Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP), and he serves as head tutor in this field of study. He is also the master of Harvard’s Pforzheimer House.
James received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Gonzaga University and his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research interests relate to the regulation of plankton productivity in the sea, and in recent years have focused on regions that are strongly affected by seasonal and inter-annual variation in climate. He is an author of many scientific papers, and he currently teaches courses on biological oceanography and biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystems, and global change and human health.
James has served, and currently serves, on national and international planning committees, advisory panels, and commissions relating to oceanography, polar science, and the study of climate and global change for federal agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and international organizations.
From 1986 to 1993, James served as the first chair of the international committee that establishes research priorities and oversees implementation of the International Geosphere – Biosphere Program (IGBP). From 1986 to 1989, he served as the founding editor for the American Geophysical Union’s Global Biogeochemical Cycles. For the past two decades, James has worked as an author, as a reviewer, and as a co-chair with the Nobel Peace Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For the Third IPCC Assessment, he headed Working Group II, which had responsibilities for assessing impacts of, and vulnerabilities to, global climate change. He was also one of the lead authors on the “Arctic Climate Impact Assessment”, and a vice chair of the 2007 Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment.
James has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is the recipient of the New England Aquarium’s David B. Stone award for distinguished service to the environment and the community. James is the current president of the AAAS, our nation’s largest scientific association. A recent interview with him was published in Science Magazine, 25 January 2008.