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Future Earth

Alan Townsend

Provost and Interim President-Elect, Colorado College

Alan R. Townsend became Colorado College’s provost and professor of environmental science in 2018, and will begin a term as Interim President in July of 2020. Townsend has served in leadership positions at university, national and international levels, including Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at CU-Boulder, Director of CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program, Director of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Director of the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, and Co-Director of the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program.Townsend received his bachelor’s degree in 1988 from Amherst College, and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1994. He is an environmental scientist who studies how ecosystems work, how they are changing and what those changes might mean for society. He is a highly cited author of more than 130 peer reviewed articles, on topics that include the biogeochemistry of tropical forests and global-scale analyses of human impacts on major element cycles. Townsend is a strong advocate of academic engagement beyond the ivory tower; he was an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2001 and one of the inaugural Google Science Communication Fellows in 2011.