by Kathleen Scalise
Professor Pamela A. Matson, who pioneered much of the research into how tropical land use affects the atmosphere, has been chosen to receive a prestigious and highly prized MacArthur Fellowship, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Tuesday, June 13.
Matson, 41, is a professor of ecosystem ecology with the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
This year's 24 MacArthur winners will receive between $150,000 and $375,000 over five years to use as they please. Matson will receive $260,000.
Matson said she was "completely surprised, amazed and very happy" to receive the award. She plans to use part of her award as seed money for new research projects and part to help pay for quality child care for her two children, a seven-year-old son and a newborn daughter.
Matson explained that her work takes her "to remote areas in the U.S. and overseas" to do field work and "for me, the availability of child care is probably the most important limitation to being able to focus on that work." Matson is currently on maternity leave from the university.
Individuals cannot apply for MacArthur Fellowships. Names are proposed by more than 100 nominators in a variety of professions and areas of the country.
The naming of Matson brings the number of fellows from Berkeley to 20 since the program began in 1981.
Matson's research has shown how land use, agriculture and destruction of tropical forests contribute to atmospheric changes worldwide, affecting climate and air quality.
She was the first to discover that the conversion of tropical forests to pasture lands increases the production of nitrous oxide, a gas that is believed to contribute to global warming.