Photo caption: Dr. Pamela Matson, considered one of the leading climate and sustainability scientists in the world, will become just the third UW-Eau Claire graduate to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.
Dr. Pamela Matson always has been interested in the environment — plants, animals, forests, lakes and all the resources provided by the planet — and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna dedicated her professional career to “making sure we are caring for them and using them wisely.”
“I started my research career trying to learn more about what was causing all the negative changes in our environment,” says Matson, who is dean emerita of Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences and professor emerita in the Doerr School of Sustainability.
“After a decade of learning more and improving our understanding about what was happening, I refocused my work toward helping to find solutions. I became a ‘sustainability scientist’ and dedicated myself to working with others to meet the needs of all people today while still protecting our environment and resources for the well-being of future generations.”
Matson, considered one of the leading climate and sustainability scientists in the world, will become just the third UW-Eau Claire graduate to receive an honorary doctorate from the university. She will receive an honorary doctorate of science at commencement on Saturday, Dec. 16, where she will deliver the “Charge to the Class” at both ceremonies.
“Dr. Matson’s extraordinary career as an environmental scientist illustrates the incredible power of a Blugold education,” Chancellor James Schmidt says. “She has been a prominent leader at some of the most prestigious universities and research centers in the country, and her revolutionary climate change research is helping to make the world better for future generations.”
Matson, who grew up in Hudson, graduated magna cum laude in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in biology from UW-Eau Claire. Matson says she loved her double major — she also majored in English literature — and has used the knowledge she learned in both disciplines in many aspects of her life.
“It’s a wonderful honor for an academic like me to receive an honorary doctorate from any institution, but to receive one from an alma mater is a very big deal,” says Matson, who also has honorary doctorates from Princeton, McGill and Arizona State universities. “I’m honored and humbled. I loved UWEC when I was a student, and have never forgotten how much the university gave me.”
Matson earned her master’s degree in environmental science and policy from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and her Ph.D. in forest ecology from Oregon State University.
Matson spent 10 years as a research scientist at NASA-Ames Research Center, where she was in the forefront of research in the role of land-use changes on global warming by analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical forest areas.
She then went on to work in agricultural systems, working with other researchers and farmers to develop new approaches that could increase food production while reducing environmental costs. She was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1995 for her work and was later elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Matson was a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, and then moved to Stanford University, where she was a professor and dean, as well as a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for Environment.
Members of UW-Eau Claire’s departments of biology and public health and environmental studies, and the College of Arts and Sciences Environmental Advisory Committee, lauded Matson’s work in academics, research and public policy in its nomination for the honorary doctorate.
“Dr. Pamela Matson is one of the leading climate and sustainability scientists in the world, having pioneered this rapidly growing field that addresses one of the greatest ongoing global threats,” according to her nominators. “Her life’s work in this field is perfectly in line with the university's strategic plan to support our strength in campus (and global) sustainability.”