Global environmental challenges
The science of climate-related “disaster-ology”
A marine biologist who specializes in the impact of natural disasters on ecosystems and people, Brosnan narrowly survived a plane crash after working on coral reefs in Asia and a volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.
“I was out studying coral reefs, so I was even underwater and the mountain blew on me,” she wrote of her run-in with the volcano. “But being positive — it gave me a lot of information on how exploited ecosystems cope with these events and what it means for humans, knowledge we can put to good use.”
She turned disaster into opportunity earlier in her career after a major storm wiped out the mussels she was studying for her doctoral thesis.
“I thought it was a total disaster for my thesis … and then I thought, wow, here was an opportunity to find out how systems respond and to see what happens to the whole ecology of the shore.”
She is the founder and president of Sustainable Ecosystems Institute, an Oregon-based ecological organization of scientists and others. Read about her work in the world’s river deltas — which she sees as at high risk from natural disasters spurred by climate change — here.