Drew Harvell named US Science Envoy by State Department

Drew Harvell, professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Arts and Sciences), is one of seven U.S. researchers who’ve been named 2023 U.S. Science Envoys by the Department of State, in partnership with the nonprofit Meridian International Center.

U.S. Science Envoys, approved by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will engage internationally at the citizen and government levels to enhance relationships between other nations and the United States, develop partnerships and improve collaboration.

Harvell – whose research focuses on sustainable marine biodiversity and the ecology of the oceans’ host-pathogen interactions, from her current field base at University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories – will help identify and nurture key successful ocean initiatives, policies, partnerships or educational programs.

“I am incredibly honored to be part of this program,” Harvell said. “It is a phenomenal opportunity to develop new or expand time-tested initiatives in revitalizing our oceans. I am delighted that the envoy program focused on ocean conservation as one national priority, and selected me to represent that area.”

Harvell, author of the 2019 book, “Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease,” called improving the health of the Earth’s oceans “a vital goal for humanity.”

“The oceans not only absorb over 25% of our greenhouse gases, but they also support vast fisheries and other valuable natural services,” she said. “There is nothing I would rather do than continue conversations internationally about the best ways forward and strongest partnerships for reviving and protecting the biodiversity of our oceans.”

Harvell noted that while the appointment is for one year, some of the initiatives could last longer. “I am still learning how I can be most helpful,” she said, “but one possibility will be visits to  Southeast Asia, where my group worked in the high biodiversity areas of the coral triangle for many years.”

A former Environment faculty director and current faculty fellow of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Harvell has been recognized numerous times for her work; her awards include the 2020 SUNY Chancellors Award for Excellence; the 2020 Prose Award for Biological Science for “Ocean Outbreak”; the 2020 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America; and the 2016 National Outdoor Book Award for her first book, “A Sea of Glass: Searching for the Blaschkas’ Fragile Legacy in an Ocean at Risk.”

The Meridian International Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit diplomacy center whose mission is to strengthen engagement between the United States and the world through diplomacy, leadership and culture to solve shared global challenges.

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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Drew Harvell shown with an octopus in an aquarium; photo by David O. Brown
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