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Benjamin Z. Houlton

Benjamin Z. Houlton is the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Cornell University professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Global Development. Houlton began his term on Oct. 1, 2020, as the 12th Cornell CALS dean.  

As a premier institution of scientific learning and discovery, Cornell CALS is a world leader in tackling the complex challenges of our time with a culture of interdisciplinary understanding and collaboration. It is home to Cornell University’s second largest total college population, with 3,760 undergraduate students, 1,080 affiliated graduate students, 360 faculty and 1,270 staff. The college offers 23 majors and more than 40 minors, managed by 16 departments and two schools. In fiscal year 2019, CALS led Cornell’s Ithaca campus with a total of $254 million in research expenditures.  

Ben has published more than 130 works including peer-reviewed scientific articles, book chapters and published abstracts as tracked by Google Scholar. An accomplished international scientist, his research interests include global ecosystem processes, climate change solutions, and agricultural sustainability. Ben’s work has been published in leading scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Climate Change, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences andhas been covered by news media including the New York Times, Scientific American, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, Discovery News, MSNBC/Today and the BBC. As part of his mission to connect scientific discovery with the public, he is also a frequent guest on regional and national news programs.  

As founding co-chair of the California Collaborative for Climate Change solutions, Ben works with researchers from key research institutions to accelerate the translation of research findings into practical climate solutions. He is a PI with the University of California Office of the President and an affiliate faculty member at their UC Davis campus. Ben is lead PI of the Working Lands Innovation Center, where he directs approximately 100 acres of farmland carbon sequestration projects to improve crop yields and create new financial markets for farmers and ranchers. He is also Editor of Global Biogeochemical Cycles published by the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest society promoting geophysical endeavors of Earth and space scientists. He served as a scientific advisor to a Rockefeller Foundation and World Wildlife Fund project on sustainable agriculture, human nutrition and climate solutions. As dean, he will also share responsibility for leadership of Cornell Cooperative Extension throughout New York state with the College of Human Ecology.  

Prior to joining Cornell, Ben served on the UC Davis faculty since 2007, teaching global environmental studies with a co-appointment in the UC Agriculture Experiment Station. He also led their John Muir Institute of the Environment, bringing together more than 300 faculty affiliates, 350 postdoctoral researchers, staff and students from across the university with the goal of devising innovative solutions to the environmental sustainability challenges of the 21st century. As part of the institute, he led the new OneClimate “Big Idea,” an inter-disciplinary, team-based approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help people, ecosystems and agriculture adapt to an uncertain climate future. Ben served as faculty director of two diversity, equity and inclusion programs at UC Davis – EnvironMentors and SEEDS – and supported the launch of GOALS (Girls’ Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science) at the Muir Institute. He also works with California tribes to empower the application of indigenous knowledge in agricultural and environmental sustainability.  

Ben received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Water Chemistry, an M.S. from Syracuse University in Environmental Engineering Science, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He spent two years working as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford before joining the UC Davis faculty. Ben is the recipient of the Gene E. Likens Award from the Ecological Society of America, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Young Investigator Award, and the NSF-CAREER award. 

Ben grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, solidifying his dedication to the environment at a young age while camping with his family throughout the Midwest and spending time on his great aunt and uncle’s dairy farm. His family legacy in agriculture spans the dairy, poultry and grain commodities, and still includes one remaining family dairy farm in Kansas. He can often be found fly fishing, running, traveling internationally and coaching his kids’ soccer teams in his spare time.  

Office Staff

Michelle Eighmey

Assistant to the Associate Dean

Office of Finance and Administration

Michelle Eighmey
Angie Putnam

Operations Manager

Office of the Dean

Angie Putnam
Marianne Ridley

Administrative Assistant

Office of the Dean

Marianne Ridley
Chris Philipp

Correspondence Specialist

Office of the Dean

Chris Philipp
  • cep37 [at] cornell.edu

Contact Information

215 Garden Avenue
Roberts Hall 260
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

Phone: (607) 255-2241
Email: calsdean [at] cornell.edu

The Dean in the News

a man and a woman stand in a farm field looking at a tractor in the distance

Spotlight

Benjamin Z. Houlton: Investing in agriculture for a climate resilient future
If all goes as planned, the addition of rock dust — rich in potassium, iron and zinc — will help increase the crop’s overall yield, nutrient density and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. “Each time these natural rock particles...
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Agriculture
  • Global Development
an aerial shot of the CALS ag quad

News

Benjamin Houlton named as the next Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS
Houlton’s five-year appointment, effective Oct. 1, has been approved by the Executive Committee of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and is pending ratification by the State University of New York Board of Trustees. He also has been...
  • Department of Global Development
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Climate