Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 22 September 2020

Meet Dr Michael Obersteiner, Director of the ECI

Dr Michael Obersteiner

Photo: Dr Michael Obersteiner © IIASA

From September 2020 Michael Obersteiner will become Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. Dr Obersteiner will be assuming 80% of the Directorship, working closely with Dr Friederike Otto, who will now step into the role of Associate Director of the ECI.

Dr Obersteiner joins the institute from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), where he was the Director of the Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program. He joined the IIASA Forestry Program in 1993 and has been leading and developing the ESM Program, which is currently the largest research program at IIASA, since 2011.

Research interests

Dr Obersteiner's research experience stretches from biophysical modelling in the areas of ecosystems, forestry and agriculture to economics, finance and integrated assessment. Most recently, his modelling work was published in a Nature paper exploring the actions needed to reverse biodiversity loss, and featured in WWF's Living Planet Report 2020.

He has a broad interdisciplinary background and will be working across ECI's research themes. This year he has collaborated on publications within the Food Systems Programme including a comprehensive report on valuing the true cost of food.


Dr Obersteiner's background includes the fields of global terrestrial ecosystems and economics, having completed graduate studies both in Austria (BOKU University and Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna) and abroad (Columbia University, New York and Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk).

Under his leadership several national and international organizations, including inter alia the European Commission, WWF, OECD, and other national and international institutions have received science-based policy advice using quantitative modelling techniques. He is author of over 250 scientific papers, and is a highly-cited researcher - ranking in the top 1% of citations in the Web of Science according to Clarivate research.

Beyond academia

Outside of work, Michael is a keen alpine and mountaineering skier, cold-water swimmer and kitesurfer…

He plans to join the Oxford Paragliding Club to take advantage of UK's coastal soaring winds… and has ordered wing foiling equipment in the hope to soon fly over Farmoor reservoir. He also plans to go on hiking trips to explore and help map the flora and fauna around the wider Oxford. On grey and rainy days Michael will try to play music on his wooden diatonic harmonica to recover from teaming, zooming, and webex-ing.



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