Sarah leads a transdisciplinary team of researchers who aim to characterize the global ‘safe operating space for humanity’ in applicable ways. She jointly coordinates the international planetary boundaries research network PB-net. She contributes to the science-policy interface work of SwedBio. She teaches Challenges of the Anthropocene, an introduction to global change science and policy, in the SRC Master’s programme.
Sarah has a research background in marine and atmospheric chemistry. She obtained her PhD in 1996 from the University of East Anglia, UK, where she did postdoctoral research on the global nitrogen cycle before moving into transdisciplinary sustainability research. She worked on integrated approaches to environmental management, mainly of wetlands and coastal zones. Later she turned to issues of global environmental change and sustainability.
She has combined her own research with international science coordination for several years, helping bridge various knowledge communities in environmental change science. And she has occasionally worked as a sustainability consultant, on issues ranging from local participatory processes for community planning up to global environmental risks.
Sarah is involved in several forums where science interfaces with policy, business and wider society. She has served as a Trustee and Vice President of the international Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, a learned society and membership body for all marine professionals. She co-chairs the Executive Committee of IHOPE (Integrated History and Future of People on Earth), a Future Earth project. She co-convenes PB-net, an international network of policy-engaged researchers working to advance planetary boundaries science and operationalization. She is associate editor for the journal Environmental Science & Policy, and an editorial advisory board member of the Journal of Critical Realism.
Throughout her career Sarah has championed university, national and EU initiatives to support women, working parents, and contract research staff working in science.
Awards and achievements:
Research news | 2018-03-07
In continuing to highlight some of our women researchers for International Women’s Day, we would now like to showcase Sarah Cornell whose work spans from understanding Earth resilience science to crafting real world impacts
Research news | 2017-12-21
New study looks at whether marine plastic pollution should be considered as a component of chemical pollutants in planetary boundaries framework
Research news | 2017-10-16
How investments in solar energy go beyond access to electricity to positively affect people’s life expectancy and years of schooling
Research news | 2017-09-24
Why it is high time for a more people-centred paradigm in Earth System science to better study the challenges of the Anthropocene
2018 - Journal / article
Changes to climate–carbon cycle feedbacks may significantly affect the Earth system’s response to greenhouse gas emissions. These feedbacks are usually analysed from numerical output of complex and arguably opaque Earth system models. Here, we construct a stylised global climate–carbon cycle model, test its output against comprehensive Earth system models, and investigate the strengths of its climate–carbon cycle feedbacks ...
2017 - Journal / article
The exponential increase in the use of plastic in modern society and the inadequate management of the resulting waste have led to its accumulation in the marine environment. There is increasing evidence of numerous mechanisms by which marine plastic pollution is causing effects across successive levels of biological organization. This will unavoidably impact ecological communities and ecosystem functions. A remaining question ...
2017 - Journal / article
International commitment to the appropriately ambitious Paris climate agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 has pulled into the limelight the urgent need for major scientific progress in understanding and modelling the Anthropocene, the tightly intertwined social-environmental planetary system that humanity now inhabits. The Anthropocene qualitatively differs from previous eras in Earth’s histo...
2016 - Journal / article
Understanding the degree to which nitrogen (N) availability limits land carbon (C) uptake under global environmental change represents an unresolved challenge. First-generation ‘C-only’ vegetation models, lacking explicit representations of N cycling, projected a substantial and increasing land C sink under rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This prediction was questioned for not taking into account the potentially limitin...