Senior research fellow




Profile summary

  • Earth resilience
  • Anthropocene
  • Earth System dynamics
  • Tipping elements and feedbacks
  • Carbon cycle dynamics
  • Earth System governance

Will Steffen's research focus is on integrating Earth and world dynamics, planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene

Steffen's primary position is Emeritus Professor with the Fenner School of Environment and Society, the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. He is also a Councillor with the independent Climate Council of Australia.

He began his career as a chemical engineer with a BSc from the University of Missouri (1970). He holds an MSc (1972) and PhD (1975) degrees in chemistry from the University of Florida, and honorary doctorate degrees from Stockholm University and the University of Canberra. Following a research fellowship at the Research School of Chemistry at ANU from 1977-1980, Steffen joined the CSIRO Division of Environmental Mechanics in the roles of science management, editing and communication.

In 1990 Steffen took up the position of Executive Officer for the Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). From 1998 to 2004 he served as Executive Director of IGBP and was based in Stockholm. Steffen returned to Canberra in mid-2004 and took up a Visiting Fellowship with the Bureau of Rural Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australian Government. A year later he joined the ANU and was the foundation director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society before serving as Executive Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute from 2008 to 2012. He is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, which is exploring the formalization of the Anthropocene in the Geological Time Scale.

Steffen's research interests span a broad range within the field of Earth System science, with an emphasis on global sustainability integrating Earth and world dynamics, planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene. He is currently contributing to the ERC “Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene” project, jointly coordinated at the SRC and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

His work usually takes a synthesis/integration approach to complex questions about the evolution of the human-environment relationship in the context of the Earth System, often working with teams of researchers both in Australia and internationally.

He has given numerous presentations on climate change, global change, the Anthropocene and Earth System science to political and business leaders as well as community groups. He has also served on several advisory boards and review panels.

Staff details


Publications by Steffen, Will