College of Fellows Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker

Kimberly Prather
University of California, San Diego
United States of America
Primary Affiliation: Atmospheric Sciences


To predict our future climate, we must understand the impacts of placing unprecedented human-induced stressors on the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Current models simplify the factors controlling marine aerosol composition and associated cloud processes because the overall impacts of each of these interdependent processes are difficult to tease apart.

One challenging discipline involves judging how marine microbial emissions alter atmospheric chemistry, especially highly reactive trace gases. While field studies have attempted to determine the impact of ocean biology on clouds and climate, such efforts have been limited due to the additional complexities from anthropogenic pollution—even out over the open ocean. 

This lecture will provide an overview of unique ocean-atmosphere-in-the laboratory studies conducted in the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE;


Professor Kimberly A. Prather is the Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, San Diego. Professor Prather’s research group has performed ground-based, shipboard, and aircraft studies worldwide to advance our understanding of the major sources, chemical mixing state, and reactivity of atmospheric aerosols. A major focus of Professor Prather’s research has involved improving our understanding of how aerosols impact clouds. Her group has performed in-situ measurements to determine the aerosol sources that seed clouds in flights and shown that long range transported dust and microbes from as far away as Africa can enhance the snowfall over the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California. Professor Prather is the founding Director of the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE), an NSF Center for Chemical Innovation. CAICE scientists have transferred the ocean-atmosphere system into the laboratory to investigate how marine phytoplankton, bacteria, and viruses influence atmospheric chemistry, clouds, and climate. Most recently, she has advocated in media interviews and briefings with public health and other leaders the importance of acknowledging aerosol transmission in an effort to reduce the global spread of COVID-19 and end the ongoing pandemic. Professor Prather is also involved in education and outreach activities aimed at creating more diverse and inclusive environments in the environmental sciences. 

Recognition for Professor Prather's work includes being an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Sciences, and an elected fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the American Geophysical Union. Some of her major awards include the AAAR Kenneth T. Whitby Award, ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science & Technology, ACS Frank H. Field & Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry, Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award, and the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award.