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Stephanie Pfirman

Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5502
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5502
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5502

Stephanie Pfirman is Foundation Professor, School of Sustainability and Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.   Professor Pfirman's research focuses on understanding and responding to the changing Arctic, developing innovative approaches to formal and informal education, and exploring the intersection between diversity and interdisciplinarity.  Her 25-years of teaching include facilitating capstone/thesis projects, leadership and polar exploration, climate systems and responding to climate change, museum exhibition design and implementation, innovation in science communication, environmental data analysis, energy resources, and oceanography.

Pfirman has led or co-led ca. $23 million in federal and agency grants spanning research, education and human resources.  She is currently co-PI of two National Science Foundation grants: Navigating the New Arctic Track 1: Collaborative Research: ARC-NAV: Arctic Robust Communities-Navigating Adaptation to Variability and RAPID: Winners and Losers when Science Moves Home: Differential Effects of COVID-19 based on Discipline, Caregiving, and Career Stage. 

Professor Pfirman’s current Arctic research focuses on implications of changes in sea ice origin, drift, and melt patterns, including the Last Ice Area. Previous research addressed melting and surging glaciers and pollution transported by sea ice. In 2010, Pfirman was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences. In 2018, she was elected as at large member to the AAAS Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences section steering group.  In 2016, in honor of extraordinary service, Pfirman was designated a lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council.

As a member of the AAAS Committee on Opportunities in Science, former co-PI of a NSF Advancing Women in the Sciences (ADVANCE) grant to the Columbia Earth Institute, past President of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, and Chair of the Earth Institute's Faculty Development Committee, Pfirman has helped to understand and foster the career trajectories of women and interdisciplinary scholars. She has also contributed to the development of innovative educational approaches in interdisciplinary, environmental, and STEM education including chairing the Education Committee of the Columbia Earth Institute, and serving as a consultant for the Sherman Fairchild, Andrew W. Mellon, and Luce foundations as well as being a reviewer for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Prior grants and leadership include PI of the NSF-supported 7-year, $7 million Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership, twice a member of NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE), including serving as the AC-ERE’s first Chair when it was established over a decade ago, Chair of NSF’s Advisory Committee to the Office of Polar Programs, member of the NSF Advisory Committee for evaluation of the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Portfolio, member of the National Academy of Science’s Polar Research Board, co-Chair of the NAS study committee on Emerging Research Questions in the Arctic, Chair of the NAS study committee on the Scientific Value of the Arctic Sea Ice Imagery Derived Products, and member of the NAS study committee on the Legacy and Lessons of International Polar Year 2007-2008. 

Before joining Arizona State University in 2018, Pfirman was Barnard College Professor of Environmental Science and Alena Wels Hirschorn '58 and Martin Hirschorn Professor of Environmental and Applied Sciences, and co-Chair of the Department of Environmental Science. She held a joint appointment with Columbia University where she was a member of the faculties of the Earth Institute and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and an Adjunct Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.  While a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, she was co-PI of the 1992 award-winning exhibition, "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast," produced jointly with the American Museum of Natural History.  Other prior positions include staff scientist at the U.S. House of Representatives, oceanographer for the US Geological Survey, and Arctic researcher at the GeoMarine Research Institution (GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany. 


Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

BA with high honors in Geology from Colgate University



"Bridging the Valley of Wasted Knowledge to Advance Global Sustainability" by Pfirman, Culligan and Irwin
Summer 2021
Course NumberCourse Title
EMS 593Applied Project
Spring 2021
Course NumberCourse Title
EMS 588MSL Capstone
EMS 589MSL Capstone Project Prep
Fall 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
SOS 484Internship
EMS 587MSL Capstone Prep
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
SOS 498Pro-Seminar
SOS 594Conference and Workshop