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Stephanie Pfirman

Stephanie Pfirman

Professor, School of Sustainability

School of Sustainability
Arizona State University
PO Box 875502
Tempe, AZ 85287-5502


  • Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Professor, School of Sustainability


Before joining Arizona State University in July 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. Prior to joining Barnard, Professor Pfirman was a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and co-developer of the award-winning exhibition, "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast," produced jointly with the American Museum of Natural History. She has worked for the House of Representatives, as a staff scientist, for the US Geological Survey, as an oceanographer, and for the GeoMarine Research Institution (GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany, as an Arctic researcher. Her PhD is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint program in Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering and she has BA with high honors in Geology from Colgate University.

Professor Pfirman’s scientific research focuses on the Arctic environment, in particular on the nature and dynamics of Arctic sea ice under changing climate. Her previous research activities have included 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 in the Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences. In 2018, she was elected as at large member to the section steering group.

As a former co-PI of National Science Foundation Advancing Women in the Sciences (ADVANCE), 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 contributed to the development of innovative educational approaches in interdisciplinary, environmental, and STEM education including serving on the AAAS Committee on Opportunities in Science, chairing the Education and Faculty Development Committees of the Columbia Earth Institute, and serving as a consultant for the Andrew W. Mellon, Sherman Fairchild, and Luce foundations as well as being a reviewer for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Professor Pfirman is currently principal investigator of the Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership supported by the National Science Foundation and a member of the NSF Advisory Committee for evaluation of the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Portfolio. She was twice a member of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE), and served as the AC-ERE’s first Chair when it was established over a decade ago. Other prior service includes Chair of the Advisory Committee to the Office of Polar Programs at NSF, 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. In 2016, in honor of extraordinary service, Pfirman was designated a lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council.


  • PhD, Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceangraphic Institution, 1985
  • BA (high honors), Geology, Colgate University, 1978

Journal Articles


Irwin, E. G., P. J. Culligan, M. Fischer-Kowalski, K. Lavender Law, R. Murtugudde and S. Pfirman. 2018. Bridging barriers to advance global sustainability. Nature Sustainability 1(Jul):324-326. DOI: 10.1038/s41893-018-0085-1. (link )


Goldman, G. T., K. Mulvey, P. C. Frumhoff, S. Pfirman, R. Sethi and H. Commons. 2017. A methodology for assessment of corporate responsibility on climate change: A case study of the fossil energy industry. Journal of Environmental Investing 8(1):160-181. (link )

Newton, R., S. Pfirman, B. Tremblay and P. DeRepentigny. 2017. Increasing transnational sea-ice exchange in a changing Arctic Ocean. Earth's Future 5(6):633-647. DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000500. (link )


DeRepentigny, P., B. Tremblay, R. Newton and S. Pfirman. 2016. Patterns of sea ice retreat in the transition to a seasonally ice-free Arctic. Journal of Climate 29(19):6993-7008. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0733.1. (link )

Newton, R., S. Pfirman, P. Schlosser, B. Tremblay, M. Murray and R. Pomerance. 2016. White Arctic vs. blue Arctic: A case study of diverging stakeholder responses to environmental change. Earth's Future 4(8):396-405. DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000356 . (link )


Pfirman, S. and M. Begg. 2012. Troubled by interdisciplinarity?. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a1200040. (link )

Schlosser, P. and S. Pfirman. 2012. Commentary: Earth science for sustainability. Nature Geoscience 5(Sep):587-588. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1567. (link )


Clark, S. G., M. M. Steen-Adams, S. Pfirman and R. L. Wallace. 2011. Professional development of interdisciplinary environmental scholars. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences `(2):99-113. DOI: 10.1007/s13412-011-0018-z. (link )


Pfirman, S., B. Tremblay and C. Fowler. 2009. Going with the floe?. American Scientist 97(6):484-493. DOI: 10.1511/2009.81.484. (link )


Laird, J. D., R. E. Bell, G. Downey and S. Pfirman. 2007. The science of diversity. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 88(20):220. DOI: 10.1029/2007EO200007. (link )

Laird, J. D., R. E. Bell and S. Pfirman. 2007. Assessing the publication productivity and impact of eminent geoscientists. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 88(38):370-371. DOI: 10.1029/2007EO380002. (link )

Masque, P., J. K. Cochran, D. J. Hirschberg, D. Hebbeln, A. Winkler and S. Pfirman. 2007. Radionuclides in Arctic sea ice: Tracers of sources, fates and ice transit time scales. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 54(8):1289-1310. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2007.04.016. (link )

Rhoten, D. and S. Pfirman. 2007. Women in interdisciplinary science: Exploring preferences and consequences. Research Policy 36(1):56-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2006.08.001. (link )

Son, L. K., T. C. Kenna and S. L. Pfirman. 2007. A metacognitive pedagogy: The River Summer project. College Quarterly 10(2):. (link )


Bell, R. E., J. D. Laird, S. L. Pfirman, J. Mutter, R. Balstad and M. Cane. 2005. An experiment in institutional transformation: The NSF ADVANCE Program for women at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Oceanography 18(1):25-34. DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2005.67. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., S. J. Hall and T. Tietenberg. 2005. Environmental programs: Liberal arts colleges and interdisciplinary education. Environmental Science & Technology 39(10):221A-224A. DOI: 10.1021/es053270w. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., T. C. Kenna and J. Cronin. 2005. A “river summer” on the Hudson. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 86(43):414. DOI: 10.1029/2005EO430003. (link )


Pfirman, S., R. E. Bell, M. Turrin and P. Maru. 2004. Education and outreach for the International Polar Year. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 85(49):537. DOI: 10.1029/2004EO490011. (link )

Pfirman, S., W. Haxby, R. Colony and I. Rigor. 2004. Variability in Arctic sea ice drift. Geophysical Research Letters 31(16):L16402. DOI: 10.1029/2004GL020063. (link )

Pfirman, S., W. Haxby, H. Eicken, M. Jeffries and D. Bauch. 2004. Drifting Arctic sea ice archives changes in ocean surface conditions. Geophysical Research Letters 31(19):L19401. DOI: 10.1029/2004GL020666. (link )


Bell, R. E., K. A. Kastens, M. Cane, R. B. Miller, J. Mutter and S. L. Pfirman. 2003. Righting the balance: Gender diversity in the geosciences. EOS 84(31):292-293. (link )


Hays, J. D., S. Pfirman, B. `. Blumenthal, K. A. Kastens and W. Menke. 2000. Earth science instruction with digital data. Computers & Geosciences 26(6):657-669. DOI: 10.1016/S0098-3004(99)00101-6. (link )


Schlosser, P., R. Bayer, G. Bonisch, L. W. Cooper, B. Ekwurzel, W. J. Jenkins, S. Khatiwala, S. Pfirman and W. M. Smethie. 1999. Pathways and mean residence times of dissolved pollutants in the ocean derived from transient tracers and stable isotopes. Science of the Total Environment 237-238(Sep):15-30. DOI: 10.1016/S0048-9697(99)00121-7. (link )


Emery, W. J., C. Fowler, J. Maslanik and S. Pfirman. 1997. New satellite derived sea ice motion tracks Arctic contamination. Marine Polluntion Bulletin 35(7-12):345-352. DOI: 10.1016/S0025-326X(97)00152-5. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., R. Colony, D. Nurnberg, H. Eicken and I. G. Rigor. 1997. Reconstructing the origin and trajectory of drifting Arctic sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 102(C6):12575-12586. DOI: 10.1029/96JC03980. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., J. W. Kogeler and I. G. Rigor. 1997. Potential for rapid transport of contaminants from the Kara Sea. Science of The Total Environment 202(1-3):111-122. DOI: 10.1016/S0048-9697(97)00108-3. (link )

Shapiro Ledley, T. and S. L. Pfirman. 1997. The impact of sediment-laden snow and sea ice in the Arctic on climate. Climatic Change 37(4):641-664. DOI: 10.1023/A:1005354912379. (link )


Pfirman, S. L., P. Schlosser and R. MacDonald. 1996. Assessment of contaminant risks in the Arctic. Arctice Research of the United States 10(Fall/Winter):11-23. (link )


Pavlov, V. K. and S. L. Pfirman. 1995. Hydrographic structure and variability of the Kara Sea: Implications for pollutant distribution. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 42(6):1369-1390. DOI: 10.1016/0967-0645(95)00046-1. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., H. Eicken, D. Bauch and W. F. Weeks. 1995. The potential transport of pollutants by Arctic sea ice. Science of The Total Environment 159(2-3):129-146. DOI: 10.1016/0048-9697(95)04174-Y. (link )

Pfirman, S. L., J. W. Kogeler and B. Anselme. 1995. Coastal environments of the western Kara and eastern Barents Seas. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 42(6):1391-1412. DOI: 10.1016/0967-0645(95)00047-X. (link )

Schlosser, P., J. H. Swift, D. Lewis and S. L. Pfirman. 1995. The role of the large-scale Arctic Ocean circulation in the transport of contaminants. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 42(6):1341-1367. DOI: 10.1016/0967-0645(95)00045-3. (link )


Crane, K. and S. Pfirman. 1994. Regional distributions of contaminants in the Arctic. Arctic Research of the United States 8:116-122. (link )

Vogt, P. R., K. Crane, E. Sundvor, M. D. Max and S. L. Pfirman. 1994. Methane-generated (?) pockmarks on young, thickly sedimented oceanic crust in the Arctic: Vestnesa ridge. Fram strait. Geology 22(3):255-258. DOI: 10.1130/0091-7613(1994)022<0255:MGPOYT>2.3.CO;2 Standard View. (link )


Zelig, E. and S. L. Pfirman. 1993. Handling a hot topic -- Global warming: Understanding the forecast. Curator the Museum Journal 36(4):256-271. DOI: 10.1111/j.2151-6952.1993.tb00801.x. (link )


Goldschmidt, P. M., S. L. Pfirman, I. Wollenburg and R. Henrich. 1992. Origin of sediment pellets on the Arctic sea floor: Sea ice or icebergs?. Deep Sea Research Part A. Oceanographic Research Papers 39(2, Part 1):5539-5565. DOI: 10.1016/S0198-0149(06)80020-8. (link )

Pfirman, S. L. and J. Thiede. 1992. Bathymetrie und Plattentektonik der Fram Strasse zwischen Groenland und Svalbard. Geographische Rundschau 44:237-244.


Thiede, J., A. Altenbach, U. Bleil, R. Botz, P. Mudie, S. Pfirman and E. Sundvor. 1990. Properties and history of the central eastern Arctic sea floor. Polar Record 26(156):1-6. DOI: 10.1017/S0032247400022695. (link )

Thiede, J., S. Pfirman, H. Schenke and W. Reil. 1990. Bathymetry of Molloy Deep: Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenland. Marine Geophysical Research 12(3):197-214. DOI: 10.1007/BF02266713. (link )


Elverhoi, A., S. L. Pfirman, A. Solheim and B. B. Larssen. 1989. Glaciomarine sedimentation on epicontinental seas exemplified by the northern Barents Sea. Marine Geology 85(2-4):225-250. DOI: 10.1016/0025-3227(89)90155-2. (link )

Pfirman, S., J. Gascard, I. Wollenburg, P. Mudie and A. Abelmann. 1989. Particle-laden Eurasian Arctic sea ice: Observations from July and August 1987. Polar Research 7(1):59-66. DOI: 10.3402/polar.v7i1.6830. (link )

Pfirman, S. L. and A. Solheim. 1989. Subglacial meltwater discharge in the open-marine tidewater glacier environment: Observations from Nordaustlandet, Svalbard Archipelago. Marine Geology 86(4):265-281. DOI: 10.1016/0025-3227(89)90089-3. (link )


Pfirman, S. 1987. Sediment distribution of the Greenland Sea and the Fram Strait. Polar Research 5(3):319-320. DOI: 10.3402/polar.v5i3.6901. (link )

Pfirman, S. L. and J. D. Milliman. 1987. Morphology, geology and oceanography of the Hinlopen Strait and Trough, Svalbard, Norway. Polar Research 5(3):297-298. DOI: 10.3402/polar.v5i3.6893. (link )


Solheim, A. and S. L. Pfirman. 1985. Sea-floor morphology outside a grounded, surging glacier: Bråsvellbreen, Svalbard. Marine Geology 65(1):127-143. DOI: 10.1016/0025-3227(85)90050-7. (link )


Aubrey, D., D. C. Twichell and S. L. Pfirman. 1982. Holocene sedimentation in the shallow nearshore zone off Nausett Inlet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Marine Geology 47(3-4):243-259. DOI: 10.1016/0025-3227(82)90071-8. (link )

Book Chapters


Pfirman, S., R. C. Smardon and M. A. Reiter. 2019. Supporting sustainable human and environmental systems faculty. Pp. 216-227 In: Focht, W., M. A. Reiter, P. A. Barresi and R. C. Smardon eds., Education for Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems: From Theory to Practice. Routledge. ISBN: 9780815399520.


Martin, P. J. and S. L. Pfirman. 2017. Facilitating interdisciplinary scholars. Pp. 586-600 In: Frodeman, R., J. T. Klein and R. C. Pacheco eds., Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK. ISBN: 978-0198733522.


Kenna, T. C., M. Turrin and S. Pfirman. 2012. The "field" through a dfferent lens. Pp. 167-169 In: Kastens, K. A. and C. A. Manduca eds., Earth and Mind II: A Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences. The Geological Society of America. ISBN: 9780813724867.


Martin, P. J. and S. Pfirman. 2010. Fostering interdisciplinary scholars. In: Frodeman, R., J. T. Klein and R. C. Pacheco eds., The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity, 1st Ed. Oxford University Press.


Pfirman, S. 2009. Changing in the north. Pp. 45-69 In: Schmidt, G. and J. Wolfe eds., Climate Change: Picturing the Science. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN: 978-0393331257.


Schlosser, P., B. Ekwurzel, S. Khatiwala, B. Newton, W. Maslowski and S. Pfirman. 2000. Tracer studies of the Arctic freshwater budget. In: Lewis, E. L., E. P. Jones, P. Lemke, T. D. Prowse and P. Wadhams eds., The Freshwater Budget of the Arctic Ocean. Vol 70. Springer. Dordrecht. ISBN: 978-0-7923-6440-5. (link )


Lange, M. and S. L. Pfirman. 1998. Arctic Sea contamination: Major characteristics and consequences. Pp. 651-682 In: Lepparanta, M. ed., Physics of Ice-Covered Seas. Vol II. Helsinki University Printing House. Helsinki. ISBN: 951-45-8226-8.


Pfirman, S. L., H. Kassens and A. Solheim. 1995. Seafloor echo character of the northern Norwegian Greenland Sea. Pp. 14-16 In: Crane, K. ed., Seafloor Atlas of the Northern Norwegian-Greenland Sea. Norsk Polarinstitutt. Oslo, Norway. ISBN: 82-7666-089-4 . (link )


Pfirman, S. L., D. Bauch and T. Gammelsrod. 1994. The northern Barents Sea: Water mass distribution and modification. Pp. 77-94 In: Johannessen, O. M., R. D. Muench and J. E. Overland eds., The Polar Oceans and Their Role in Shaping the Global Environment. Vol 85. American Geophysical Union. DOI: 10.1029/GM085p0077. ISBN: 9780875900421. (link )


Pfirman, S., M. A. Lange, I. Wollenburg and P. Schlosser. 1990. Sea ice characteristics and the role of sediment inclusion in deep-sea deposition: Arctic -- Antarctic comparisons. Pp. 187-211 In: Bleil, U. and J. Thiede eds., Geologic History of the Polar Oceans: Arctic versus Antarctic. Vol 308. Kluwer Academic Publishers. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-2029-3_11. ISBN: 978-94-009-2029-3.


Pfirman, S., I. Wollenburg, J. Thiede and M. A. Lange. 1989. Lithogenic sediment on Arctic pack ice: Potential aeolian flux and contribution to deep sea sediments. Pp. 463-493 In: Leinen, M. S. and M. Sarnthein eds., Paleoclimatology and Paleometeorology: Modern and Past Patterns of Global Atmospheric Transport. Vol 282. Springer. Dordrecht. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-0995-3_19. ISBN: 978-94-009-0995-3. (link )


Butman, B., C. G. Bryden, S. L. Pfirman, W. Strahle and M. A. Noble. 1984. Long-term observations of bottom conditions and sediment movement on the Atlantic continental shelf; time-lapse photography from instrumented tripods. Pp. 414-415 In: Smith, P. F. ed., Underwater Photography: Scientific and Engineering Applications. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.. New York, NY. ISBN: 978-0442279622.



Newton, R., S. L. Pfirman, B. Tremblay and P. Schlosser. 2014. Low order climate models as a tool for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, December 15-19, 2014, San Francisco, CA. (link )


Pfirman, S. L., P. Schlosser, J. Lee, R. V. Steiner, E. B. Sparrow and M. Carr. 2012. Climate games in the classroom - Engaging problem-solving. Presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, December 3-7, 2012, San Francisco, CA. (link )


Winckler, G., S. L. Pfirman, J. D. Hays, P. Schlosser and M. Ting. 2011. Teaching climate change: A 16-year record of introducing undergraduates to the fundamentals of the climate system and its complexities. Presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, December 5-9, 2011, San Francisco, CA. (link )



Huntington, H. P., S. Pfirman, C. Ashjian, L. Bourgeau-Chavez, J. A. Francis, S. Haakanson, R. Hawley, T. Hepa, D. S. Hik, L. Hinzman, A. Lynch, A. M. Macrander, G. H. Miller, K. Moran, E. S. Mosley-Thompson, S. B. Mukasa, T. Weingartner, M. Walser, L. Brown, E. Finkelman, R. Gaskins, S. Freeland and R. Greenway. 2014. The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions. National Academy of Sciences. Report in Brief (link )

Report Chapters


Rice, J., F. Mercier, B. Tremblay, S. L. Pfirman, C. Tesar, A. Mosbech, D. Boertman, T. Boye and T. Christensen. 2017. Remnant Arctic multi-year sea ice and the Northeast Water Polynya ecoregion. Pp. 71-77 In: Speer, L., R. Nelson, R. Casier, M. Gavrilo, C. von Quilifeldt, J. Cleary, P. Halpin and P. Hooper eds., Natural Marine World Heritage in the Arctic Ocean: Report of an Expert Workshop and Review Process. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Gland, Switzerland. (link )


Barrie, L., E. Falck, D. J. Gregor, T. Iverson, H. Loeng, R. Macdonald, S. Pfirman, T. Skotvold and E. Wartena. 1998. The influence of physical and chemical processes on contaminant transport. Pp. 25-116 In: Gregor, D. J., H. Loeng and L. Barrie eds., AMAP Assessment Report: Arctic Pollution Issues.. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. Oslo, Norway. (link )