Birth Date: 1953
Place of Birth: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Nationality: American
Occupation/Field of Study American ecologist, dedicated environmentalist and interdisciplinary researcher.


KEYWORDS: Pamela Matson, Ecology, Sustainability, Research, Environmental Science, Biology, Climate change.


Pamela Anne Matson is a determined environmentalist who believes in common symbiosis between society and environment. She is an ecologist and researcher with main interests in sustainability, climate change and economic development. Her most prominent research is the study in Yaqui Valley in Sonora, Mexico. It turned to be a great achievement of agricultural and economic development and it is a role model worldwide as “the birthplace of the green revolution”. Pamela Matson is currently working as a professor and Dean of the Stanford University School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. As an internationally recognized woman scientist, she worked for NASA and the University of California Berkeley. She wrote several scientific articles about environmental issues, closely linked to society and welfare. She likes to think about herself as a leader, which role she enjoys a lot. Regarding the interdisciplinarity of the ecology, Pamela has been involved in many areas such as economics, political sciences, agronomy and has worked with representatives of a range of other disciplines. There is a laboratory at Stanford that is named “Matson Sustainability Science Research Laboratory” and it is interested in sustainable agriculture, vulnerability analyses of human-environment systems, biogeochemical and ecological processes in forest and managed systems.



Pamela Anne Matson was born in Eau Claire in Wisconsin in 1953 to her father who worked for the Wisconsin Bell Telephone Company and mother who was a homemaker, poet and avid reader.¹ (p. 189) She was inspired by her grandmother, because she was a farmer and horse rider with the great sense for plants and gardening as well.

Pamela graduated with a double major in biology and English from the University of Wisconsin in 1975. She went for a master’s degree to Indiana University in 1980. During her studies she realised that she love research and after applied for a PhD at the Oregon State University on forest ecology. She met her future husband, ecologist Peter Vitousek when using an apparatus for her experiments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spent the next 10 years working as a research scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in California before she left in 1993 to accept a professorship at the University of California in Berkeley.⁴ She and her husband joined for some project and the most outstanding was the study of the ecosystems of the Hawaiian Islands. “We were looking at developing ecosystems from brand new geological materials that were laid down by the volcanoes, all the way through to ecosystems that had been developing for the five million years¹ (p. 289).”

In 1997 she started working as a professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University. Management of the agricultural ecosystems became her main concern, as she stood behind the idea of reducing the environmental consequences of agriculture. The most intriguing question for her research and work was “how we can manage agricultural ecosystems in such a way that we reduce the environmental consequences of agriculture, while still maintaining the production and yields and the ability of agricultural systems to feed the planet¹ (p. 290).”

Pamela Matson and her husband Peter have a son and a daughter. After each of them were born Pamela stayed at home for six months and continued with the help of the third parent. Matson still works at Stanford and keeps her international recognition as interdisciplinary Earth scientist, academic leader and organizational strategist. In an interview with Hargittai she said she never experienced discrimination and her advice to all budding women scientists is to find the right partner/spouse.



“I enjoy leadership – I don’t call it administration, I call it leadership. I enjoy making sure that everyone’s ideas are being heard, and developing a common strategy and working towards that together. I like teamwork and I very strongly believe that the universities of the world today have a critical role to play for the welfare of people and environment.”

Source: Hargittai, Magdolna (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press, (p. 291).


“Sustainability is the goal of meeting the needs of people today and in the future while protecting the life support systems of the planet.”

Source: Hargittai, Magdolna (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press, (p. 289).


“People say to me, ”How do you do it? How do you have a child and do all this?” I almost hate saying this, but you have to have enough money to do it. We have two good incomes, relatively speaking, and when I am talking to graduate students who ask “How do you do it?” I almost feel guilty saying, ”You hire a third parent.” It really made it possible for us. /…/ It is important to find that right person and to make sure that they are happy.

Source:  The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science, Washington, D. C., Joseph Henry Press.



1984: Research Paper Award from the Oregon State University;

1992: Fellowship at the Ames (NASA) Associate;

1992: Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences;

1995 – 2000: MacArthur Fellowship;

1996: Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire;

1997: Fellowship at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences;

1998: School of Public and Environmental Affairs Distinguished Alumni Award at the Indiana University;

1998: Distinguished Alumni Award from the Oregon State University;

1999: Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professorship at the Stanford University;

2002: National Associate of National Academy of Sciences;

2002: McMurtry University Fellow for Undergraduate Education at McMurtry University;

2005: The 2005 Richard W. Lyman Award from the Stanford University;

2007: Major contributor to Nobel Peace awarded to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the Norwegian Nobel Committee;

2009: Eminent Ecologist Award from the Colorado State University;

2011: Einstein Visiting Professor at the Chinese National Academy;

2012: Fellow at the Ecological Society of America;

2013: Top 100 Women of Influence at the Silicon Valley Business Journal;

2013: Honorary Member of the British Ecological Society;

2014: Doctor of Science Honorary Degree at the Arizona State University;

2015: Fellow at the California Academy of Sciences.


Chapin, Stuart III F. / Pamela A. Matson / Peter M. Vitousek (2011), Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology, second edition, New York, Springer.

Matson, Pamela A. (2012), Seeds of Sustainability: Lessons from the Birthplace of the Green Revolution in Agriculture, Washington DC, Island Press.

Matson, Pamela A. / Ashok Gadgil / Daniel M. Kammen (2004), Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Annual Reviews, vol. 29, Palo Alto, California, Incorporated, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)

Turner, B. L. / Roger E. Kasperson / Pamela A. Matson (2003), “A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 100 (#14), 8074 – 8079, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)

Matson, Pamela / William C. Clark / Krister Andersson (2016), Pursuing Sustainability: A Guide to the Science and Practice, New Jersey, Princeton University Press.

McCullough, Ellen B. / Pamela A. Matson (2011), “Evolution of the knowledge system for agricultural development in the Yaqui Valley, Sonora, Mexico”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 113 (#17), 4609 – 4614, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)

Luers, Amy, L. / Rosamond L. Naylor / Pamela A. Matson (2006), ”A case study of land reform and coastal land transformation in southern Sonora, Mexico”, Land Use Policy, vol. 23 (#4), 436 – 447, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)

Goldstein, Joshua H. / Gretchen C. Daily / James B. Friday / Pamela A. Matson / Rosamond L. Naylor / Peter Vitousek (2006), “Business strategies for conservation on private lands: Koa forestry as a case study”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 103 (#26), 10140 – 10145, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)




  1. Hargittai, Magdolna (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press.
  2. Stanford, Center on Food Security and the Environment, <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)
  3. Stanford University <> (last accessed 6 Dec. 2017)
  4. Wasserman, Elga (2000), The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science, Washington, D. C., Joseph Henry Press.
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