CGRER 25th Anniversary Profiles: Dick Baker

KC McGinnis | October 2, 2015

Dr. Dick Baker thanks CGRER for giving him a chance to “cross-pollinate” with other researchers.

When CGRER was formed Dr. Baker, professor emeritus of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa, was already working with a wide variety of scientists from geology, ecology and paleoecology, but with little structure. Dr. Baker looks at fossils of plants from the distant past – tens of thousands of years ago – to understand how humans’ current carbon dioxide output corresponds to those time periods. But for similar carbon dioxide levels, you have to go back even further in time: millions of years.

“Back to when palms were growing in the arctic.”

“There was no real gathering of these groups into one center,” he said. “So when CGRER formed I jumped in.”

Dr. Baker’s CGRER involvement allowed him to make contacts he could use in further research, something he found lacking at other institutions.

“So often you get people working in their own little fields, and there’s not any cross-pollination.”

Dr. Baker especially noted his collaborations with UI biologist Diana Horton, who ran the herbarium at the UI.

Dr. Baker said he’s “not too optimistic, but not too pessimistic” about the current debate on climate change, but he’s happy to see research centers like CGRER providing ways to group together multiple disciplines.

“I think this is maybe the widest group that I know of,” he said of CGRER.

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