UN Environment Programme picks renowned MSU ecologist for global advisory group

By: Vanessa Beeson

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Posted: 6/8/2023

UN Environment Programme picks renowned MSU ecologist for global advisory group Photo By: Megan Bean

A renowned freshwater ecologist and Mississippi State scientist is lending her expertise to a historic international report, respected as the world’s most comprehensive account of environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Sandra Correa, assistant professor and researcher in MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, has been invited by the U.N. Environment Programme for membership in its Multidisciplinary Expert Scientific Advisory Group (MESAG). The 30-member advisory group will help direct the seventh edition of the “Global Environment Outlook: Action for a Healthy Planet (GEO‐7),” a report of the planet's state and the global environment's direction, and a call for transformational action needed to address tri-planetary crises. The publication will be delivered during the U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA-7) in 2026.

Representing the Latin America and Caribbean Region as a freshwater ecosystem expert, Correa said of her appointment, “This is an incredible honor and recognition of my efforts as a Latina scientist and my dedication to study large rivers and identify mechanisms that we can maintain to enhance the resilience of rivers to withstand global change,” said the native of Colombia, South America, who has studied the Amazon for over 20 years.

Also an MSU scientist with the Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Correa’s expertise will be utilized as part of a range of disciplines in all five U.N. regions. The team will meet monthly for the next two years to review, make recommendations and validate the scientific assessments to be included in the seminal report. Another group responsibility is ensuring the report aligns with parallel policy briefs that inform solutions for the U.N.’s 193 member states.

Correa was selected, in part, for her previous international work as a member of a historic scientific consortium presenting its findings on the “State of the Amazon River Basin” at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in 2021.

“I was drawn to study climate change because tropical regions are suffering tremendous impacts from global climate change. For instance, we’re seeing increased severe drought episodes in Amazonia, which is worrisome because it’s a tropical rain forest that produces its own rain. Rain is a big driver of the hydrological cycle, so drought there makes a significant impact on the rain forest ecosystem,” she said.

She also expressed her pleasure that global diversity is evident in the advisory group.

“I was impressed by how intentional the organization has been about bringing diverse voices in terms of ethnicity, gender and geographical and scientific expertise,” she said. “The group includes people from all over the world with a broad distribution of expertise.”

Andy Kouba, professor and head of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, said Correa is ideal for serving in this capacity on the global stage.

“Dr. Correa is a world-renowned expert in aquatic and fisheries science, especially related to the Amazon River system, hydrology and biodiversity. She brings a wealth of experience to this task force on the state of the environment, the effectiveness of policy responses to address environmental challenges and how to achieve environmental goals. Dr. Correa is particularly suited to her role because of her ability to communicate science effectively to various stakeholders, promote conservation success, work in an international setting and shape policy through advocacy,&rdquo ; he said.

Kouba also noted that Correa’s presence in the group reflects FWRC’s role as a recognized leader in conservation.

“Dr. Correa’s participation in this advisory group highlights the important role MSU is having in global discussions on how to advance sustainable human systems while maintaining biodiversity, ecosystem services and planetary health, while minimizing the rising threats from climate change,” he said.

For more on MSU’s College of Forest Resources, visit www.cfr.msstate.edu. For more on the Forest and Wildlife Research Center, visit www.fwrc.msstate.edu.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.

Wildlife and Fisheries