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Sherburne B. Abbott

Member of the NYSERDA Board
Originally Appointed 6/17/2014 Reappointed 6/10/2021

Work History

Sherburne Abbott

The Honorable Sherburne “Shere” Abbott is Teaching Professor, Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. Her research and teaching interests lie at the interface of science and society—principally on issues related to climate change, energy, and sustainability.

Prior to her current appointment, she was University Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at Syracuse University, where she established, directed, and taught in the Environment, Sustainability and Policy undergraduate degree program in the Department of Geography and the Environment, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Also, from 2011 -2016, she served as Vice President for Sustainability Initiatives, overseeing the Syracuse Center of Excellence for Environmental and Energy Systems, the Center for Sustainable Solutions and its EPA Region 2 Environmental Finance Center, and Sustainability Education.

From 2009-2011, she was a senior advisor to President Barack Obama [confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 30, 2009 as the associate director for environment and energy in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Executive Office of the President], serving as a deputy to the President’s science advisor. She was responsible for coordinating the research and development portfolio for environment and natural resources, including overseeing the $2.4 billion U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the interagency committees on earth observing systems, air and water quality, disaster reduction, ecological services, toxins, the Arctic, and ocean science and technology.

During her tenure, she led the White House process that resulted in restructuring the nearly $14 billion national polar orbiting environmental satellite system and helped to establish the nation’s first National Ocean Policy. She co-chaired the first deputies committee of the National Ocean Council, as well as the first government-wide Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force and the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability. She was a member of the BIOMASS Research and Development Board and the Gulf of Mexico Restoration Task Force, headed the U.S. delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and served as U.S. Co-Chair of the international Group on Earth Observations. Her earlier government service included serving as the assistant scientific program director of the US Marine Mammal Commission.

Prior to her public service, Prof. Abbott was on the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and directed the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Austin. She also served in senior positions at scientific professional and nonprofit organizations, including as chief international officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and as executive director of the Board on Sustainable Development, director of International Organization Programs, and director of the Polar Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

In addition, Prof. Abbott consulted on environmental science and sustainable development for private foundations, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, and other nongovernmental organizations. She previously served as a contributing editor for Environment magazine.


Prof. Abbott earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Goucher College in Maryland and her master’s degree in forest science, with emphasis on environmental science and natural resource policy, from the Yale University School of the Environment (then School of Forestry and Environmental Studies).