The Institute of Earth Environment (IEE) was founded as the Xi’an Research Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology in 1985. It became part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and assumed its current name in 1999.
IEE scientists are engaged in understanding processes, patterns, trends and countermeasures related to climatic and environmental change on various spatiotemporal scales. Research areas include monsoon-dominated East Asian environmental evolution, abrupt climate change, cosmogenic nuclides and environmental tracer isotopes, dendroclimatology, atmospheric dust and black carbon, isotope geochemistry, and palaeo-climate dynamics, among others. Over the past decades, institute scientists have provided practical advice about sustainable socioeconomic development and ecological restoration, particularly in dryland areas of China, to Chinese governmental agencies at the central and provincial level. IEE aims to provide fundamental, strategic and prospective scientific support for promoting sustainable socioeconomic development in western China.
Under the leadership of Prof.AN Zhisheng, a member of CAS, the institute has broadened its research focus from loess and Asian monsoon evolution to the integrated and multidisciplinary study of continental environments. The institute has five research laboratories: the Palaeo-environmental Lab, the Modern Environmental Process Lab, the Aerosol and Environmental Lab, the Ecology and Environment Lab, and the Xi’an-Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) Center. The laboratories are fully equipped with instruments built to international standards, such as an accelerator mass spectrometer, superconducting rock magnetometers, stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer, X-ray diffractometer, X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a thermo-luminescence (TL)/optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurement system, carbon analyzers, laser particle analyzers,magnetic susceptibility instruments, fluorescence/polarizing microscopes,a scanning electron microscope, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry systems,a high performance liquid chromatograph, a gammaray spectrometer and a high-performance computing system.
IEE is changing its research direction in three important ways – from global change research focused on the past to global change research that integrates the past and present; from monsoon environmental research to monsoon-arid environmental research, or, more broadly, regional and global change research;and from “natural process” studies to the study of the interaction between human activities and natural effects. Combining the AMS Center and the Continental Environmental Science Drilling (CESD) Core Repository, IEE is emerging as an open platform for environmental change studies and an international research center for continental environmental change research.
In July 2006, IEE adopted a rotating presidency system (the “MaxPlanck Institute model”), with directors from the institute’s four research units serving as head of the institute on a rotating, two-year basis. The institute now has 94 scientists, including two CAS members,28 senior professors,25 associate professors,and additional senior professionals and technicians. It also currently has 88 visiting scientists as well as around 100 graduate students. The institute (including the State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology) has 11 researchers supported by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. It also has two scholars recruited through the National Thousand Talent Program and 11 through the CAS Hundred Talent Program. In addition, it has five National Top 100 Ph.D. Dissertations Prize winners, and three CAS Top 50 Ph.D. Dissertations Prize winners. To train future environmental scientists, the institute grants master’s and doctoral degrees in Quaternary geology and environmental science. The institute also offers postdoctoral research positions in geology.
The institute is dedicated to long-term domestic and international cooperation with other prestigious academic institutions. To date, collaborative partnerships have been established with more than 20 institutions, including Xi’an Jiaotong University, Peking University, Fudan University and the China Seismological Bureau. Long-term cooperative frameworks have also been established with research institutions in more than 20 countries, including the United States, the UK, France, Austria, Canada, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea, Russia and Sweden. IEE has also jointly established a Sino-Swedish Center for Tree-ring Research with Goteborg University and a Sino-US AMS Center with the University of Arizona.