Jianwu (Jim) Tang measures greenhouse gas emissions from a salt marsh in Waquoit Bay, Mashpee, Massachusetts.
Jianwu (Jim) Tang measures greenhouse gas emissions from a salt marsh at Sage Lot Pond in Waquoit Bay, Mashpee, Massachusetts in 2013. Credit: Jianwu Tang

It is with deep sadness that we share the passing of Jianwu (Jim) Tang, a senior scientist in the Ecosystems Center, who died on January 4, 2023, in Shanghai, China after a long illness. He was 52. The MBL flag will be lowered in his memory.

Jim came to the MBL as an assistant scientist in 2008, became an associate scientist in 2014, and was promoted to senior scientist in 2019. From 2009 to 2014 he held a joint appointment in the Departments of Geological Sciences and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and co-mentored a Ph.D. student as part of the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences. Since 2018 Jim had been serving as a scientist at-large at the University of Chicago Consortium for Advanced Science and Engineering.

Jim studied ecosystem biogeochemistry, soil-plant-atmosphere interactions, and global change ecology and focused his work on the impacts of climate change and human activities on ecosystem processes and functions, in particular greenhouse gas emissions from agro-ecosystems and wetlands and their responses to management and disturbance. He had numerous projects in the Arctic, at Harvard Forest, and in salt marshes on Cape Cod and Plum Island. 

Jim’s expertise included the development of new instrumentation and in 2015 he and Yuki Hamada (Argonne National Laboratory) received a Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Award from the University of Chicago and the MBL to develop a novel approach to measure plant photosynthesis and other ecosystem functions that could be used to quantify the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and agricultural systems.

Jim received a B.S. and M.S. from Peking University in China, and a Ph.D. in ecosystem sciences from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. Following his degree program, he was a research associate at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the MBL faculty, he was a research scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden and adjunct assistant professor at Northwestern University.

Jim served on the faculty of the MBL’s Semester in Environmental Science undergraduate program and mentored scores of undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world, including numerous students participating in the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP), designed for college juniors and seniors from underrepresented groups.

Jim served on many committees throughout his career and was an editor of Ecosystem Health and Sustainability and Ecological Processes. He was a member of the American Geophysical Union and Ecological Society of America, among others, and had a long association with the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research at the East China Normal University.

He leaves his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Lawrence, a student at the University of Chicago, and Alex, a high school student at Shanghai American School.