Prior to serving as the Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, he was a CIRES Fellow, professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the CIRES Earth Science and Observation Center (ESOC).
Abdalati’s research focuses on using satellites and aircraft to understand how Earth’s ice cover, particularly glaciers and ice sheets, is changing and what those changes mean for life on the planet. He became ESOC director in 2008 and led the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) Science Definition Team, developing capabilities to map and understand changes in ice-sheet elevations by using space-based laser altimetry.
Abdalati earned a bachelor of science degree from Syracuse University in 1986; a master of science degree from the University of Colorado in 1991; and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 1996, working with CIRES scientist Konrad Steffen. He went on to work as a scientist at NASA for 12 years before returning to CIRES.
From January 2011 to December 2012, while on leave from the University of Colorado, Abdalati was NASA’s chief scientist, advising Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA science programs and strategic planning. He has published more than 60 scientific papers and technical reports; lectured to a wide range of audiences throughout the world, including scientists, policy makers, the media, and the general public; and received many notable honors and awards, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and, from the White House, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.