Human Impacts by the Numbers


The greatest experiment of the last 10,000 years is the presence and action of modern human beings on planet Earth. At this point, the consequences of this experiment are being felt on many fronts. Yet, many people still hold the view that because the world is so “huge”, humans cannot really make a substantial impact. The mission of this database is to provide a resource for anyone to rapidly find — and discover — numbers that quantify the impact humans have on the planet. Associated with this database is a graphical "SnapShot" and a preprint on the arXiv which serves as a reference for what we believe are the most important quantities to know when considering the influence humans have on the planet.

This project began with Rob Phillips and Ron Milo who both run academic research groups dedicated to quantitative dissections of biological and physical phenomena and have seen how incredibly useful having easy access to quantitative data can be on the path to discovery. Aside from a variety of scientific publications, Rob and Ron co-authored Cell Biology by the Numbers which explores phenomena in cell biology through a quantitative lens. Additionally, they have built and curated the BioNumbers Database which, in the spirit of the Human Impacts Database, is meant to serve as a quantitative reference in molecular and cellular biology.

Database Administrators

This database is developed and maintained by a group of quantitative scientists covering the biological and environmental sciences. A brief bio of each contributor, along with contact information, can be found below.


Griffin Chure, PhD (username: gchure)
Griffin Chure is an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Biology at Stanford University advised by Professor Jonas Cremer. Griffin earned Bachelor's Degrees in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Utah, followed by a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the California Institute of Technology under the guidance of Rob Phillips. His current research focuses on physical modeling of bacterial evolution and quantitative descriptions of the myriad ways in which humans impact the Earth.


Rachel A. Banks (username: rbanks)
Rachel Banks is a Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the California Institute of Technology, advised by Rob Phillips. Rachel holds a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current research focuses on how the interactions of motor proteins and microtubules generate organized structures and quantifying the influence humans are having on the Earth.


Avi Flamholz, PhD (username: flamholz)
Avi Flamholz is a Postdoctoral Scholar in Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology co-mentored by Rob Phillips and Dianne Newman. Avi holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from Princeton University and has worked on computer vision at Google and dynamic vehicle routing at Via Transportation. In 2010, Avi began studying quantitative and synthetic biology, working with Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) and completing a PhD studying the CO2 concentrating mechanism of Cyanobacteria with David Savage at UC Berkeley. Avi's current research focuses on understanding the physical limits of microbial metabolism in soils.


Nicholas Sarai (username: nsarai)
Nicholas Sarai is a PhD Candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the California Institute of Technology where he is advised by Professor Frances Arnold. Nicholas received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Denver. Prior to coming to Caltech, he worked on enzymatic biomass degradation and metabolic engineering of hyperthermophilic bacteria at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Nicholas’s current research centers upon engineering enzymes for bioremediation of recalcitrant pollutant molecules.


Mason Kamb (username: masonify)
Mason Kamb is a Research Associate at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco, CA. He previously obtained a bachelor's degree in Physics and Computer Science at the University of Washington. He previously worked on applied dynamical systems, and his current research focuses on cell- and tissue-level biophysics and modeling.


Ignacio Lopez-Gomez (username: ilopezgo)
Ignacio Lopez-Gomez is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Science at the California Institute of Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain) and a Master’s in the same field from Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (France). His current research focuses on climate modeling and geophysical fluid dynamics.