GeoHealth Section Award
Michael C. Wimberly
Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability
University of Oklahoma


Dr. Michael C. Wimberly is a pioneer in the rich cross-disciplinary field of geohealth. His innovative research has emphasized the integration of biogeophysical data streams and advanced geospatial modeling to understand the influences of weather, climate, and land use on vector-borne disease transmission. Mike has worked closely and successfully with public health agencies, including state health departments in the United States as well as federal and regional health bureaus in Ethiopia, to develop, test, refine, and implement tools that apply research results to support disease control and prevention efforts. I observed firsthand his perseverance to pioneer translational research with public health officials of Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Four key achievements include (1) developing new empirical modeling approaches for predicting climatic and meteorological effects on vector-borne disease transmission that account for spatial and seasonal variations in the underlying relationships; (2) improving our understanding of how data from remote sensing can provide better indicators of climatic suitability for mosquito-borne disease transmission than data from meteorological stations; (3) developing integrated software systems that facilitate operational forecasting of mosquito-borne diseases, which provide ready access to relevant environmental data and automate data forecasting, modeling, and report-generating steps (Two software systems have been generated, tested, refined, and used by public health organizations: ArboMAP, for West Nile virus forecasting in South Dakota and Louisiana, and EPIDEMIA, for malaria early warning in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.); and (4) developing new approaches for predicting mosquito habitats and microclimates in cities and linking these patterns to process-based models of malaria transmission.

In addition, Mike is an exemplary colleague, quoting one nomination letter:
He is a strong mentor, as evidenced by his track record in mentorship and the success of his mentees after they leave his lab. Dr. Wimberly is also a key community member (locally, nationally, and internationally) and leader in his field, and through the development of workshops and training courses to help disseminate his knowledge and research products to local, national, and international public health institutions to combat vector-borne disease. In short, Dr. Wimberly is a wonderful human being and is a shining example of leadership in the field of GeoHealth.

An AGU member since 2007, Mike worked as a committee chair to facilitate the growth of the GeoHealth section and as cochair of the GeoHealth Communications and Outreach subcommittee from 2019 to 2021. For his manifold contributions to the field of geohealth, this recognition is indeed fitting.

—Geoff Henebry, Michigan State University, East Lansing


I offer my heartfelt thanks to the AGU GeoHealth section for this award and to Dr. Henebry for writing such a glowing citation. I want to emphasize that the achievements he lists would not have been possible without the contributions of many collaborators with whom I have had the pleasure to work. In particular, I have been privileged to mentor two Ph.D. students, Alemayehu Midekisa and Andrea McMahon, who completed dissertations that explored the influences of climate, land cover, and land use on the dynamics of mosquito-borne diseases. I have also had the opportunity to conduct research on these topics with many talented postdoctoral scholars, including Ting-Wu Chuang, Chris Merkord, Justin Davis, and Dawn Nekorchuk.

Our progress toward West Nile virus forecasting would not have been possible without the contributions of Mike Hildreth, a dedicated mosquito researcher who sustained the mosquito surveillance program in South Dakota, and Lon Kightlinger, a visionary state epidemiologist who helped us translate research into public health applications. Our work on malaria early warning has been carried out with many partners from Ethiopian universities, public health agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. I would like to particularly acknowledge Abere Mihretie, whom I admire as a tireless crusader for the health and prosperity of the Ethiopian people, and Hiwot Teka, with whom I am pleased to still be working 14 years after my first trip to Ethiopia. My apologies to all those whom I do not have space to mention, and thanks again for taking this journey with me.

I also want to highlight the positive impact that the GeoHealth section has had on me personally and professionally. Like many interdisciplinary researchers, I have often felt like an “outsider” in more traditional scientific disciplines and organizations, and I am extremely fortunate to have found a professional home within the diverse landscape of AGU. I greatly value the intellect and creativity of my colleagues in this section coupled with their boundless energy and enthusiasm for addressing public health challenges in our rapidly changing world. I have appreciated working with you all and having a role in the development and growth of GeoHealth. I look forward to continuing my association with AGU, and I encourage other geophysical scientists working at the nexus of global change and global health to join our efforts to foster cutting-edge research, applications, and outreach in this important field.

—Michael C. Wimberly, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, University of Oklahoma, Norman

Field Photos

Michael Wimberly field photo