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Global Environmental Change Early Career Award

Information on the Award

The Global Environmental Change Early Career Award is presented annually and recognizes outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change by honorees within 10 years of receiving their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree. Successful nominees may be an individual early career scientist or team of early career scientists.

Young engineers standing in front of wind turbines

Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award will receive the following benefits with the honor:

  • 1

    Award certificate

  • 2

    $1000 monetary prize

  • 3

    Recognition in Eos

  • 4

    Complimentary ticket to the Global Environmental Change dinner that occurs at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

Eligibility

To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is not required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must be within 10 years of receiving their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree. Exceptions to this requirement for unusual circumstances may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the committee.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Global Environmental Change Early Career Award Committee members;
    • All full-time AGU staff; and
    • AGU Fellows.

  • Nominators are not required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Global Environmental Change Early Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Global Environmental Change Early Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the Award Committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.

Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:

  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
  • A previous graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) and/or postdoctoral advisor, or postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
  • A former doctoral or graduate student, or a former postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter for a former advisor but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.

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Nomination Package

Watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our guide. Your nomination package must contain all the following files and be no more than two pages in length per document.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria and demonstrates the potential to be elected as an AGU Fellow in the future. The letter should include details about outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change. Nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • Two to three letters of support. Supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required. Letterhead is preferred.
  • We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • Up to three copies of the nominee's published or preprint manuscripts that illustrate the quality of the nominee’s work.

Submission Process

Submissions are reviewed by the Global Environmental Change Award Committee. Nominations should be submitted online via the submission system.

Submit
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Recipients

Field Photo:

Rebecca Hernandez Field Photo

Ning Lin

2020

Field Photo:

Nathan Mueller Field Photo

Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, Abigail L. S. Swann, and Yangyang Xu received the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change,” especially through an interdisciplinary approach.

 

Citation

Dr. Keppel-Aleks is a rising leader in the carbon cycle community. Her research uniquely combines observational and modeling tools to increase understanding of the effects of climate variability on the carbon cycle. She has made notable contributions to our understanding of the role of the terrestrial land sink in a very short period of time and has linked a range of disciplines that represent the Global Environmental Change community.

To provide constraints from atmosphere and space-based observations, Dr. Keppel-Aleks has integrated remote sensing and ground-based observations to understand the flux of carbon from the terrestrial biosphere, including remote sensing data sets (such as NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2)) and solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF). In addition, Keppel-Aleks is part of a team to develop and deploy tower-based spectrometer systems to connect satellite-derived SIF and ecosystem models. Her research combines a suite of various and disparate observations and tools to improve our understanding of the terrestrial carbon sink. Further, Keppel-Aleks has linked this observational framework with that of the Earth system modeling community to improve our understanding of climate-driven variations in the global carbon cycle, using modeling tools such as the Community Earth System model.

Dr. Keppel-Aleks has already taken on several leadership positions in the field, including her participation on the OCO-2 science team, as a coauthor on the U.S. State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR-2), as a cochair for the Biogeochemistry Working Group for the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Earth System model, and as a member of the Department of Energy’s International Land Model Benchmarking (ILAMB) team. Her nominators also cite her excellent mentoring of students in the community, and I have seen this firsthand at Michigan. Dr. Keppel-Aleks has developed a diverse group and provides the support to produce excellent science in her research team.

Dr. Keppel-Aleks is an outstanding young scientist who has developed a deep and broad approach to address one of the greatest environmental conundrums of this generation.

—Allison Steiner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Response

Thank you, Allison, for your kind words. It is humbling to have been nominated by a colleague who inspires me with her interdisciplinary research approach and with her commitment to forging a more equitable and inclusive scientific community. Both of these facets—interdisciplinarity and inclusivity—are necessary to confront the scientific and social challenges posed by climate change. The research that falls under the AGU Global Environmental Change section addresses the most pressing scientific questions faced by my generation, and it is an honor to receive this section award.

This award is a reminder of how privileged I am to engage in interesting and thought-provoking work each day. Much of the joy in doing science stems from the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from other scientists. This award reflects the outstanding mentorship from which I have benefited over the course of my career. I especially acknowledge senior scientists who have taught me how to think creatively and deeply about the Earth system and the tools we use to understand it, especially Scott Doney, Jim Randerson, Tapio Schneider, Geoffrey Toon, and Paul Wennberg. It has been a pleasure to have friends from my graduate and postdoctoral programs turn into collaborators and sounding boards, especially Dan Feldman, Tim Merlis, Brendan Rogers, Rebecca Washenfelder, and Debra Wunch. This award also affirms the efforts of the next generation of scientists whom I have been fortunate to teach and advise at the University of Michigan.

Finally, I want to thank my family, especially Aaron Wolf, for their support. On the days that I am not optimistic that human civilization is up to the challenge, the people I love keep me going.

—Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, Abigail L. S. Swann, and Yangyang Xu received the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change,” especially through an interdisciplinary approach.

 

Citation

Abigail L. S. Swann is being recognized with the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award for her innovative, interdisciplinary research coupling vegetation and the atmosphere. Dr. Swann has appointments in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. Her contributions lie within three overlapping areas: (1) She focuses on an obvious but amazingly overlooked set of processes: how vegetation change affects climate, both locally and elsewhere, subsequently affecting vegetation elsewhere—termed an “ecoclimate teleconnection.” (2) She possesses an extremely rare skill set enabling her to run Earth system models focusing on the atmosphere as well as running relevant linked ecological models. (3) She is rapidly, creatively demonstrating the relevance of ecoclimate teleconnections for a variety of vegetation response types, at a variety of spatial scales, and for a variety of applied problems.

Dr. Swann evaluated the consequences of afforestation (adding forests) to Northern Hemisphere grasslands, a commonly discussed carbon sequestration strategy, and showed that such vegetation change could alter the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Dr. Swann also focused on the converse of regional-scale afforestation—regional-scale loss of tree cover from die-off or deforestation. Her simulations reveal important cross-hemisphere impacts of tree loss from western North America or the Amazon Basin.

The potential importance of ecoclimate teleconnections is profound. On the basis of the Paris Agreement, there is now an attempt to move toward globally coordinated carbon management. Dr. Swann’s work reveals how forest changes in one continent (e.g., either increasing or decreasing forest area) could affect another. Consequently, carbon gains in one area could have a negative impact on the productivity and associated carbon dynamics in another. This has profound implications for carbon management.

Abby is making enormous contributions to science, and I am extremely privileged to have had opportunities to collaborate with her.

—David D. Breshears, University of Arizona, Tucson

Response

I am honored to receive the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award. Thank you, Dave, for nominating me and for your kind words. Collaborating with you has been a productive, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with many people who have broadened my scientific and academic thinking and helped me to tackle problems at the boundaries between traditional academic disciplines. I am grateful for my colleagues and collaborators who have provided both formal and informal mentorship. Inez Fung has played the central role in teaching me how to do science and be a scientist, serving as a mentor since I was an undergraduate. Becky Alexander, Cecilia Bitz, Gordon Bonan, Dave Breshears, Emily Fischer, Charlie Koven, Jim Randerson, Scott Saleska, and LuAnne Thompson have all provided critical support in science and beyond. I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with graduate students and postdocs Greg Quetin, Marlies Kovenock, Marysa Laguë, Elizabeth Garcia, Jennifer Hsiao, Claire Zarakas, and Greta Shum. My peer support group of women scientists at the University of Washington has been invaluable in helping me through the day-to-day challenges of research and academia. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to my partner and our two children for their love and support.

Finally, I am happy to join Gretchen Keppel-Aleks in the 2019 cohort for this early-career award; however, I strongly believe that as a community we can and must do more to increase nominations of and awards to women and scientists from underrepresented groups for all honors, but especially for early-career awards. In failing to represent all members of our community in awards and honors, we perpetuate a history of unequal opportunities for success in our field.

—Abigail L. S. Swann, University of Washington, Seattle

Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, Abigail L. S. Swann, and Yangyang Xu received the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change,” especially through an interdisciplinary approach.

 

Citation

Yangyang Xu’s research has provided vital insights into major issues related to both the science of climate change and the mitigation of climate change. While still a graduate student, Xu led and completed a multi-institutional study on hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) forcing and its mitigation potential for 21st-century projected trends. This had a major impact on U.S. policy toward eliminating HFCs in refrigeration and helped provide the scientific basis for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

Xu was also one of the first to show that black carbon heating contributed as much as half of the observed large warming over the elevated regions of the Himalayan–Tibetan region. A series of model-based investigations by Xu and his students and collaborators have shown aerosols from industrial activities to be an important influence on changes observed in the past few decades. These studies consistently demonstrate a more significant impact than was previously suspected for changes in precipitation extremes, latitudinal temperature gradient, drought indices, and snow cover.

In view of his significant contributions to our understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change, their impacts, and their implications for national and international climate policies, Yangyang Xu is a highly deserving recipient of the 2019 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award.

—V. Ramanathan, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

Response

I deeply appreciate Ram for the nomination and a few of my colleagues at Texas A&M University for starting the process. I benefited greatly from the kind support and inspiration since I started working with Ram 10 years ago at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Ram has supplied me a flexible environment in which to explore various research topics and, more important, led me to do society-relevant climate research, which has become my main aspiration today. Through Ram, I had the chance to work with researchers in a multidisciplinary setting and have learned so much from them, especially David Victor (School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego) and Durwood Zaelke (Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development).

My gratitude needs to be extended to many scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where I worked for several years as a visiting student, postdoc fellow, and project scientist. The too-long-to-complete list particularly includes Warren Washington, Jean-François Lamarque, Jerry Meehl, Aixue Hu, Claudia Tebaldi, Simone Tilmes, Mary Barth, and Rajesh Kumar. The career mentoring and research advice from them continue to drive my research forward.

Since moving to Texas A&M, I have received tremendous support from many colleagues in the department as well as at the university, especially Andy Dessler, Ping Yang, Jerry North, Ken Bowman, John Nielsen-Gammon, Sarah Brooks, R. Saravanan, and Bruce McCarl. It has been a very productive and enjoyable 3 years in Aggieland.

Last and most important, I thank my family, especially my wife, Xiaoshan Gao, for her continuous sacrifice to support my (flexible) work schedule.

I’m honored by this award from the AGU Global Environmental Change section, and it will provide encouragement to my future research. Further motivation comes from the grand challenge imposed by the unprecedented rate of global and environmental change, to which I plan to devote my career. I hope the younger generations, my pre-K son and newborn daughter included, can testify (in 2100?) that we tried our best.

—Yangyang Xu, Texas A&M University, College Station

George Ban-Weiss, Rajan Chakrabarty, and Kaiyu Guan will receive the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

George Ban-Weiss has an extremely impressive track record of carrying out research that has led to both fundamental science advances and policy-relevant research conclusions. He is best known for his outstanding contributions to modeling and measurement of land cover–climate–air pollution interactions from urban to global scales. His research has been influential and has had societal impact, and he has used innovative approaches to education and outreach.

Ban-Weiss is an expert on atmospheric aerosols and has used field measurements, satellite observations, and numerical modeling to improve our understanding of particle emissions, evolution in the atmosphere, and impacts on climate. His research has made important contributions to improving our understanding of climate science. One of my favorites is his paper “Dependence of climate forcing and response on the altitude of black carbon aerosols,” which has transformed the way scientists think about the climate effects of black carbon. His research on black carbon emissions has also informed public policies related to diesel truck retrofit standards that have contributed to saving lives and mitigating climate change.

Ban-Weiss has another very important line of research related to determining methods for reducing urban heat in the face of urban heat islands and global climate change. Beyond improving our understanding of urban climate science, he also has worked diligently with city governments including the Los Angeles mayor’s sustainability office to ensure that policies will meet their objectives while minimizing unintended consequences. I think his systems approach to finding solutions to environmental problems is especially important, not being afraid to investigate both benefits and penalties. He has unique expertise in climate, atmospheric chemistry, and land–atmosphere interactions and has worked across silos to create innovative research.

Ban-Weiss is highly deserving of this distinction. He is a very talented young scientist, and his passion for research and scientific discovery is infectious.

—Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, Calif.

Response

Thank you so much, Ken, for nominating me and for these very kind words. I am honored to have received this award. I appreciate AGU and the Global Environmental Change focus group.

I have been extremely fortunate to have had incredible mentors who have helped guide my academic journey thus far. When I was an undergraduate, Tony Wexler piqued my interest in conducting research on air pollution. He has been a mentor to me since I was 20 years old. Bob Dibble was also an important mentor in my early years and helped solidify my decision to attend graduate school. Rob Harley was as good a Ph.D. advisor as one could ask for, teaching me the value of academic excellence and how rewarding (and fun!) research can be. Ken Caldeira took a big chance on me, hiring me as a postdoc in a field in which I had relatively little experience. He went above and beyond the call of duty and taught me how to think like a scientist and to have the courage to shoot for the stars. I also learned a huge amount at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, especially from Ronnen Levinson and Bill Collins. I am very appreciative of my colleagues at University of Southern California. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has provided a very supportive and engaging environment for me, and I couldn’t think of a better place to build a career as an assistant professor. Last, this award certainly would not have been possible without the extremely hard work of current and past members of my research group: Trevor Krasowsky, Pouya Vahmani, Jiachen Zhang, Arash Mohegh, Yun Li, Mo Chen, Joseph Ko, Hannah Schlaerth, and Mohammad Taleghani. Thank you!

On a more personal level, I am deeply appreciative of the nonstop love and support of my family.

—George Ban-Weiss, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

George Ban-Weiss, Rajan Chakrabarty, and Kaiyu Guan will receive the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

Rajan Chakrabarty is bestowed with an AGU Global Environmental Change award in recognition of his substantive contributions to the award’s three interconnected dimensions of research, educational, and societal impacts. Rajan has a multifaceted research program in aerosol science and technology. His outstanding work on addressing global environmental challenges associated with radiative forcing by carbonaceous aerosols is a major accomplishment, yet it represents only a portion of his research portfolio, which also includes advances in fundamental aerosol physics and aerosol engineering techniques. Most relevant to this award, Rajan has conducted detailed experimental and modeling studies to understand and characterize the complex morphological and optical properties of atmospheric black carbon aerosols, which have challenged the scientific community for decades. He also discovered that large-scale wildfires emit a previously unrecognized form of soot particle—a superaggregate—which has unaccounted-for climatic and health implications. His work on coated (internally mixed with nonrefractory matter) black carbon and its role in enhancing light absorption in the atmosphere provided new insights on the universal scaling relationships for the mass absorption cross sections of these particles. Rajan has also comprehensively characterized the spectral refractive indices and intensive optical properties of light-absorbing organic aerosols emitted from various sources globally using state-of-the-art instrumentation; and he made the resulting data sets freely available to the modeling and satellite-retrieval communities for fine-tuning of their algorithms. In addition, his work is providing insights into the drivers of atmospheric and climate conditions over India where researchers and policy makers are using his work to advance the state of science and develop air quality management plans. Among his many contributions to education, Rajan developed Climate101.org, a portal to support in-class environmental science education for K–12 students and teachers.

It has been a pleasure to watch Rajan’s professional trajectory, which has already reached great heights and will continue to rise.

—Jay Turner, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.

Response

Thank you, Jay, for your nomination and for such encouraging words. I’ve got to admit, our hallway conversations are not only refreshing and motivational but also addictive; I subconsciously look forward to them each week.

Being trained as a physicist, I have always taken a bottom-up approach overlaid on the foundations of first-order scientific principles to better understand and address the contemporary “environmental change” issues associated with the aerosol–energy–climate nexus. I thank AGU and the Global Environmental Change (GEC) focus group for taking special note of my research contributions and bestowing on me this honor.

Just as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” a sheer number of people have contributed their comments, criticism, and support to raising the scientist in me over the years. The list is a long one, and I would run out of words and space to thank everyone. That being said, the immense sense of gratitude that I feel for a particular individual on this occasion makes it very difficult to leave out Hans Moosmuller, my doctoral advisor. He not only initiated me into the field of aerosols but also painstakingly taught me how to build instruments, make careful measurements, and do overall good science. He would pay equal attention to the development of my soft skills necessary to succeed in today’s collaborative scientific environment. In my professorial career, I have been fortunate enough to work with a brilliant set of graduate students and postdocs; this honor is as much theirs as mine.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support and love throughout these years. I would not be here today without the many sacrifices they have made for me to realize my scientific goals and aspirations.

—Rajan Chakrabarty, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.

George Ban-Weiss, Rajan Chakrabarty, and Kaiyu Guan will receive the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

Dr. Kaiyu Guan is an exceptional early-career scientist who has shown remarkable creativity and maturity, tackling the grand challenge of feeding a growing population under climate change.

Dr. Guan started his training in geography and remote sensing at Nanjing University in China. During his Ph.D. studies at Princeton University, he gained advanced skills and knowledge in remote sensing, Earth system modeling, and high-performance computing. With these tools, he addressed key questions regarding how climate and land surface hydrological processes control vegetation distribution and productivity at the continental scale in Africa and the Amazon. His innovative use of massive satellite data and Earth system modeling revealed fundamental rules of how hydrological variability and cross-season groundwater storage determine tree cover fraction and control seasonal to interannual variability of photosynthesis rates in tropical forest ecosystems.

Kaiyu then took an unconventional path to apply his ecohydrology and computational skills to complex agricultural ecosystems as a postdoc at Stanford University. There he developed new algorithms to use novel satellite-based observations, such as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, to monitor U.S. crop productivity from space. He also developed a new computational framework to model crop growth in the Earth system models and used it to better assess the climate change impacts on agriculture systems.

Here at the University of Illinois, Dr. Guan has established a truly world-class research program at the frontiers of ecohydrology, climate change, remote sensing, and crop modeling, from local to global scales. I am confident that his research in food security and environmental sustainability will lead to significant advancements in how we monitor and model agricultural systems across the globe under current and future climates. In conclusion, for the excellence of the work he has done and for the promise of much more to come, Dr. Guan fully deserves the GEC Early Career Award.

—Murugesu Sivapalan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Response

I am humbled and deeply honored to receive the 2018 AGU Global Environmental Change Early Career Award. I would like to first thank Drs. Murugesu Sivapalan and Pierre Gentine’s nomination, and I also want to thank AGU and the GEC section in particular for providing such a great platform to nourish Earth system scientists for generations.

I feel truly lucky and deeply encouraged. I want to use this opportunity to thank my mentors during different phases of my academic career, including Drs. Eric Wood, Kelly Caylor, David Medvigy, David Lobell, Joe Berry, Murugesu Sivapalan, and Evan DeLucia. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to my long-term collaborators, including Drs. Jin Wu, Xi Yang, John Kimball, Ming Pan, Min Chen, Xiangtao Xu, Jian Peng, Carl Bernacchi, Gary Schnitkey, Stephen Good, Haibin Li, Guofang Miao, and Bin Peng. I also want to share this award with my team and my family.

I believe that Earth system science and global environmental change research have reached an era in which we have sufficient high-performance computing resources and rich data to go down to fine spatiotemporal scales to help solve real-life problems. Developing real-world solutions motivates me and my team every day to work on advancing the science and technology to the next level, by standing on giants’ shoulders of what has been achieved before and by working with brilliant minds from various domains. I am a firm believer of “user-inspired basic research” and transdisciplinary cross-fertilization.

I hope that in the near future, my team of collaborators can advance science and engineering to the point where we can observe every crop field in real time; monitor crop growth conditions, water demands, and nutrient needs; and achieve cosustainability of the environment and food security for the U.S. corn belt and worldwide.

—Kaiyu Guan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jennifer Burney, Elliott Campbell, Pierre Gentine, and Jintai Lin will receive the 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

Jennifer Burney is a master of effective interdisciplinary research. While formally trained in physics, she works on a wide range of issues that are pivotal to environmental health and human development.

Her best known work examines whether intensification of agriculture is good for the environment. While there has been fierce debate on all sides of this topic, Burney led a team that offered some of the first systematic analysis of the full cycle of activities (e.g., fertilizer production, farming, etc.) involved in producing food. Intensification is generally good for the environment, they found. They also figured out just how much intensification costs relative to other strategies aimed at lightening the environmental footprint of agriculture.

My favorite is Jen’s work on rural electrification. She has focused on the ways that renewable energy supplies—with local solar panels connected into miniature grids—might help low-income villages. Her contribution has been to run semirandom control trials in which different villages receive solar-powered drip irrigation and then to compute in detail the effects of these systems—on production of food, on incomes, and on public health.

In the past, researchers have focused on particular interventions—for example, an aid project to build a microgrid—but have not been able to pin down whether those interventions actually affected welfare, because donors and villages tended to select themselves for such projects. Burney has cut through that bias with randomized trials, a standard method for the best research on development yet rare in studying energy interventions. Not only does she show that these solar grids have large local benefits, but also she has helped to demonstrate a viable technology that is now taking off on its own with private financing in parts of Africa. She is settling important scientific questions and helping humanity as well.

—David Victor, University of California, San Diego


Response

Thank you, David, for your kind words. It’s a deeply touching honor to receive this award and to share it with three scientists whose work I admire very much. I’d like to thank AGU and the Global Environmental Change (GEC) focus group for all the work they do to support and encourage scientists throughout their careers. I first came to the AGU Fall Meeting during my inaugural quarter as a physics graduate student, and I can truthfully say that exposure to GEC sessions that week changed my life. I am perpetually inspired by all of the work showcased here and always come away from the meeting reenergized by both the cutting-edge science and the first-rate people doing it.

I am so grateful to the many people who have, at various times, taken a chance on me. My Ph.D. adviser, Blas Cabrera, took me on sight unseen when my intended adviser passed away; Blas was the kindest supporter imaginable of my intellectual exploration. Robert Freling, Jeff Lahl, and Walt Ratterman from the Solar Electric Light Fund risked a scientific collaboration to evaluate their work. Roz Naylor, Wally Falcon, and David Lobell at Stanford welcomed me to the new Earth System Science Department as a postdoc in an experiment that no one would have possibly foretold would go so well. Ram Ramanathan taught me countless hard and soft skills. Finally, David Victor and colleagues at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego made a totally unconventional choice to hire me. It still feels like I won the lottery because I have an incredible group of colleagues, postdocs, and students from whom I learn daily.

Finally, I’d like to thank my parents; my partner, Claire Adida; and our children, Gabi and Mina, for being the best possible companions on this journey.

—Jennifer Burney, University of California, San Diego

Jennifer Burney, Elliott Campbell, Pierre Gentine, and Jintai Lin will receive the 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

We are recognizing Dr. Elliott Campbell for his creative research in multiple areas of global environmental change. His contributions are more than just original research. Elliott’s creative use of the atmospheric trace gas carbonyl sulfide as a chemical analogue of carbon dioxide led him to make a major breakthrough in quantifying the “carbon–climate feedback” problem, which is one of the largest uncertainties in modeling the future trajectory of the greenhouse effect. Elliott did more than use carbonyl sulfide to measure photosynthesis. He also recognized that it could be used to falsify model calculations of the continental-scale carbon cycle.

A second area where Elliott has made brilliant contributions to understanding global environmental change is in life-cycle assessment, a discipline that evaluates the sustainability of policies and products. Most notable was his finding that land use constraints on bioenergy production create critical advantages for bioelectricity over ethanol. He found biomass electricity to be superior for both climate change mitigation and energy security goals, in comparison to the use of land and crops for ethanol production. His papers have become widely cited by science and policy communities, as well as the national and international press, in part because they focus on potential solutions to the land use impacts that are prominent in public discussions. His findings go well beyond solid contributions. They represent fresh insight from someone who digs deeper to link brilliant research with public policy.

The quality of Dr. Campbell’s research and the impact on his field, and on the nation and the global debate, over a sustainable future are exceptional. At a time when developing climate solutions is paramount, it is fitting that we recognize a leader whose pioneering work informs both research and workable policy.

—Roger Bales, University of California, Merced

Response

Thank you, Roger, for your nomination and generous citation. Your remarkable contributions to science, sustainability, and service at UC Merced and beyond are a constant source of inspiration.

I am grateful for the work of the letter writers and the Global Environmental Change award committee for carrying out this honors program. Their selfless efforts help to encourage our scientists and invigorate our community to focus on the most important environmental problems of our time.

My deepest gratitude goes to the advisers who have led me to this point. Jeff Koseff hooked me on research as an undergraduate at Stanford. Jerry Schnoor, Charlie Stanier, and Greg Carmichael were exceptional graduate mentors at the University of Iowa. Chris Field not only offered extraordinary postdoc mentoring at Carnegie Institution but also provided proper refreshments from a bicycle blender.

I would not be here today without the many scientists I have had the great pleasure to work with and learn from. While there are too many to list, I want to make special mention of Joe Berry for sharing his warm spirit and brilliant vision and to the postdocs and students who are advancing science while striving to make AGU a more diverse and welcoming community.

One of the common traits that I’ve noticed in these inspiring scientists is confidence. Their confidence helps them to propose new hypotheses, to commit to a program of research in the face of criticism, to admit mistakes, and to share the credit of discoveries. My attempts to emulate this trait are possible only because of the love and support from my partner, Liz; my children, Hazel and Beatrice; and my parents, Toni and Scott.

Thank you again to AGU for this honor.

—Elliott Campbell, University of California, Santa Cruz

Jennifer Burney, Elliott Campbell, Pierre Gentine, and Jintai Lin will receive the 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

Pierre Gentine is one of the most thoughtful and intellectually stimulating scientists to start a career in the Earth sciences. His training in applied mathematics and physics allows him to bring new perspectives to challenging theoretical and practical problems at the interface between hydrology, meteorology, and ecology that define the dynamics of the global hydrological cycle. It is remarkable that in a very short time he has been able to conjure up new insights on long-standing problems, such as the nature of vegetation adaptation that leads to the empirical observations that support the Budyko curve, and has also developed a formal theoretical framework for convection, linking cloud dynamics, evaporation, and other surface and boundary layer processes. Together these lines of inquiry, blending physics and appropriate statistical methods, address major sources of uncertainty in the future of Earth’s climate. Though young, he is a leader and a role model in this area, demonstrating the best of the scientific method: Take a complex problem, understand the key aspects of the observational evidence in a theoretical framework, and then develop an appropriate, simple, and elegant theoretical representation of the processes that provides insight into the phenomenon at a fundamental level. He is very worthy of recognition through the Global Environmental Change Award, the first of many that I am sure he will garner.

—Upmanu Lall, Columbia University, New York

Response

Dear Manu,

Thank you for the kind word. I am truly humbled and honored to receive such an award.

I started my academic career as a hydrologist. I had the luck and fortune to be exposed to other fields during my academic journey.

During my Ph.D., I was hosted by the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique. They introduced me to the magic and complexity of moist convection and clouds. It opened a Pandora’s box and an excitement that have never stopped since then. In parallel, I was puzzled by the role of vegetation in regulating the continental water cycle and decided to try and understand how vegetation was functioning.

While learning (and trying to publish some papers!), I was lucky to meet some giants who would be willing to listen to young people: Dara, Manu, Alan Betts, and Joe Berry. I will always remember Alan taking the time to have lunch with me 1 year out of grad school after I had mentioned I had an idea for a new convective parameterization. The stories of Joe from the molecular scale to superparameterization in the Amazon evenings were simply an enchantment.

An award is never a single-person effort, and I sincerely thank all the fantastic people with whom I have collaborated: Adam, Fabio, Kirsten, Ben, Bert, Sonia, Guido, Maria…and my wonderful postdocs and students.

I would like to thank my wife and three children for their constant support. Their smiles always place things in perspective. Looking at my children motivates me to try and understand what our future climate will look like.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this to the memory of my dad, who died during the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting. He was a doctor, a scientist, and a cheerful, honest, and humble individual. I hope I transmit some of his values to my group and colleagues.

—Pierre Gentine, Columbia University, New York

Jennifer Burney, Elliott Campbell, Pierre Gentine, and Jintai Lin will receive the 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

Prof. Jintai Lin of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Peking University, has been a leader in the strategic pursuit of innovative research addressing the intersection of human health, impacts on climate forcing, economic impacts, international negotiations, and the veracity of climate forecast models. His keen sense of how these factors are coupled and how that linkage must be recognized has established an international standard for these critical studies.

He has also made seminal contributions to the mapping of sulfate, black carbon, ozone, and CO satellite retrievals for both China and globally. While many of his published works have had a fundamental influence on the field, perhaps most notable was his Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper that won the prestigious Cozzarelli Prize, as one of the six out of 3,500 PNAS papers published in 2014. This was the first time a paper led by Chinese institutions in any field has ever won the award. That work not only set the gold standard for coupled pollution transport mechanisms using advanced photochemistry and transport processes, but also established Jintai’s leadership analyzing the international impact of nitrate, sulfate, ozone, and carbon emissions. The PNAS paper has been downloaded more than 160,000 times from the PNAS website, and it has been cited 153 times by papers in various research disciplines, including but not limited to atmospheric sciences, environmental sciences, epidemiology, ecological sciences, economics, and management.

It is particularly important that a strong and trusted relationship between scientists in the United States and China become a top priority, because cooperation in science must precede joint public policy progress. Prof. Jintai Lin is a young scientist of such exceptional quality that this opportunity to explicitly strengthen these ties by awarding him the AGU Global Environmental Change Early Career Award will serve both science and society for decades.

—James G. Anderson, Harvard University, Mass.

Response

Thank you, Jim, for your generous nomination and citation. It is my great honor to receive such a prestigious award. This would not be possible without the continuous kind help and support from my mentors, colleagues, and friends. Indeed, learning from my advisers Donald Wuebbles and Michael McElroy and other colleagues like Jim has given me the opportunity to put together perspectives, ideas, and tools from multiple disciplines to address the grand challenge of our times: air pollution.

My research focuses on understanding global air pollution, its impacts on public health and climate, and its interactions with socioeconomic development. My Ph.D. studies with Don took a modeling approach to evaluating ozone pollution and transboundary transport. My postdoc years with Mike further incorporated satellite measurements to quantify China’s fast changing environment and emissions. My work at Peking University has been integrating economic and emissions statistics with modeling and satellite measurements to understand how economic production and consumption are associated with global air pollution and various environmental and climate consequences.

I owe greatly to my colleagues from around the world whose important contributions have made such multidisciplinary studies possible, including Don, Mike, the Harvard modeling team, the Tsinghua emissions team, the CEADs team, Steven Davis, Randall Martin, Folkert Boersma, and many others. Interactions with leading scientists like Jim are inspiring. I have had continuous support from Yongyun Hu, other colleagues at Peking University, and my dear friends. I am grateful to all my students who have effectively turned abstract thoughts into concrete research. In particular, Da Pan’s exceptional work has led to our first study linking global air pollution to consumption and trade, which was published in PNAS.

Last, I would like to thank my wife, my son, and my parents, who have always been my strongest believers and supporters.

—Jintai Lin, Peking University, Beijing, China

William Anderegg is the first recipient of the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award. He will receive the award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts on the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

 

Citation

At the young age of 30, Dr. William “Bill” Anderegg has already firmly established an international scientific reputation as a pioneer in global environmental change. His multiscale research in global environmental change links drought, tree mortality, and long-term climate change impacts on forests across regional-to-continental scales. Bill also understands the importance of conveying the consequences of global environmental changes to the public. He has made efforts to translate climate change science studies into terms that engage the public. These efforts help inform both the public and policy makers about the drivers of the massive tree mortalities occurring over vast stretches of the forest biomes in the western United States today.

Bill Anderegg’s novel research spans from cellular to ecosystem scales to address a most fundamental aspect of climate change and its biological consequences: How does drought impact forests and the carbon cycle? Forest ecosystems store almost half of the carbon in terrestrial ecosystems today. These ecosystems are not only sensitive to climate and climate-induced feedbacks, but latent heat transfer from forests has major impacts on regional-to-continental scale climates. Thus, understanding drought and drought-induced forest mortality has broad implications for climate-related thresholds. Bill’s approaches to tackle this multi-scale question include physiological tools to understand the mechanistic basis of a biological response, modeling that integrates both spatial and time considerations, and development of strong collaborative efforts that bring together the cross disciplinary teams essential to fully tackle this ecology-climate challenge.

Bill Anderegg is an exceptional young scientist who will definitely become a leader in studying biological aspects of climate change research. He already has the credentials and international stature to make him an outstanding recipient of the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award.

—Jim Ehleringer, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Response

Thank you, Jim, for your kind words. I am incredibly honored to be selected as the 2016 AGU Global Environmental Change Early Career (GEC) Award recipient. I want to thank AGU, the Global Environmental Change focus group, and Rong Fu. I would like to thank the wonderful mentors who have inspired me, including Jim Ehleringer, Steve Pacala, Chris Field, Joe Berry, Terry Root, and the late Steve Schneider. And I want to thank the many, many people who have made the research I do possible, including spectacular collaborators and students, and my family.

It’s particularly humbling to be chosen in the inaugural GEC Early Career Award. The GEC supports a number of important endeavors that have greatly enriched my work, including the Tyndall and Stephen Schneider Memorial Lectures. Without Steve Schneider’s mentorship and inspiration, I would not be standing here today, and the memorial lectures are the perfect way to continue his legacy of rigorous science and public engagement.

I remember my first experience as a graduate student at AGU very clearly because it felt like riding a tsunami of two emotions—excitement and awe. Awe that so many scientists existed…and they all gathered here! And excitement at the extraordinary research in global environmental change by all of you that both addresses foundational questions about how the world works and, more importantly, seeks answers to some of the urgent challenges facing society. While the awe has subsided slightly, one of the best parts of my year involves coming to AGU and feeling the wave of excitement from so much important science and so many amazing colleagues. I look forward to many more productive and enjoyable years interacting with and contributing to the GEC focus group and AGU.

—William Anderegg, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Honors Contacts

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Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]