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Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award

Information on the Award

The Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award is presented annually and recognizes outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approaches. It is named to honor the work and life of Piers J. Sellers, an accomplished astronaut, AGU Fellow and member of the Global Environmental Change Section who was a pioneer of vegetation and carbon modeling. Successful nominees are may be an individual mid-career scientist or team of mid-career scientists.

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Award Benefits

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

  • 1

    Award certificate

  • 2

    Recognition in Eos

  • 3

    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

  • 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 Global Environmental Change Award Committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must by primarily or secondarily affiliated with the Global Environmental Change section.
  • The nominee must be within 10 to 20 years of receiving their Ph.D. or highest terminal degree on the first day of the year in which the award is presented. 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;
    • Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-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;
    • Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-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;
    • Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-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 of 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.
  • 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, which illustrate the nominee’s quality of work.
  • Up to three letters of support. Supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.

Submission Process

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

Submit
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Recipients

Hong Liao

2020

Katherine Calvin received the Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes a scientist or team of midcareer scientists “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approaches.”

 

Citation

Dr. Katherine Calvin has made outstanding research contributions in the area of global environmental change. Dr. Calvin’s research focuses on the interactions between human socioeconomic activity and Earth system changes. She has worked extensively in developing international scenarios for climate change research and is a leading expert in integrated assessment modeling, combining quantitative and coding expertise with broad training across Earth sciences, socioeconomics, and land use change.

Dr. Calvin’s scientific findings have been used and cited by all three working groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Her expertise has led to international recognition and community involvement as a contributing author to the IPCC Working Group III Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), lead author for the Working Group III AR6, and the coordinating lead author for the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land. The IPCC reports span sectors and national boundaries to provide the scientific information and basis for understanding climate change and its impacts on natural and human systems and for informing pathways to mitigate and adapt to those changes. Kate’s diverse background and skills make her an ideal person to lead these efforts. Dr. Calvin is also the biogeochemistry group lead for the Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), coordinating model development and interacting with the other modeling groups to ensure seamless coupling and performance. With her outstanding career thus far, we look forward to the next decade of exceptional research from Dr. Calvin.

—Corinne Hartin and Ben Bond-Lamberty, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, Md.

Response

I am humbled and honored to receive the Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award this year. I had the pleasure of hearing Piers Sellers talk a few times and always found his stories of carbon and space travel inspiring. I’m also honored to be the third awardee, following the amazing Jim Randerson and Markus Reichstein. Thank you, Corinne, for nominating me!

Several people have helped mentor me and shaped my career. First, I’d like to thank my Ph.D. advisor, John Weyant, for introducing me to climate change and teaching me how to do research. The breadth of John’s knowledge and the encouragement he provides his students had a tremendous influence on me, in terms of both my field of study and the way I engage with others. Next, I’d like to thank Jae Edmonds and Leon Clarke for hiring me and teaching me about integrated assessment. The opportunities Jae and Leon gave me as an early-career researcher, from coordinating model intercomparison projects to working on next-generation emissions scenarios, helped me hone my technical skills and introduced me to leadership. I’d like to thank Tony Janetos for teaching me about land and the Earth system and steering me toward more interdisciplinary research; I will always be grateful for the chats I had with him on agriculture and the Global Change Assessment Model, and sports. Last, I’d like to thank all of the colleagues, collaborators, and coauthors with whom I’ve interacted over the years. I couldn’t have done the research I have, and certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, without them. I hope that I can provide as much to the Global Environmental Change community as it has provided to me.

—Katherine Calvin, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, Md.

Markus Reichstein will receive the 2018 Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes a scientist or team of midcareer scientists “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approaches.”

 

Citation

Markus Reichstein epitomizes the spirit, vision, and creativity of Piers Sellers more than any of the up-and-coming and qualified scientists in the world. Markus’s research focuses on the interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and the climate system by studying the response of vegetation, soils, and whole ecosystems to climate variability from local to global scales. Like Piers Sellers, his vision includes combining data-driven and system-oriented process-driven approaches. Research being conducting by Reichstein and his group is fulfilling our community’s, and Piers’s, dream of producing a data system that views the breathing of the Earth “everywhere and all of the time.”

Reichstein and his group have accomplished this monumental task by merging direct measurements of carbon fluxes from the continuous, long-term, but sparse, network of flux towers in the FLUXNET network with the spatially explicit, but inferred and intermittent, information produced by a constellation of satellites sensing the surface and by gap-filling in time and space with neural network and regression tree machine learning tools. This has led to the first direct data-driven estimates of global photosynthesis and evapotranspiration. In addition, and very complementary, he has been successfully pushing forward the development of soil concepts and models from a “dead soil” to a “living soil” paradigm for biogeochemical dynamics, which acknowledges the interactions between soil organic matter, soil microbes, and the soil matrix together with transport processes and abiotic factors.

He has also been leading several international research activities, such as a data-driven climate ecosystem model comparison study called FLUXCOM; the European CarboExtreme project, which examined how ecosystems are responding to extreme climate conditions; and global community efforts such as Extreme Events and Environments—from climate to society within Future Earth. Throughout his career he has also offered open services and data products to the research community. So, still in his relatively young career, Markus has already been broadly stimulating the scientific global environmental community and numerous early-career scientists just as Piers Sellers did during his active time.

—Dennis Baldocchi, University of California, Berkeley

Response

Receiving this Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award is truly humbling, because even from a distance, Piers Sellers has been a scientific idol during my graduate studies. It is even more humbling being the second awardee after Jim Randerson, who also continues to inspire a lot of my thinking about global environmental change (GEC) research. Dennis, thanks a lot for having considered me here.

I would like to thank very much several mentors for being so crucial in my scientific development. It starts with Dr. Gabriele Broll, who during undergraduate studies and my diploma thesis taught me everything about soil and about scientific scrutiny, which I believe today is more important than ever. Then a truly inceptive experience has been the Hyytiälä Euroflux meeting in 1998, organized by Timo Vesala, where I had the chance to discuss my Ph.D. plans with Dennis Baldocchi, Riccardo Valentini, and my advisor John Tenhunen, who gave very complementary and inspiring perspectives on biosphere–atmosphere interactions. I vividly remember Dennis’s keynote lecture that so greatly transported the excitement about the richness of information contained in eddy covariance flux data. Then Steve Running, during my short-term research stay in Missoula in 2002 related to the NASA MODIS mission, “opened my eyes” to the global scale and the value of remote sensing for GEC science. Also, the informal and pure-science-driven attitude—maybe also typical for the AGU GEC community—has always made it a pleasure to interact. These stimulating interactions only became more intensive in almost regular follow-up visits in Baldocchi’s and Running’s labs in Berkeley and Missoula. In summary, I am grateful for all the support I have received by these individuals and AGU, in general, and hope I can pay back in many ways for the rapidly evolving GEC sciences.

—Markus Reichstein, Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany

James Randerson is the inaugural honoree of the Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award of the American Geophysical Union’s Global Environmental Change focus group. He will receive the award at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes a scientist or team of midcareer scientists “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approaches.”

 

Citation

Jim Randerson is the perfect candidate for the Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award. Over the nearly 20 years between completing his Ph.D. at Stanford to his current position as Chancellor’s Professor of Earth System Science at UC Irvine, Jim’s professional ascent and scientific contributions have been nothing short of phenomenal, not unlike those of Piers in the period between completing his Ph.D. and entering the NASA astronaut program.

Jim’s research focuses on the interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and Earth’s climate system, investigating the effects of climate on ecosystems and also the feedbacks of terrestrial ecosystems on global and regional climate as mediated by processes such as disturbance, albedo, and carbon dioxide exchange. The breadth of his research ranges from fine-scale controls on wildfire in southern California, Alaska, and Brazil, to continental-scale patterns of wildfire emissions as radiative forcings on climate and energy budgets, to global models and syntheses of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon exchange.

He is prolific, influential, and broadly engaged in a range of interdisciplinary Earth system science research endeavors around the world. He has accomplished this through the excellence of his own research as well as an extensive set of collaborations with the very best scientists working to understand and quantify the changing biosphere. This is very much like Piers’s legacy in bringing together a broad team of top-notch scientists to rapidly advance interdisciplinary research of the Earth system in the 1980s and 1990s. Also like Piers, Jim has been a mentor to many students and early-career scientists who have gone on to excel in their own careers.

Having had the good fortune and pleasure to work with Piers, I am certain he would be pleased to have an award in his name being conferred upon Jim.

—Scott Goetz, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff

Response

Thank you, Scott, for the generous citation! This award means a lot to me because I knew Piers—he served as a role model when I was starting out as a young scientist. I was fortunate to work first as a graduate student and then as a postdoc during the 1990s as a part of a NASA Interdisciplinary Science project that Piers co-led. The experience was amazing. Every 6 months, like clockwork, our team would assemble and review progress toward our goal of building a new generation of biosphere models. For the students and postdoctoral scholars participating in this project, these meetings were simultaneously intimidating and inspiring. Feedback on new ideas was swift, sometimes requiring soul searching, and often punctuated by Piers’s sharp wit. Listening from the back of the room, we were witness to Piers and his friends defining a new field of global ecology. He pushed us to be our best through a singular combination of brilliance, humor, and passion. There are many of us who emerged from this ecosystem, now hoping to carry on in his footsteps and drawing inspiration from his editorial last year in the New York Times. When I look back at the transformative impact of Terra and other satellites in NASA’s Earth Observing System, I view this achievement as a tribute to Piers and his colleagues inside and outside of NASA who changed the way we view the biosphere on Earth.

With every passing day, I feel more and more fortunate to have a career as a scientist. I am indebted to Chris Field for his careful mentorship as my Ph.D. advisor, and to my postdoc mentors Inez Fung and Terry Chapin for providing further guidance. I am lucky to work with wonderful colleagues at UC Irvine. I share this honor with them, and with the exceptional students and early-career scientists I have had the privilege of working with. My family makes all of this worthwhile, and I thank Kathleen, Kate, and John for their love and support!

—James Randerson, University of California, Irvine

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]