Night sky with the milky way and stars over an empty road, USA.


Information on the Ambassador Award

The Ambassador Award is given annually to one to five honorees in recognition of their outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool. The Ambassador Award honors individuals whose achievements extend beyond those recognized by traditional scientific discipline awards.
Professor teaching class of students at Fall Meeting

Award benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our honorees. Recipients of the Ambassador Award will receive an engraved award, as well as the following benefits during the award presentation year:
  • 1
    Awardee will be made an AGU Fellow (if the honoree has been an AGU member for three consecutive years and is not already a Fellow)
  • 2
    Recognition at AGU’s Fall Meeting
  • 3
    Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at AGU’s Fall Meeting


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

  • 1

    Nominees: The nominee should be an early career, mid-career or senior scientist, but is not required to be an active AGU member. They should be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • 2

    Nominators: Nominators must be active AGU members and in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy. Duplicate nominations for the same individual will not be accepted. However, one co-nominator is permitted (but not required) per nomination.

  • 3

    Supporters: Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members but must be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

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Nomination package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. For detailed information on the requirements, review the Union Awards, Medals and Prizes Frequently Asked Questions.

  • A nomination letter with one-sentence citation (150 characters or less). Letterhead stationery is preferred. Nominator’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required. The citation should appear at either the beginning or end of the nomination letter.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee. Include the candidate’s name, address and email, history of employment, degrees, research experience, honors, memberships, and service to the community through committee work, advisory boards, etc.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • Three letters of support not including the nomination letter. Letterhead is preferred. Supporter’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required.
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Nominations for the Ambassador Award are reviewed by the Ambassador Award Committee on the following criteria:

  • Scope of Impact (quantity): number and diversity of people or communities impacted
  • Duration of Impact or Effort (time)
  • Level of Impact (quality)
  • Level of engagement or involvement across Earth and Space community
  • Extent of reach in society beyond Earth and Space community (who noticed it, whom did it engage)
  • Was the effort pioneering?
  • Ethical risk taking for common good
  • Multidisciplinary impact (crossing disciplinary boundaries or encompassing many disciplines within or outside of Earth and space science)
  • Aligned with AGU strategic goals and envisioned future
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Nominations are Open!

The nomination cycle for 2023 AGU Union awards, medals, and prizes is now open until 12 April at 23:59 ET. Nominate a colleague, peer or student today.

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For His Generous and Untiring Efforts to Promote the Geosciences Career and Talent Pool among Historically Underrepresented Students and Colleagues across the Americas


For his commitment to the study and dissemination of hydrologic knowledge and water resource data critical to the lives in a broad swath of the African continent


For her visionary accomplishments in the areas of diversity, educational innovation, and the promotion of geoscience literacy.


For outstanding contributions in geophysics for water resource evaluation and pioneering efforts to build the community of near-surface geophysics.


For international leadership and scholarly contributions to tropical land-atmosphere interactions especially as they pertain to Amazonia.


The Ambassador Award recognizes social impact and service to the scientific community. Professor Katharine Hayhoe epitomizes this award and is a guiding light for climate scientists seeking to hold productive conversations across cultural and political divides. Her tireless work over the years has led her to become one of the most important public voices on climate change and put her in the same league with the likes of Carl Sagan or Stephen Schneider.

Katharine’s efforts in communications are legendary. She does hundreds of interviews every year, dozens of public lectures, and a PBS digital series on YouTube, and she is active on social media (collectively she has 400,000 followers). She also co-founded the organization Science Moms to help mothers who are concerned about their children’s planet but don’t know how they can help. We literally don’t understand how Katharine gets everything done.

In her research, Katharine has been active in helping both cities and the country assess the risks they face from climate change. Her research focus on downscaling emerged from her work on a regional Great Lakes assessment in 2003. She has since served as an author for the Second, Third and Fourth National Climate Assessments and took on a particularly prominent communication role for the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which was released during the Trump administration with minimal federal communications support.

Most recently, she published her book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, which is a national bestseller. This book showcases Katharine’s most important quality, an eternal optimism and can-do spirit. Despite how discouraged we often are about climate change, after reading it we couldn’t help but be optimistic. She reminds us that the climate crisis is a solvable problem — if we make the effort.

While all of us strive to change the world, Katharine is actually doing it. This is why the Ambassador Award is such an appropriate recognition for her.

— Andrew Dessler
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

— Robert Kopp
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey


The scope of Dr. Koike’s activities has been broad, crosscutting several aspects of Earth sciences over his extensive career. The importance of his contributions is seen in the influence he has had on the community in planning large-scale environmental experiments and new paradigms for integrating data and models to create hydrologic knowledge for decision-making and benefitting society.

Dr. Koike’s research over the years has covered a wide range of hydroclimatological areas, including hydrologic modeling, satellite-based data assimilation, and large-scale field and process studies, especially the extended studies related to the hydroclimatology of the Asian summer monsoon and water balance on the Tibetan Plateau. Toshio is best known for his development of an integrated hydrological modeling system with emphasis on the biospheric elements, including energy and carbon dioxide fluxes and soil moisture distribution.

Toshio’s scientific leadership has contributed significantly to research initiatives of the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX). The initiation and implementation of the GEWEX-Asian Monsoon Experiment (GAME)-Tibet project is a great example of his leadership. The impact of GAME on the international scientific community is seen in the thousands of published scientific articles, referencing the use of data and knowledge from the GAME-Tibet program.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Koike has been a leader in shaping several international programs. He was a leader in embedding science into the Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction. He has been a key player in the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which initiated the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. For his part, he led the contributions of Japan for integration of observations and model simulations of international programs (WCRP/GEO/Global Climate Observing System) by facilitating the University of Tokyo to serve as a data hub archive with mirror sites around the world. He was instrumental in establishing Asia-Oceania Group on Earth Observations in cooperation with the governments of China, Korea and Australia. Dr. Koike serves as a role model when it comes to training a new generation of scientists. As the executive director of the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management, he has created a training program for young scientists and practitioners from many developing countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and others. Professor Koike’s outstanding contributions exemplify the spirit of the Ambassador Award and AGU’s goal of recognizing individuals committed to “advancing discovery in Earth and space sciences and its benefit for humanity and the environment.”

— Soroosh Sorooshian
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, California


I am truly honored to receive the AGU Ambassador Award. I would like to thank my nominators, Professors Soroosh Sorooshian, Gordon McBean and Jeff Dozier, and my supporters, Drs. Antonio Busalacchi, Kevin Trenberth and Ghassem Asrar.

I have been working on integrating data and models, particularly satellite data assimilation, to create hydrologic knowledge for helping to make science-based decisions. As a professor at the Nagaoka University of Technology and the University of Tokyo and the executive director of the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM), I have also been creating education and training programs for young scientists and practitioners from many developing countries. I am deeply grateful that these research and educational projects have given me many chances to bridge the gap between science and local actions and contribute to various policy- and decision-making processes.

Today, water-related disasters intensified by climate change are affecting various aspects of society all over the world. The impacts have extended to the water-food-energy nexus and the quality of life. When these circumstances worsen, society will eventually be plagued with problems arising in such areas as gender, equality and peace to a great degree. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to serious damage directly to our health, the world has learned that complex, cascading and systemic risks that are usually implicit in social, economic and environmental systems can suddenly emerge and threaten humanity beyond boundaries in space and time.

“How should humanity survive such risks and live with them in a sustainable way?” is a fundamental question.

The science community should support society’s transformation into a resilient, sustainable and inclusive body by playing key roles in cross-sectoral decision-making. The Chair’s Summary, approved at the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in Kumamoto, Japan, in April 2022, clearly states the following three targets:

  • Promote water cycle consilience by accelerating the open science policy, particularly focusing on observation, modeling and data integration.
  • Foster "facilitators," that is, catalytic beings who can lead the way toward resolving problems by providing professional advice on site using a broad range of scientific and Indigenous knowledge.
  • Work together beyond disciplines and sectors among different levels while taking an end-to-end approach.

I have been blessed with so many great opportunities to address these three targets in collaboration with excellent, enthusiastic leaders and colleagues and young scientists and practitioners all over the world. I am delighted to receive the 2022 Ambassador Award on behalf of all these people.

Thank you.

—Toshio Koike
International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management
Tsukuba, Japan


Marino Protti is a respected seismologist with a long list of well-cited journal articles on his CV. What makes Marino uniquely qualified for the Ambassador Award is his ability to spawn collaborations that advance earthquake forecasting and hazard mitigation.

Over his career Marino initiated numerous international research projects. He had three goals: first, do good science; second, exploit the geography and geology of Costa Rica to study the subduction seismic cycle; and third, raise public awareness in Costa Rica and the world about seismic hazard. His view was that all three goals would be best advanced by collaborations involving seismologists, geodesists, geologists and other scientists from around the world, each bringing their expertise (and instruments and funding) to the table.

When Marino started his career in the 1980s, there was little appreciation of seismic hazard. Marino worked tirelessly to get the message out that earthquake and volcano hazard could be forecast, and preparations could be made. For seismic hazard, that meant strengthening building codes. Decades later, his efforts paid off when an M 7.6 earthquake struck the northwest coast of Costa Rica. While damages were extensive, casualties were limited.

Early in his career, Marino worked with Costa Rican colleagues to establish Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica (OVSICORI). This is a remarkable organization, charged with earthquake and volcano monitoring and hazard mitigation, affiliated with the Universidad Nacional (UNA). OVSICORI-UNA maintains a sophisticated network of real-time and near-real-time geophysical monitoring equipment throughout the country. They are a model for other Central American nations facing similar hazards with limited resources.

Marino worked with American scientists involved with the National Science Foundation’s MARGINS program, which ran from 2001 to 2010, to get the northwest coast of Costa Rica declared a special focus site for the study of subduction zone earthquakes (a similar program continued the following decade under GeoPrisms). Seismic and geodetic networks were established to augment OVSICORI’s monitoring efforts, beginning in 2001 and continuing today. When the 2012 earthquake struck, more than a decade of spatially and temporally dense seismic and geodetic data had been collected, capturing the late stage of a seismic cycle and making the earthquake an exceptionally well monitored event.

Marino is currently working with other Central and South American countries on issues related to marine conservation and Law of the Sea. He is promoting the idea of Costa Rica as a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty. The hope is that this country, one of the few in the world without a standing army, can be a voice for conservation, research and continuation of that continent’s nonmilitary status. In these troubling times, we need more such efforts.

— Timothy Dixon
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida


It is with great humility that I receive this award while thanking both the colleagues who nominated me as well as the judges who chose me.

More than as an individual merit, I want to acknowledge that what I have done in almost four decades is thanks to a chain of institutions and people. The Costa Rica Volcanological and Seismological Observatory (OVSICORI) is a great institution that has given me all the conditions to grow scientifically without bounds. OVSICORI can do that because behind it is the National University of Costa Rica with a strong commitment for public service. My colleagues from the United States, Japan and Europe have provided me with instrumentation and opportunities to contribute to the understanding of subduction process in Costa Rica, share it with the world, and trickle it down to the population of Costa Rica. As a result, I believe that Costa Rica is the country with the highest tectonically educated people in the world. As an example, thanks to the dissemination of the knowledge we are producing, most Costa Ricans can explain in simple words what subduction is.

By abolishing the army and therefore not wasting money on defense, Costa Rica has been able to invest large amounts of resources in education and health care for all its citizens. I have been a direct beneficiary of these circumstances, and having come from a low-income family with half a dozen siblings (all of them with higher education degrees in science and engineering), my only merit has been to work hard to pay back my country for the investment it put into me.


The only thing I claim is the ability to take advantage of every opportunity my colleagues and life put in front of me. Some have taken me down to 4,000 m below the sea surface, and others down to Antarctica on two occasions. I tell students to also take every opportunity because each one will open more doors to grow in science and life. Going to Antarctica exposed me to the Antarctic Treaty, and since I saw its beauty, I pushed Costa Rica into becoming the 55th party of such a novel international treaty for peace, science and conservation, features for which Costa Rica is also known around the world.

I only hope that this award will help me continue promoting Costa Rica as an excellent field laboratory to study subduction processes.

— Marino Protti  
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional
Heredia. Costa Rica



Roger Pulwarty is receiving the 2022 AGU Ambassador Award for his exceptional scientific, societal and policy impacts on disaster response, preparedness and risk reduction around the world.

Roger has been a major player in some of the most significant policies and action plans the U.S. government has implemented in the areas of disaster science, response and preparedness. He was the founding director of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) that transformed drought management in the United States.

Roger’s international contributions are all also well-known and recognized. He served as a convening lead author on U.N. Office for Disaster Reduction Global Assessment Reports, on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II, including Special Reports on Water Resources and on Extremes, and on the U.S. National Climate Assessment. He has provided testimonies before the U.S. Congress, served on National Academy of Sciences committees, and acts as an adviser on climate risk assessment and management to the Western Governors' Association, the Organization of American States, the U.N. Development Programme, the U.N. Environment Programme and the Interamerican and World Banks. He co-chairs the World Meteorological Organization Climate Services Information System Implementation Team and is the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics scientific representative on the U.N. Global Framework on Climate Services.

Roger’s publications primarily focus on climate and risk management in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to research, he has created environments and programs for fostering interdisciplinary research. Roger has played a major role in leading innovative research teams and interdisciplinary program design and implementation to address complex environmental problems related to weather and natural hazards. He helped conceptualize, develop and then lead what he later named the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) Program. These are applied research and decision support efforts now spread around 11 regions of the United States and recognized as prototypes for integrating physical and social sciences research into decision-making.

For his significant contributions, Roger has received many honors and awards. He is a co-recipient of the Department of Commerce Gold and Silver Medals for integrating scientific research into decision-making and the 2016 AGU Gilbert F. White Distinguished Award and Lecture.

Roger has a remarkable record of selfless public service; the promotion of geophysical sciences and scientific integrity in political arenas; and a tireless dedication to diversity, outreach, raising awareness and public engagement. We are thrilled that he has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2022 AGU Ambassador Award. Congratulations, Roger!

- Amir AghaKouchak,
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, California


I am deeply honored to receive an Ambassador Award from the American Geophysical Union. AGU epitomizes the professional organization that is dedicated to promoting the highest-quality science, ensuring that science contributes to solving societal problems, and fostering a cadre of innovative professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and practices that support both of those goals. No recognition of this kind is the result of one person’s work.

I am thankful that AGU recognizes the contributions of multiple disciplines in enabling a resilient future, and as such, I sit on the shoulders of many and diverse giants. To paraphrase a question asked by the late geographer Gilbert White, “If we know so much, why aren’t we doing better?” AGU through the Ambassador Award acknowledges that the contributions of science in guiding us toward a more just and sustainable world is increasingly reliant on the joint construction of knowledge with diverse communities, an inherently social and behavioral process, aimed at enriching the human condition and sustaining livelihoods, ecosystems and well-being. With these thoughts in mind, my own attempts have been guided by two use-inspired questions: How best can we anticipate, develop and incorporate existing and new knowledge into better decisions, and as critically, how do we make sense of the multiple perceptions, values and frames to chart an equitable path forward? Interdisciplinary research and programs that systematize and communicate a body of knowledge for action are both necessary. The support of my colleagues and their intellectual contributions in understanding the beautiful complexity of the Earth system and the themes embodied in this award are humbling. They stand as pillars of outstanding competence, rigorously integrated knowledge, and, most importantly, as stellar human beings. I am fortunate to be able to rely on their minds and on their help.

We are accorded an honored role in society. To sustain that trust in a rapidly changing world, we need to not only live up to expectations of knowledge creation but to help imagine and create more equitable and sustainable futures. I am indebted to the AGU Honors team and committee. I thank Professor AghaKouchak and my colleagues who selflessly supported this nomination, the numerous mentors I have been fortunate to have had over many decades, my family, and my spouse, Susan Iott, who are the touchstones of quality and integrity for anything to which I am able, even minimally, to contribute.

- Roger S. Pulwarty
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Boulder, Colorado


Mary Voytek is a transformative leader in the biogeosciences community. Her contributions over a 40-year career that is still unfolding exemplify the AGU values embodied by the Ambassador Award. Beginning in the 1990s, during an era in which most geoscientists saw “biogeosciences” as an oxymoron, she was a key leader in the movement that brought environmental microbiology and astrobiology into AGU, eventually helping to found and lead the Biogeosciences section.

Later, at NASA, Mary reshaped the Astrobiology Program to empower an emerging generation of scientists who viewed astrobiology as their primary focus and mission relevance as a priority. Going far beyond normal program manager duties and taking serious professional risk, she was a key figure driving a wholesale reorganization of NASA’s planetary sciences programs to infuse them with astrobiology objectives. More recently, Mary shifted astrobiology community leadership from a centralized institute to a distributed “research coordination network” that she is nurturing toward maturity and has advocated for community definitions, community standards and consensus building around the standards of evidence needed to guide public and scientific discourse about the search for life on other worlds. Along the way, Mary worked extensively and systematically to elevate new talent into positions of responsibility, such as by recruiting and mentoring future scientist-administrators in astrobiology through the NASA Management Postdoctoral Fellow program.

Most recently, she advanced the global astrobiology community through her leadership of the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Tech. Mary has made it a priority to develop the international astrobiology community by fostering an integrative, collaborative and internationalist culture that makes ELSI a welcoming home for students and visiting scholars from around the world. If the day comes when there is credible evidence of life elsewhere, Mary’s leadership will have led us toward understanding, debating and interpreting that evidence as a unified global science community.

— Ariel D. Anbar
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

Fatima Abrantes, Madhulika Guhathakurta, Susan Hassol, Ambrose Jearld, and Aradhna Tripati were awarded the 2021 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 15 December 2021 in New Orleans, LA. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Fatima Abrantes was selected to receive the Ambassador Award for establishing, sustaining and promoting paleoceanography and ocean sciences in Portugal, ensuring Portugal is a major player in these fields. From the early stages of her career Dr. Fatima Abrantes started to build up a research group in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology at the Portuguese Geological Survey, a research field that beforehand did not exist in Portugal. Through her tireless efforts in promoting paleoceanography and ocean sciences and in securing major research funding for building up analytical facilities and funding large collaborative research projects, she and her group have put Portugal on the global research map in these fields. Fatima was a founding member of the Portuguese Association for Paleoceanography (1996-2013), which in 2013 widened its scope and became the Portuguese Association for Ocean Sciences. Fatima has promoted paleoceanography and the ocean sciences in Portugal by serving as a member of scientific and executive committees in international programs such as International Marine Past Global Changes Study (IMAGES), Past Global Changes, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the Mediterranean Climate Variability and Predictability project; by being a member of the European Science Foundation’s Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences core and standing committees; and by taking on editorial roles for international journals such as Progress in Oceanography and Journal of Climatology.

Attesting to her continuous advancement of the field in Portugal and beyond, she has trained more than 30 young researchers, from the undergraduate to postdoctoral level. Her group’s research has made seminal contributions in the fields of marine biology, paleoceanography, climatology and sedimentology. Dr. Abrantes has published over 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals and 11 book chapters with over 300 co-authors. While these metrics are impressive, to really evaluate her impact, one needs to consider the productivity, input and impact of her group of ~20 scientists, the success of which should be attributed to her dedication and continuous academic and financial support. Fatima does not take credit for many of these contributions, but they would not have been possible without her support and leadership. These achievements attest to an impact that goes way beyond her outstanding personal scientific achievements.

Fatima has received several awards for her selfless and hard work, including being selected as a Fulbright fellow (2003-2004), becoming an honorary member of Phi Kapa Phi Society (1989), being selected as a UNESCO fellow (1989-1990), and receiving a Scientific Studies Fellowship of INVOTAN from NATO (1985- 1988).

— Adina Paytan
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 

— Antje H. L. Voelker
Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera
Lisbon, Portugal


This Ambassador Award arrived as a total surprise, so much so that it took me various reads of the received email to accept it was real. It is an honor to be recognized by our peers. I thank the nominees and the AGU committee for finding me worthy of this award. However, I feel that whatever I've accomplished is just what was supposed to be done and benefited from the support of many.

My involvement in paleosciences started at Lamont during a 4-month training followed by pursuing funding to do a Ph.D. in the United States. I was pretty lucky, and an IVOTAN-NATO fellowship allowed me to graduate as a geological oceanographer from University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. There, I learned the basis for my future approach to science: consider the planet as an integrated system, look for multi- or transdisciplinary approaches and seek international collaboration.

NATO funding requires recipients to return to their country of origin after graduation for a minimum of 2 years to contribute to their country's development. So I returned and became the first paleo person in Portugal.

My duty became to convince the institution's directors, the Portuguese science leaders and the funding agencies of the importance of this scientific area and the necessity of a more diverse education for younger generations of oceanographers. European Union research programs were starting up, and I was fortunate enough to participate in several projects and scientific committees. Soon after, I started to join other scientific panels of European and international programs. Through that journey, besides the pleasure of traveling, I enjoyed the privilege to meet and learn from excellent yet humble scientists from many areas of science. With them, I acquired the confidence to follow my dreams.

I embraced Fernando Pessoa's (Portuguese poet) vision of life: "Deus quer, o Homem sonha, a obra nasce” (God wills, man dreams, the work is born). It has never been easy; it required personal and scientific sacrifices. Still, in the end, it has been worth it, and I feel blessed anytime I see young researchers following their dreams.

— Fatima Abrantes
Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera
Lisbon, Portugal


Fatima Abrantes, Madhulika Guhathakurta, Susan Hassol, Ambrose Jearld, and Aradhna Tripati were awarded the 2021 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 15 December 2021 in New Orleans, LA. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


As an ambassador, Dr. Madhulika “Lika” Guhathakurta demonstrates a unique ability to bind the space weather community in a spirit of cooperation and inclusive engagement, educating and energizing audiences within and beyond those who carry out the research. As the effects of solar activity and space weather phenomena on daily lives, the environment and space systems become more and more prevalent, the need to collaborate and cooperate with the international community becomes increasingly important. 

Lika consistently provides colleagues and students with opportunities to advance professionally and develop their skills. These efforts have led to the formation of diverse teams that include individuals of various ethnicities, nationalities, backgrounds, career stages and expertise. In particular, her longtime leadership of the Living With a Star Program infrastructure-building component has resulted in summer schools, textbooks, workshops, institutes, curricula and postdoctoral positions that have promoted professional growth and a vehicle for meeting future workforce needs. 

She devotes much of her time to program advocacy, competing with other agencies and working cooperatively with them. She served on the National Committee for Space Weather, where her initiatives have achieved the cooperation of U.S. agencies, many foreign space agencies and even the United Nations in shepherding the generation of science programs. Lika founded cooperative programs with the American Museum of Natural History and initiated a unique research program for the community and the public to develop innovative ideas, including citizen science, to maximize the knowledge obtained from solar eclipses. As a result, millions of people worldwide could participate in the eclipse data collection. 

Education, outreach and mentoring are especially strong passions for Lika. She participates in dozens of media interviews annually, supports educational initiatives within the U.S. and the international community, develops content and lectures at planetariums and museums, and expends a great deal of effort to encourage students and young scientists. In addition, she nurtures younger members, students and professionals in her field, providing them with a brilliant, effective, successful and gracious role model as a leader and a world-class scientist. Her special contributions to AGU’s goals include organizing AGU sessions on interdisciplinary topics that promote new research programs and directions in heliophysics and space science. Her influences on the world of space weather and related science run wide and deep and will continue to affect future generations and their endeavors for decades to come.

— Alexander Kosovichev
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, New Jersey 

— Janet Luhmann
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California


I would like to thank AGU for honoring me with the prestigious 2021 Ambassador Award.

My big thank you to the national and international community and to NASA for the trust and confidence you placed in me. I feel incredibly fortunate that I was given the opportunity to work, learn and experience the world with incredible people who have shared my passion for innovation, education and adventure. And I want to thank my nuclear family from India, who instilled a sense of curiosity in me in my early years, and my nuclear family in America, which has been my home for the past 41 years, for supporting me and sacrificing for me and with me.

I do feel a responsibility to help young ones, who are curious and look at the stars for answers to their questions much like I did as a young girl in a city called Kolkata in India. I used to watch the night sky and looked at the stars for answers!

In graduate school, I chose to study the Sun, the only star we can study in great detail.

Through life, from joining NASA Goddard and then HQ in 1993, my entire journey has been fueled by my core love for the Sun, taking me in pursuit of shaping and understanding heliophysics and making everyone aware of the importance of space weather. My proudest achievement is still making Living with a Star science with relevance to life and society into a reality, which not only brought me a newfound appreciation for the Sun but single-handedly woke up the world to how we know so little about the one heavenly body which gives us life.

I continue to make it my mission of helping promising youths who seek the same answers as I do. They're new to this field, and I am confident that they'll lead us to a new and better era — the next step toward integrated interdisciplinary scientific research guided by augmented intelligence aided by Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning.

I really hope our future generation looks up at the Sun (not literally) and gets curious about this amazing orb of light which gives us life and purpose. To end, perhaps my eternal gratitude should be extended to none other than our glorious and golden Sun. I thank you for shining your light on me and guiding me along my way.

— Madhulika Guhathakurta
Washington, D.C.



Susan Hassol has done more than anyone not just to communicate climate science effectively, but to help others do the same. Her work to advance public understanding of climate science and mentor members of our community to be more effective communicators embodies everything the Ambassador Award is designed to honor. Susan is not a scientist by training, and that’s actually her greatest strength in the communication arena. It allows her to better see and hear how members of the lay public interpret what scientists say, yielding insights that she is able to share with scientists to help them communicate better to general audiences. Susan serves the scientific community through her writing, speaking, advising and training. She participates in a staggering number of conferences, committees, advisory boards and trainings focused on climate change communication and outreach. She advises the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and World Meteorological Organization. She was the lead writer on three U.S. National Climate Assessments (2000, 2009 and 2014). She authored “Impacts of a Warming Arctic,” the synthesis report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment in 2004, and wrote the climate documentary Too Hot Not to Handle for HBO in 2006. She also provides one-on-one assistance to scientists for special communication opportunities such as congressional testimony and high-profile media appearances. Susan excels at the art of translating technical and difficult scientific concepts into language accessible to policymakers, the media and the broader public. She is well known for her efforts to educate scientists on how to be more effective communicators. For example, she is famous for identifying words scientists use that mean entirely different things to the public (e.g., “aerosol” means spray can, “positive feedback” is good, “error” is a mistake, “bias” means political motive, etc.). In 2008, Susan published an article in Eos titled “Improving How Scientists Communicate About Climate Change,” and in 2011 she co-authored an influential article in Physics Today on this topic. In these articles, she presented key climate science communication concepts, pioneered numerous helpful metaphors and provided an invaluable table of problematic terms and better alternatives. In addition to her publications and talks, Susan has led many dozens of trainings for scientists at universities, NASA and NOAA labs and other venues to help scientists become more effective communicators. At this critical juncture in the societal discourse over climate change, we should be thankful for the ambassador we climate scientists have in Susan Hassol. — Michael E. Mann Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pennsylvania


It has been my great honor to work with and support the community of climate scientists in communicating what we know about climate change, why it matters and what we can do about it for more than three decades. It is the honor of a lifetime to receive the Ambassador Award for these efforts. I am deeply grateful to Michael Mann, whose work in both the science and communication of climate change is nothing short of heroic, for nominating me and to Jerry Melillo, Ben Santer and Bob Corell for their tremendous support, not only of my nomination but of my entire career. They are among the greatest scientific leaders I have had the pleasure of working closely with these past decades. It is often said that with great knowledge comes great responsibility. This rings especially true in the realm of climate science. Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity. Climate scientists thus bear a special responsibility to help society understand our reality and grasp the urgency of action. The Department of Homeland Security implores us, “If you see something, say something.” It’s scientists’ duty to talk about what you see, not only engaging in and promoting societally relevant research, but effectively communicating it. I am a strong proponent of the view that science is not finished until it is communicated. As our colleague the late Sherwood Roland said, “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” It has thus been my mission to help scientists meet the challenge of communicating broadly, in public talks, media interviews, testimony to political and legal bodies and even personal conversations. I have witnessed a welcome shift as a younger, more diverse generation of scientists has enthusiastically embraced the importance of communication. I am deeply gratified to have helped so many scientists become more effective communicators and participate more fruitfully in climate conversations at all levels. While I’m more comfortable in role of the voice coach, I am also pleased to have found my own voice in communicating about the climate crisis. I am fully embracing what it means to be an ambassador for the science. I am deeply grateful to all of you for your support and for honoring me with the 2021 Ambassador Award. — Susan Joy Hassol, Climate Communication, Asheville, NC


Fatima Abrantes, Madhulika Guhathakurta, Susan Hassol, Ambrose Jearld, and Aradhna Tripati were awarded the 2021 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 15 December 2021 in New Orleans, LA. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Ambrose Jearld has made intentional commitments to support the fostering of more inclusive research and learning environments for early-career Earth and space system scholars from under-invested communities. Throughout his professional career, Ambrose’s people-centered vision has propelled him to be a leader in empowering early-career scholars to explore educational, research and potential career opportunities that they would not have normally considered. He has uniquely applied systems approaches to address justice, equity, diversity and inclusion issues in the Earth and space sciences (ESS), and his ability to garner resources and collaborators in support of these efforts has been transformative. 

Ambrose’s professional efforts have been multi sectored, and his organizational acumen has been on display for decades. He has held positions of authority within academia, the public sector (NOAA) and nonprofit organizations, where he has demonstrated that true leadership qualities are transferable and service to the community for the greater good is a worthy goal of any professional regardless of area of expertise. 

Ambrose has easily relayed the importance of supporting the people who conduct the science through his past volunteer service on the AGU Council, through his presidential role at the National Technical Association and as a visionary founder of the innovative Partnership Education Program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The number of honors, citations, recognitions, and even a named lectureship at a world premier research institution like WHOI highlight the quality of Ambrose’s career efforts, the products of his leadership and the sustainability of his caring and training of the upcoming generations of ESS scientists and professionals.

— Brandon Jones
National Science Foundation
Alexandria, Virginia


I am grateful to receive an Ambassador Award from AGU. It is an honor to share this award with Aradhna E. Tripati from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as to be included with all the distinguished scientists who are receiving awards this year. 

Working for equity, access and inclusion has been the emphasis of my personal and professional work. My commitment to diversity has been guided and supported by many people and organizations. Brad Brown was my first post-baccalaureate mentor and has been long actively involved in the work of civil rights and diversity in the sciences. Ashanti Johnson, Ben Cuker, the late Claudia Alexander and others too numerous to name were instrumental in founding cohort programs that helped open the doors for marginalized and underrepresented people to enter the geological and oceanic sciences. I have been involved in these organizations in many roles, from graduate student to mentor. I'd also like to recognize Brendon Jones, who nominated me for this award and who also participated in a number of these cohort groups. Finally, throughout my career, I've had the love and support of my family.

Diversity in the ocean and Earth sciences is critical. All of us are part of the environment; all of us have a vital interest in the health of the waters and shorelines. The land and seas belong to all of us. We are still finding opportunities to include the wisdom and knowledge of more people in our understanding. We are still finding ways to honor the hidden figures who have supported inclusion, access and equity in understanding our shared environment. We are still working on sharing power so that all voices may be truly represented. I accept this award in recognition of the work that has been done by so many and the work that still remains. 

— Ambrose Jearld Jr.
NOAA (retired) and Woods Hole Partnership Education Program
Woods Hole, Massachusetts



The brilliant Dr. Aradhna Tripati, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has been selected to receive the distinguished honor of the AGU Ambassador Award for her scientific expertise in climate change, clumped isotopes and geochemical tracers, as well as her critical work with belonging, access, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). For decades, Dr. Tripati has been a committed voice of change working in STEM, including as the founder and director of the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science at UCLA. A sought-after mentor and adviser, she has mentored, advised/co-advised and trained countless students and teachers. Her approach is known for how it models cultural humility and anti-extractive and better ethical-cultural practices. And equally impressive is how she has established ways to create and sustain labs that teach inclusively, model unique hierarchical and anti-hierarchical structures and encourage a sense of belonging through different ways of nurturing the intersectional multitudes in the science student’s identity. With over 6,000 citations and over 100 publications, Dr. Tripati is renowned for her research in geochemical tracers for the study of Earth system processes and the history and dynamics of climate change. Tripati’s awards collection is impressive — it includes the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the Bromery Award for Minorities from the Geological Society of America, the E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science on the Role of Carbon Dioxide Climate Change, and a Chair International D’Excellence in Stable Isotopes from the Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer. In addition, she has been elected to the California Academy of Sciences, is a fellow of the Geochemical Society, and now of AGU, and is a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow. She has set herself apart from other scientists in the geosciences because she has moved beyond theory and conversation into action. Further, she has been engaged in actionable transformative leadership through the development of a community of activated geoscientists that has resulted in measurable gains in racial diversity. Those who have benefited from her work and activism applaud this remarkable scholar activist who is undeniably a pioneer. She is helping many who are underrepresented in geosciences to finally be able to say “I can see myself here,” which ultimately results in better science and humanity for all. — Kendall Moore University of Rhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island — Vernon Morris Arizona State University Tempe, Arizona

Karletta Chief was awarded the 2020 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Karletta Chief is a trailblazer whose visionary work in community-driven water research has yielded profound and sustained benefits for Native Americans in the United States and sets an example for meaningful engagement between scientists and Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

Dr. Chief’s research exemplifies ethical engagement with Indigenous communities and elevates scientific discourse about tribal perspectives on water management, climate change, and mining impacts. A hydrology professor and extension specialist at the University of Arizona, she has developed meaningful partnerships with Native Nations centered on community-based participatory research on water—a precious and sacred resource for Indigenous Peoples. Impacts of her work include bringing widespread attention to unique impacts of a mining disaster on an Indigenous community. 

In 2015, 11 million liters of acid mine drainage spilled from the abandoned Gold King Mine into the headwaters of the San Juan River, a crucial water source for the Navajo Nation (Diné), a 71,000-square-kilometerreservation in the southwestern United States. In the wake of the Gold King Mine Spill, Dr. Chief spearheaded an extensive water quality sampling campaign to understand impacts of contaminants on Navajo surface water, sediments, irrigation water, and agricultural soil. She led efforts to document cultural and spiritual uses of water initially overlooked by environmental regulators—uses representing potential pathways of human exposure to mine waste. Notably, this work overturned initial conclusions by others that the spill minimally impacted Diné livelihoods and well-being. Working with cultural experts and linguists, Dr. Chief led Diné-centered science communication and outreach in communities throughout the 350,000-citizen Navajo Nation. Regional and national news outlets sought her expertise on the spill. Public radio’s Science Friday produced a documentary film about her efforts.

Dr. Chief’s work following the Gold King Mine spill is only one example of a career dedicated to amplifying Indigenous perspectives on water and the environment. Her dedication stems partly from the fact that she is, herself, Diné, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, and from a Navajo mined-leased community, Black Mesa. Raised in a home without electricity or running water and a first-generation college student, she overcame extraordinary obstacles to become a scientist and tenured professor at a premier research institution. Her personal story informs her own work and inspires students, colleagues, and communities worldwide. Dr. Chief uses her position not only to pursue innovative science but also as a platform to serve and lead with unparalleled purpose and impact.
—Ryan E. Emanuel, North Carolina State University, Raleigh; and Aradhna Tripati, University of California, Los Angeles


Yá’át’ééh. Hello to my relatives, friends, and colleagues. It is a great honor to receive the 2020 AGU Ambassador Award! I am of the Bitterwater clan and born for my father who is of Near-the-Water clan. My maternal grandfathers are of the Many Goats clan and my paternal grandfathers are of the Red-running-into-the-water clan. This is how I identify myself as a Diné scientist. I am a first-generation college graduate who was able to pursue higher education despite challenging circumstances because my parents encouraged me to learn and pursue education. I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation and grew up in a home with no electricity, no running water, and little money but with Navajo as my first language. My parents' teachings taught me to pray daily, work hard, appreciate life, respect others, and take pride in my culture. My family lived in a mining community, and I witnessed the environmental degradation caused by Peabody Coal Company. This background created my desire to go to college and use my education to help preserve the environment and cosolve solutions to environmental challenges facing Indigenous communities. I have come full circle in reaching my dream; as an extension specialist, I am able to bridge science with Native American communities and to mentor Native American students in environmental research important to their communities. Memories of all the years, since I was graduate student, attending and presenting at AGU flooded my mind upon learning of my award. I remembered how intimidated I was to walk among all the scientists and to hang up my research poster in the poster hall. I never imagined that one day I would be named an AGU ambassador for the tens of thousands of AGU members. Thank you to my AGU colleagues for nominating me. Thank you for taking the time, care, and dedication to submit a nomination packet on my behalf. I am extremely honored that the community-based and community-driven research that I do with my team on water challenges facing Indigenous communities is recognized. I believe in the inclusion of Indigenous communities in Earth and space sciences using culturally based, Indigenous-led approaches. In this way, we can support a pathway for more Indigenous students and codesign solutions. I would like to dedicate my Ambassador Award to my late aunt, Virginia Tallman, who passed away from COVID-19. Ahé’hee.
—Dr. Karletta Chief, University of Arizona, Tucson


Erika Marin-Spiotta, Gerald R. North, Karletta Chief, Kaveh Madani, and Martha Ellen Maiden were awarded the 2020 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Kaveh Madani receives the Ambassador Award for his outstanding societal and policy impacts as an ambassador of the AGU community. He has achieved a remarkable record of selfless public/political service, advocacy, raising awareness, and public engagement; has played a unique and instrumental role in the global water, environmental, and climate change politics and diplomacy; and has dedicated his career to protecting the global common environmental good and turning science into real-world decisions and impacts. 

Kaveh is well known for the breadth of his socially meaningful research, spanning the areas of hydrology, environmental science, climate change, engineering, systems analysis, economics, and human behavior. As an accomplished scientist with an unusual ability to connect science to policy/society and convert complex science into understandable information, his exceptional research and communication skills have made him internationally recognized as a leading spokesperson in the debates pertaining to global water management, environmental, and climate change policies, politics, and diplomacy. 

At the age of 36, he was invited by Iran’s government to serve as the deputy head of the Department of Environment, that is, the deputy vice president of Iran. He gave up his tenured faculty position at Imperial College London and returned to his home country to translate research into “real-life” applications and address the country’s critical environmental management challenges. Kaveh’s accomplishments during his public service in Iran despite the major security challenges he faced have been well documented by the media. 

Kaveh’s impact has not been restricted to his home country, Iran. Kaveh has done research, advocacy, and humanitarian works in other parts of the Global South and North. His exemplary political/diplomatic career record includes impactful positions like the vice president of the United Nations Environment Assembly Bureau and the head of a national delegation at the COP23 (23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) climate change negotiations and ThirdUN Environment Assembly. 

Only a small percentage of established scientists succeed in transforming science into publicly digestible information; a smaller percentage of them manage to impact policymaking, and an even much smaller group achieves influential policymaking roles in the real world. Kaveh Madani belongs to that very small group. His inspiring career history represents the life of a self-effacing, humble, and extremely hardworking scientist dedicated to the promotion of science in the real world. He is an inspiration to all members of the Earth and space communities who dream about converting their science into policy and societal impact. 

—Daniel P. Loucks, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.


Thank you so much, Pete, for leading the nomination and for your very generous citation. I am incredibly honored to be the youngest recipient of the Ambassador Award from AGU to date. I am grateful to those colleagues who supported this nomination and thank AGU for this encouraging recognition that I share with my outstanding mentees, mentors, and collaborators. Being recognized as the ambassador of the AGU community is extremely humbling.

My career journey has been rather unusual. My interdisciplinary interests led me to wonderful experience of collaborating with and learning from some of the world’s leading scholars in engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences. My desire to solve real-world problems engaged me in policy-oriented research that took me to different parts of the Global South and North, introducing me to complexities that are often overlooked in our reductionist, academic research. My passion to turning science into common knowledge has motivated me to improve my science communication skills and produce public education material. 

As an academician and a former government official, I have had eye-opening interactions with different environmental stakeholders, from those fighting for a living and survival to those placing their financial and political motives above the environment and basic human rights. I have sat across from the world’s political leaders trying to address climate change and the other globally shared environmental problems while being protective of their nations’ rights to better economic and living conditions. I have seen environmental defenders beaten, jailed, and killed. I have been targeted by smear campaigns and faced major security threats in my fight to raise awareness and protect the environment and environmental human rights. These experiences have taught me that science is naïve and hopeless when it ignores the real-world complexities, trade-offs, and major socioeconomic differences of societies.

Today, I value teaching and societal outreach efforts more than in the early days of my career because I believe to address unsustainable development, climate change, and other anthropogenic existential threats to humanity, we need a cadre of environmental fighters, global thinkers, and change makers who have a better understanding of the world and are capable of replacing cheap talk and ambitious buzzwords with impactful action. 

I would like to thank the University of Central Florida and Imperial College London for allowing me to pursue my unusual interests as a faculty member. I also thank Yale University, Stockholm University, University of California, Riverside, and the other universities that hosted me and supported my work in various stages of my career. I am grateful to the journalists who have made my research more relatable to the public. I am indebted to my remarkable colleagues at Iran’s Department of Environment and Iranian environmental activists, whose sincere efforts helped us successfully launch various educational and public awareness initiatives during my public service in my home country, Iran. I am thankful to the wonderful people of Iran for their support during and after the political phase of my career. Lastly, my deepest gratitude goes to my incredible family and my amazing friends, who have unconditionally supported me and my career choices even when those choices have complicated their lives. Without them this journey would have been much more difficult and much less enjoyable.

I look forward to actively contributing to global climate action and the fight for environmental protection and justice as an AGU ambassador.

—Kaveh Madani, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; also at Imperial College London, U.K.


Erika Marin-Spiotta, Gerald R. North, Karletta Chief, Kaveh Madani, and Martha Ellen Maiden were awarded the 2020 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Few individuals had as much of an impact as Martha Maiden in working across organizational and national boundaries to ensure data availability in support of so many AGU science areas. She not only took care of the “bits and bytes,” but she brought a strong science focus to these efforts, including leading the effort to provide preliminary data sets to the community so they could “cut their teeth” on data sets based on precursor instruments from NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). When the next-generation data became available in the late 1990s and early 2000s from the major platforms of the Earth Observing System (EOS), the community was fully prepared to use the new data. 

Ms. Maiden was an early advocate for not implementing planned charges for NASA EOS data. Through her consistent efforts over about a decade, she inspired NASA, NOAA, and USGS to drop charging for data and worked internationally with Earth observation providers to show the merit of free and open data. As a result, the usage of satellite data by the research and applications communities increased enormously.

She managed the implementation of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System during a time of rapid change in the “data world,” working tirelessly to be sure that the hardware and software systems used were cost-effective. Ms. Maiden did more than oversee a data system, however; she led efforts in the Earth science community to share data and make their use as easy as possible. It’s worth emphasizing that at the time, this was not everyone’s usual approach to Earth science data, so her personal and organizational efforts were critical. Ms. Maiden worked effectively and creatively through entities such as the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites and the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation. In fact, her role in nurturing ESIP during its infancy led ESIP to create the Martha Maiden Award in her honor.

Since her retirement, Ms. Maiden continues to demonstrate her commitment to the community. She has served on the AGU Fellows Committee for Earth and Space Science Informatics since 2017, and she has been a reviewer for the AGU/NASA Data Visualization Awards since their inception in 2017.

In summary, Ms. Maiden’s long history and continuing efforts to serve the AGU community by helping to “bring data to the people” make her highly deserving of the AGU Ambassador Award.

—Jack Kaye, NASAWashington, D.C.


I am so honored to receive this award. I am amazed to find myself in such distinguished and elite company. What an unexpected cap to my career, which was so very fulfilling. I was a supporting player in Earth science, enabling my colleagues to maximize research and engineering accomplishments in Earth science. I am proud to have played a part in making data more available and usable. The Ambassador Award is unique in providing an award for the larger recognition of the role that members play in service to the Earth and space community. My motivation for pressing for free data came from listening to users, whose studies were stifled by the limited amount of data they were able to obtain when having to include data costs in grant proposals. Without free and open data sharing, important large regional and global studies, including multiyear studies, would not have been possible. 

In graduate school, I studied radio astrophysics. When I got married, I left with an M.S. and took a job working in Earth science, writing scientific software for a microwave atmospheric sounding instrument. It was a stroke of luck in my meandering career because I found Earth science so rewarding and relevant—it’s where we live! The reality of global climate change made it obvious that it was urgent Earth science

make fast progress in understanding how the planet was changing. When I came to NASA Headquarters and had a chance to influence data policy, it was this urgency that was behind every decision I made.

Earth and space science informatics is a relatively new discipline within AGU. I am encouraged that AGU has highlighted and promoted best practices in open and FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data on a large scale in recent years across all disciplines. 

    —Martha Maiden, NASA,retiredWashington, D.C.


Erika Marin-Spiotta, Gerald R. North, Karletta Chief, Kaveh Madani, and Martha Ellen Maiden were awarded the 2020 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Professor Erika Marín-Spiotta is an outstanding scholar, globally recognized for her groundbreaking contributions to multiple areas of Earth and environmental sciences, including terrestrial carbon cycle dynamics; mechanisms of soil organic matter formation, stabilization, and turnover; ecosystem dynamics in postagricultural tropical landscapes; and biogeochemical transformations across terrestrial and aquatic boundaries. Erika is an interdisciplinary scientist whose research draws from biogeochemistry, ecosystem ecology, soil science, and biogeography. Her research cuts across multiple spatial scales: from microscopic interactions between organic matter and mineral surfaces in soils, to stand-level forest dynamics, to regional soil carbon inventories. In addition to leading a very successful research program at the University of WisconsinMadison, she has greatly contributed toward efforts that determined how to incorporate the role of forest biodiversity and biogeochemical cycling in tropical systems in Earth system and climate models; established the role of biodiversity in biogeochemical cycling of essential elements; conducted large-scale syntheses on the carbon cycle or mechanisms of soil organic matter stabilization; and more. 

Erika personifies the spirit of the AGU Ambassador Award. She works tirelessly, making unparalleled contributions to the Earth and space science community, and society in general, through her outreach, advocacy, leadership, and mentoring. Erika is an impactful and exemplary leader with an extensive record of service as a mentor and champion for equity and justice in our scientific community. She helped lead the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) for over a decade, where she played a critical role in establishing online mentoring resources and developing a series of professional development workshops for early-career geoscientists. She is a dedicated mentor and adviser for numerous and diverse groups of early-career researchers in her group and beyond. She pioneered efforts to increase the recruitment, retention, and promotion of marginalized communities in the geosciences. Erika is currently leading the ADVANCEGeo Partnership that works to empower geoscientists to transform workplace climates and address harassment. She has led efforts to develop bystander intervention and workplace climate training to address hostile climates that contribute to the persistent low retention of women and people of color in the geosciences. She set the standard for how our scientific community should address harassment and discrimination in her invited article in Nature arguing for considering harassment as scientific misconduct. 

Erika is, without doubt, a unique, brilliant, positive, and transformational force in our scientific community. 

—Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, University of California, Merced


I am honored to receive the Ambassador Award from AGU in recognition of contributions to societal impact, scientific leadership, and service to our community. It is especially an honor to be recognized by my colleagues. I appreciate all the labor that went into the nomination and writing the letters of support. Thank you.

This award represents work done by a community of leaders. I would like to recognize partners in ESWN, the Association for Women Geoscientists, and AGU for being willing to take risks. I am humbled by the hard work and strength of my friends in ADVANCEGeo, who motivate me every day. My research and leadership have been supported by an incredible team of graduate and undergraduate students over the years, who have embodied the importance of peer mentorship. I have been fortunate to land in an institution that values interdisciplinary and community-focused work. To my #biogeofeminists, thank you for being role models. My family provides continuous support and joy for all my endeavors.

We are at a critical time in society and in the geosciences. I strive to continue listening to, learning from, and supporting a large and diverse community of Earth and space scientists and educators who are stepping outside of disciplinary boxes and building partnerships to push each other and our organizations to imagine and put into action a vision where everyone can feel safe and inspired to pursue a geoscience education and career.

Erika Marín Spiotta, University of WisconsinMadison


Erika Marin-Spiotta, Gerald R. North, Karletta Chief, Kaveh Madani, and Martha Ellen Maiden were awarded the 2020 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. North has demonstrated preeminence in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences, through his own paradigmshift research and promotion of science through his leadership and services to the communities. He was one of the original proposers and the study scientist for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a partnership with Japan. The TRMM satellite orbited 17 years, providing unique data for climate research and tropical weather forecasting to the atmospheric, hydrological, and oceanic science communities. 

He pioneered interdisciplinary collaboration in climate sciences, which was critical at the national and international levels. For more than half century, he has been on the forefront of promoting understanding of climate change as a prominent scientific leader and an effective and skillful spokesman, advocator, and communicator for various scientific communities and professional societies. 

He delivered numerous lectures at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)conferences and workshops on climate and climate change, which were attended by scientists throughout the NATO countries. He participated in many meetings in Geneva, in conjunction with the committees on climate change, under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization. These were forerunners of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His pioneering effort was instrumental in promoting international collaboration in climate sciences and key to the establishment of the IPCC. 

Dr. North was selected to chair the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of the "hockey stick" graph, at the request by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science. The committee’s report,Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, evaluated reconstructions of the temperature record over the past millennia and provided an objective and authoritative overview of the state of the science and the implications for understanding of global warming. NAS issued a press release on this report: “High Confidence That Planet Is Warmest in 400 Years.” Over the past few years, this document has been at the center of one of the most heated and confrontational arguments in the climate change policy debate. The report has been covered widely in the press and even became the subject of a congressional inquiry. Two of his fellow panelists stated, “North was masterful in his role as Panel chair, maintaining cordiality in the face of tough and not always well-intended questions from the congresspersons” and “He was very effective in listening to testimony from all perspectives and finding a middle ground that nobody could object to and leading the writing of these conclusions.” 

Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M University, College Station


I am thankful to my colleague and nominator and the recommenders for their support for one of the 2020 AGU Ambassador Awards. I entered climate science in 1974 after a Ph.D. and tenured faculty position in theoretical physics. My career has been a sequence of fortunate and formative moves, starting with a sabbatical year at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, then extended summer visits to such institutions as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; the Main Geophysical Observatory in Leningrad;the Goddard Institute for Space Studies;the University of Reading, United Kingdom; and lots of shorter stops around the world. 

I spent 8 years at the Goddard Space Flight Center and helped in promoting a successful satellite program. One of my roles was in leading statistical feasibility studies for the mission and other statistical methodologies in climate science. In those years I devoted a lot of effort to learning and helping to build a hierarchy of energy balance climate models, which were used mostly for deepening our understanding of climate model applications, past and present. In working through the projects, I was blessed with working alongside some of the most brilliant and dedicated scientists in the world. 

I moved back to academia in 1986 as a faculty member at Texas A&M. My many visits to the USSR, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and many others taught me perspective and learning from new friends, and I aimed to spread and absorb good science and good will. Because of the broad disciplinary reach of climate science I have worked with men and women in many disciplines, from physics, paleo- and classical climatology, meteorology, geochemistry, mathematics, agriculture, statistics, computer science, geology, geophysics, geography, and economics. 

I have also visited over the years nearly all of the NASA and most of the Department of Energy laboratories, as well as those mentioned above. What a great pleasure it has been. My story is told in a recently published book of memoirs. Maybe I was cut out to be a sort of ambassadoranyway, I humbly accept the honor bestowed by AGU.

Gerald R. North, Texas A&M University, College Station


Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Sunanda Basu has strived tirelessly to promote the talent pool and diversity of early-career scientists across the globe, advocated nationally and internationally for space weather science, and reinvigorated international collaborations in emerging nations.

In service to the community, Sunanda cochaired the Scientific Organizing Committee for the International Heliophysical Year−Space Weather Science and Education Workshop (Ethiopia) under the auspices of the United Nations Basic Space Science Initiative. The workshop was followed by a meeting in Zambia, culminating in the prestigious international AGU Chapman Conference in Ethiopia, the first of its kind in space science in Africa. She served on the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics’s Long-Range Planning Committee and executive committees for the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), chaired the Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES) Steering Committee, and was an active leader of the National Science Foundation’s Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR) program. At AGU she was chair of the Development Board and served on the Board of Directors and award committees.

Sunanda’s philanthropic contributions are of particular note. She and her late husband endowed the Basu International Early Career Award for scientists in developing countries, recognizing outstanding contributions to research in Sun-Earth systems science. This AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section prize has recognized talented scientists from China, India, Peru, South Africa, and Nigeria. She later endowed the U.S. version of this award, followed by an URSI early-career endowment and two awards for early-career scientists living and working in Africa. The African Geophysical Society bestowed a fellowship in recognition of her substantial contribution to Earth and space sciences in Africa.

Her service and philanthropy took place in parallel with her excelling as an outstanding international scientist, representing the core of AGU’s mission. The impact of her scientific leadership is recognized by her general lectures at international associations, such as “Impacts of Extreme Solar Events” at the URSI General Assembly, the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy Association Lecture on CAWSES science in Toulouse, and the CEDAR Distinguished Scientist Lecture. Her research into the ionosphere, its structure, and its irregularities has huge societal relevance associated with impacts on communications and satellite navigation. Sunanda contributed to the inception and very foundation of the U.S. National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan, now recognized at the highest levels in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Sunanda is an ambassador in every sense and a worthy recipient of AGU’s Ambassador Award through her service and scientific leadership, her tireless and unwavering promotion of international scientific talent, and her advancing awareness of societal impacts of space weather.

—Tim Fuller-Rowell, University of Colorado Boulder


It is a humbling experience to receive the AGU Ambassador Award, and for this I am very grateful to AGU. My nominator, Tim Fuller-Rowell, and my colleagues Louis Lanzerotti, Roderick Heelis, and Archana Bhattacharya all took time from their busy schedules to write letters of support. For this I owe them a big debt of gratitude.

I have now spent about 4 decades in the United States coming from my native India. At first, my interest was to be immersed in science and use my insights to help others. Gradually, my passion evolved into helping the international community of scientists and, particularly, the next generation in whatever capacity I can. Growing up in a developing country and moving to the United States as a National Research Council postdoctoral scientist, I was able to realize how lucky I was to get this opportunity and how important it is to share my good fortune with others. My mother, if she were alive, would be, like AGU, 100 years old this year, and she instilled in me an obligation to try to meet the educational needs of young people with lesser opportunities.

My science and my life were a partnership with my late husband and colleague, Santimay Basu. In addition, both of us had been educated in India. Thus, with our global mindset and passion to help the next generation, we were able to endow through AGU annual early-career awards for scientists from developing countries within the space physics and aeronomy community, starting in 2008. Santi and I had spent our entire careers involved in space weather research and studying the societal relevance of the associated impacts on satellite-based communication and navigation systems. By definition this research was global in scope and lent itself well to involving young scientists from developing nations. Tim Fuller- Rowell has provided a lively commentary of our forays into other parts of the world. Suffice it to say that being able to enhance the size and diversity of AGU’s talent pool has been an award unto itself. Being recognized with the Ambassador Award is the icing on the cake!

—Sunanda Basu, National Science Foundation, Alexandria, Va., retired

Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Ismail-Zadeh has the requisite research record, citations, and visiting professorships and fellowships that we expect of high-performing members of our fields. He is that and much more.

His scientific work is truly interdisciplinary, involving applied mathematics, geophysics, natural hazards, science diplomacy, and history across regions from the central Apennines to the Tibetan Himalayas. His engagement and leadership across the national and international geophysical scientific community are immense: He has helped promote geosciences from Earth observations and applications in the atmospheric, climate, and hydrological sciences to volcanology and space weather for the United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the Group on Earth Observations, and others. More broadly, he has supported disaster risk assessment and management efforts for the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, including for controlling underground nuclear explosions through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. In addition, he has initiated a number of outreach and education efforts, including the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) Science Grants, Science Education, Science Publication, and Science Policy programs.

Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s impact is long lasting. In one illustration, when he started the work on the formation of AGU’s Natural Hazards focus group in 2009, only a few professed interest. Today, the Natural Hazards section unites thousands of researchers. To wit, both IUGG and AGU have selected issues of natural hazards and disasters as key foci of their centennial scientific themes and celebrations.

Two telling statements from other highly recognized researchers in our fields reflect on Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s singular characteristics: “What has been achieved in these areas has been due in no small measure, to Alik’s inputs and unique qualities. His efforts are tireless and is characterized by a willingness to use his own time in order to save yours.…above all, I value his mature judgment and guidance.” And “the sense of pride about his upbringing and family truly shows the human values he cherishes. Judging from his passion and commitment to our profession, this also reflects his feelings and unqualified commitment towards his scientific family, which has made him an ideal ambassador for Earth and Space sciences.”

There are many more such sentiments. Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s contributions have been “seismic” on many levels. His formal recognition as an ambassador is a credit to the vision of AGU and most significantly attests to the power of employing science to help secure the safety and sustainability of our societies and systems.

—Roger S. Pulwarty, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colo.


I am honored to receive an AGU Ambassador Award and am grateful to Roger Pulwarty for nominating me and to Harsh Gupta, Yuan Tseh Lee, Özlem Adiyaman Lopes, and Soroosh Soroshian for supporting the nomination. I am honored twice to receive the award in 2019, the year of the AGU Centennial and my 25-year membership in the Union.

Graduating as a mathematician, I moved to geophysics and dedicated my life to studies of dynamics of the lithosphere and mantle and their manifestation in sedimentary basin evolution and, later, in earthquakes and volcanic activities. It was the time of eureka, when scientific discoveries brought satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness. The beginning of the 21st century, however, changed my professional life from pure science to science for society. After the 2004 great Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis, I asked myself, “What is the value of the science I am doing, if this science cannot protect people against disasters? What is a missing link between science and society?” My scientific adviser and colleague V. Keilis-Borok liked to say that “a scientist is not merely a person who conducts scientific research; a scientist is a person who cannot live without doing so.” So true…I would only add that a scientist is a person who should help society to improve well-being.

“An instant understanding, the efficiency of thought and action, and a good feeling that comes when the like-minded people work together…” (F. Press, as quoted by V. I. Keilis-Borok in One Hundred Reasons to be a Scientist, p. 124, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy, 2004). For the past 2 decades, I have tried to work together with natural and social scientists and engineers in solving challenging problems of society, including disaster risk reduction, and to speak to representatives of industry and international nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations as well as to national and regional policy makers to convince them that science is available and ready to be used in their daily activities to benefit humanity. What brings me the biggest satisfaction after scientific discoveries are the results of my voluntary work in various capacities on behalf of AGU, the European Geosciences Union, IUGG, and the International Science Council. Creating new knowledge and delivering it to society, being an ambactus of the scientific community, and bridging nations via science are my credo. I am pleased that AGU recognizes the contribution to service to the Earth and Space science community and science policy leadership with the award and happy to join AGU Ambassadors.

—Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; also at Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Margaret Leinen’s insightful and bold leadership, enduring scientific contributions, national and international impacts, and focus on quality and equity are virtually unique in our modern society of researchers, educators, and policy designers. She has played many roles in important institutions, bringing a powerful integrative mind-set to her myriad positions in professional organizations while remaining a champion of high-quality, societally relevant inquiry into how best to approach our future as a global society. She has conducted excellent research, has administered programs empowering cutting-edge scientific inquiries, and has been intimately involved in designing national and international portfolios that provide financial support for basic and applied research. Leinen is a trendsetter on multiple issues at the interface of science and society.

Leinen’s influence has significantly enhanced organizations in academia, government, the private sector, and world policy-making bodies. Throughout all her work, she brings her considerable intellect and gracious generosity to ensure that all parties are enfranchised and engaged. Her work at the University of Rhode Island, the National Science Foundation, Climos, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, other institutions such as the State Department, and now as the director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor at the University of California, San Diego, is replete with examples of her tenacious and unrelenting positive approach to provide cutting-edge solutions over the years. As but one specific example, her multiyear terms as part of AGU leadership as president (and associated offices) resulted in new policies that drew long-overdue attention to misbehaviors associated with harassment and bullying. Under Leinen’s leadership, such actions were classified as “scientific misconduct,” thereby linking—for the first time in the geosciences—professional and personal (mis)conduct.

A common thread of Leinen’s accomplishments is her laudable ability to be involved in somewhat tense situations, capture the essence of the debate, and then offer tractable solutions. She is a prime example of what it means to be a true ambassador, whether addressing issues related to selection of sites for global change research in the early Joint Global Ocean Flux Study or the participation of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in ocean sciences. She offers many examples as a role model for women scientists, and indeed for all scientists, in promoting efforts to increase participation of women and minorities in the geosciences.

Our world of geosciences is a better place because of Margaret Leinen.

—Richard W. Murray, Woods Holes Oceanographic Institution, Scituate, Mass.; and John R. Delaney, University of Washington, Seattle


What a privilege to be among the 2019 Ambassador Awardees! I have been a member of AGU for over 40 years (time flies when you are having fun). During that time I have watched AGU grow from an organization that was primarily about publishing important journals for our fields—and organizing an annual meeting—to an organization that is committed to enhancing every aspect of members’ educational, research, and professional experiences. And just in time. The cultural and organizational structure of our science in the past is no longer appropriate for a diverse, international, interdisciplinary community of scientists that must respond to urgent calls for solutions to vexingly complex problems as well as generate basic scientific discovery at the frontiers. The human impact on the planet—whether a result of how many of us there are or a result of what we transform and add to the air, sea, and land or a result of what we remove—is straining the basic habitability of Earth and results in demands for new knowledge and new approaches.

These demands are calling all of us to rethink the way we educate Earth and space scientists and communicate with the public. We are also being asked to break barriers of participation so that innovative ideas from everyone and everywhere can be incorporated into our thinking. We are being asked to engage those outside of our fields to bring creative ideas and connections from other disciplines. Our universities are rushing to try to keep up with this transformation. Our companies place a premium on being nimble and creative. Our governments are trying to develop less bureaucratic approaches.

With AGU’s students, educators, researchers, business, and government, as well as our large international membership, AGU represents many human resources to generate geoscience knowledge. But AGU is also being challenged to serve this diverse membership during a time of incredible global and cultural change. Being an ambassador for our fields has never been more important. We who know and understand Earth and space science need to ensure that we reach out to all possible participants and partners to bring them into this commitment to a sustainable future. We also need to ensure that all can participate in an equitable way. I know that there are many AGU ambassadors out there and hope that this award can begin to show them the importance of their work.

—Margaret Leinen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.

Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Connie Millar, who is fluent in genetics, paleoecology, forest ecology, climatology, glacial geology, landscape ecology, and wildlife biology, consistently integrates these disciplines to reveal insights about the dynamic biogeography of mountain ecosystems. As a scientific ambassador, she has built a community in mountain science and has catalyzed climate change adaptation on federal lands.

Connie’s 2007 paper “Climate Change and Forests of the Future: Managing in the Face of Uncertainty” was recognized by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in 2015 as “one of the most notable papers ever published” in an ESA journal (i.e., since 1920). In Science in 2015, in “Temperate Forest Health in an Era of Emerging Megadisturbance,” Connie and coauthor Nate Stephenson outline how her research has turned traditional forest management on its head. Combining deep understanding of paleontology and genetics with observations of recent forest diebacks, they explain that there is no “ideal natural forest” to restore, and instead, managers must employ a tool kit combining “resistance,” “resilience,” and “realignment,” including identifying regions of climate refugia and facilitating species change and adaptation. Connie pioneered the needed multidisciplinary research in these ecosystems for global change, including founding and fostering collaborations through interdisciplinary groups such as the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains and the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine environments, to provide the foundation for needed guidance for forest managers.

Connie’s work on climate adaptation, particularly with reference to fire and planning, has resulted in shifts in the U.S. Forest Service identity. Agency leaders regularly quote Connie’s work and rely on her to weave together various disciplinary ideas in a way that land managers can use. For this work, she received the Forest Service Chief’s Excellence in Science and Technology Award in 2013 for “developing and delivering scientific principles, partnerships, and actions for adaptation to climate change in national forests” and the 2016 Distinguished Science Award for “leadership and exceptional scientific productivity.”

Connie is an outstanding mentor. She works tirelessly to promote early-career, female, and minority voices in the Mountain Views newsletter she edits, as well in the many AGU sessions and MTNCLIM meetings she organizes.

Connie once remarked, “Interdisciplinary mountain research is for people who like steep learning curves.” Just as John Muir worked across disciplinary boundaries to establish protected mountain areas for future generations, so has Connie worked tirelessly to establish both the key science and the future talent pool to guide how we should manage and protect those areas through times of unprecedented change.

—Jessica Lundquist, University of Washington, Seattle


I send deepest thanks to my citationist, Jessica Lundquist, and the colleagues who supported my nomination. Their selflessness and willingness to prepare the nomination package humble me and bear witness to a genuine concern for our community of scientists. The honor of this award compels me to seek greater responsibilities in applying interdisciplinary science in novel ways to the challenges of land stewardship. Especially in mountain regions, complexities of terrain, climate, biodiversity, land use, and diverse stakeholder interests combine to create problems of a wicked nature. These require nimbleness, access to diverse and high-quality knowledge, and assertive action with uncertain outcomes. Where there is urgency for solutions, temptations may arise for scientists to overstep study results, adopt inappropriately alarmist attitudes, and communicate information beyond available data. Now more than ever we need to embrace strict objectivity in interpreting our research results and translating them faithfully into defensible approaches for land management. Where communities of practice emerge, such as our western North American mountain climate consortium, scientists and resource managers working together enforce reciprocal transfer of best available and transparent science in the context of environmental and management challenges. Involving students and young scientists in on-the-ground projects with resource staff provides valuable mutual benefits and serves to maintain realistic understanding and lessen risks in decision-making. For addressing problems of changing climate and related pressures on mountain landscapes, I am greatly encouraged and inspired by the courage, knowledge, and dedication of the rising generations of scientists who are committed to harnessing new knowledge for the protection and resilience of mountain ecosystems.

—Connie Millar, University of Washington, Seattle

Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Lixin Wu is widely recognized as a prominent leader in the field of multiscale ocean dynamics and climate change research. He pioneered the use of partial coupling systems (or model surgery) to unravel causative mechanisms operating in the complex oceanic and atmospheric feedback and subtropical-tropical linkage. He has made major original contributions to understanding the response of interannual, decadal, and interdecadal variability to greenhouse warming. He developed the first successful observation-based estimation of ocean mixing using high-resolution Argo floats in the Southern Ocean. He has discovered global warming “hot spots” along western boundary currents over the 20th century. His contribution has transformed the way we study these important issues.

While his scientific achievements are truly outstanding, his contribution to ocean sciences in enabling international collaboration is what makes him richly deserving of this Ambassador Award. The modern research landscape, science complexity, and limitation in resources present a plethora of challenges for scientists in any single country to tackle them alone, whether it is in the United States, China, or Australia. He initiated the Global Ocean Summit in 2014 to provide a regular platform for institutional leaders to enhance institutional coordination of global ocean observations. He launched a multidisciplinary research program known as “Transparent Global Oceans” in 2013 to build comprehensive observation systems for understanding ocean climate processes. “A Transparent Ocean” is now a goal of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences. He established a workshop series, the International Symposium on Western Boundary Currents, that has been promoting interdisciplinary study of boundary current systems, particularly in a changing climate. He played a key role in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment, designed to observe, simulate, and understand the dynamics of the northwestern Pacific Ocean circulation and its climatic impact. More recently, Dr. Wu initiated the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, combining the research capability of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, and Australian universities to study Southern Ocean climate variability and change, and the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction, integrating the world-class capability of QNLM, Texas A&M University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to better predict and project extreme weather in the present-day and future climate.

In summary, Dr. Wu’s sustained scientific accomplishments and influential leadership truly embody the code of a successful AGU ambassador. His contribution has had, and will continue to have, a substantial impact. He is an ideal and worthy recipient of AGU’s Ambassador Award.

—Weijian Zhou, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an


I am honored to receive the Ambassador Award on the 100th anniversary of the founding of AGU, and I am grateful to the Union for this recognition.

I started my career in physical oceanography after education in computational fluid dynamics. I have been fascinated by cross-scale interactions in the ocean and climate system, its complexity, and the pressing need to observe, understand, and predict its change in a concerted way. That fascination continues to be my motivation.

My first cruise was to the western Pacific in the summer of 2008 after a decade-long period of working on modeling and theoretical studies of ocean circulation and climate. The severe seasickness, over much of the cruise, provided a moment to think about integration of observations, theories, and predictions so that our ocean is more transparent. Soon after the cruise, we established observational networks in the western Pacific and started to build a “Transparent Ocean Community.” Now after a decade of progress, the community has become internationally famous, and the mission of Transparentizing Global Oceans echoes resonantly with the sustainable goal of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science.

A Chinese proverb goes, “The ocean is vast because it admits all rivers.” To facilitate the implementation of Transparent Ocean, we have held a series of biennial Global Ocean Summits since 2014, in which leaders of major marine institutions and organizations meet and discuss global partnership for ocean observations. In part as an outcome of these summits, we have established two international centers, the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction, which create opportunities and a platform for Southern Ocean research and high-resolution Earth system modeling and prediction, respectively. These collaboration hubs help galvanize concerted efforts and encourage broader participation in the endeavor to build a community of shared future for mankind. As an AGU Ambassador Award honoree, I look forward to working with colleagues and partners to accomplish this great cause.

My sincere gratitude goes to Weijian Zhou, my nominator, and supporting colleagues, as well as my family, friends, and students. With your support, I feel a lot more can still be achieved.

—Lixin Wu, Ocean University of China, Qingdao; also at Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China

Esteban G. Jobbágy, Rosaly M. C. Lopes, and Christopher M. Reddy received the 2018 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Esteban Jobbágy drives positive change in the world as an ambassador of science, bringing rigor to environmental decision-making and fostering the growth of the next generation of environmental leaders.

Esteban has uncovered important ecohydrologic mechanisms by which land use change and human activities alter ecosystems. His seminal work on eucalyptus plantations in Argentina demonstrated a disruption of the natural water balance through an increase in evapotranspiration and an induced hydrologic transfer from surrounding grasslands to plantations. Hydrologic alteration between patches laterally redistributes nutrients and salts, initiating vegetation feedbacks and in some cases, adverse impacts on soil fertility. He advocates systems that integrate trees into grassland as more sustainable alternatives to single-species plantations.

However, Esteban is not content merely to publish peer-reviewed articles; he works with farmers and foresters to improve best practices and spreads his message to those who can effect change. In the documentary film Gran Chaco, Esteban highlighted the deforestation of the second-largest forest in South America. The changes to the dry forest ecosystem, biodiversity, hydrology, economy, and culture of the region that have occurred in the past 15 years cannot be overstated. Similarly, in Rio Nuevo, Esteban’s narration provides a riveting story of the ecohydrologic feedbacks by which land use change on the Argentinian plains has led to water excess and the surprising formation of new rivers. The documentaries featuring Esteban are raising awareness of socioenvironmental cascades that previously received little global attention.

Esteban has worked tirelessly with Argentinian government agencies, local growers associations, and agricultural corporations. He organizes workshops and two-way interactions to combine the collective wisdom of hundreds of farmers and the scientific community to develop decision support tools. Cultivating and maintaining these personal relationships has been key to translating Dr. Jobbágy’s research into measurable impacts across South America, leading to a more sustainable balance between food production, flooding, the economy, and the environment. For his efforts, Dr. Jobbágy was honored with the Bernardo Houssay Award by Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for contributions by a scientist under 45 years of age.

Dr. Jobbágy’s tremendously creative and pragmatic research style has led to major discoveries on the imprint of vegetation on hydrologic and biogeochemical processes. His work has had, and will continue to have, a sustained impact on environmental decision-making in South America. Through his passionate advocacy, communication, and stakeholder outreach, his legacy will be preserved in the work he has done and the students he has trained.

—Steven P. Loheide III, University of Wisconsin–Madison


It is a warm and encouraging surprise to receive the AGU Ambassador Award for my work connecting science with real-life problems in the plains of southern South America. I especially thank AGU and my nominators and supporters, Steve Loheide, Ying Fan, and Rob Jackson. Their enthusiasm in nominating me is the best gift I am receiving.

This award invites me to reflect upon the beginning of my career at the Agronomy School of the University of Buenos Aires 30 years ago. There, lively discussions with fellow students about the imprint of farming on nature pushed me to learn more about the vagaries of nutrient and water cycles. After a decadelong immersion into pure biogeochemical and ecohydrological quests at labs in the United States and Argentina (and at many mind-blowing AGU events), I started to contact an amazing community of sharp and curious farmers. These people, like me, were full of questions about nature. We all wanted to know the causes of the widespread hydrological transformations of the Argentine Pampas, to understand the mysterious “dialogue” between shallow groundwater and crops that we were cluelessly observing, to make sense of the confusing effects that cutting or planting forests had on soil and water salinity. Slowly, this vibrant community brought me back to my agronomic start, engaging me in an amazing collaborative exchange of observations, hard fieldwork, and, once again, lively discussions about the imprint of farming on nature.

Argentina hosts one of the last agricultural frontiers of our modern world. Its brutal expansion over natural grasslands and forests has offered a unique experimental setting to study how ecosystems shape water cycling, nutrient distributions, and soil carbon stocks. With unexpected success, I attracted colleagues from all over the world to embark on that adventure, together with some of the best students I could possibly have dreamed to advise. I am deeply indebted to all these good friends, and they own a substantial part of this award.

The same land use changes that opened unique scientific opportunities are posing urgent environmental and social challenges to my country. Staying away from the controversies that arise from them has been impossible for me, and thanks to that, I discovered a whole new world in the exchange with county- to national-level policy makers. I have witnessed science and farming shape each other. So far, being part of this reciprocal transformation has been the biggest joy.

—Esteban G. Jobbágy, Universidad Nacional de San Luis, San Luis, Argentina; and Conseja Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Esteban G. Jobbágy, Rosaly M. C. Lopes, and Christopher M. Reddy received the 2018 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Rosaly Lopes is one of the world’s leading planetary geologists, particularly in the area of volcanic processes relevant to satellites of the outer planets. In addition to her prolific scientific output on volcanic and resurfacing processes on Io and the geology of Mars and Titan, she has been an outstanding science ambassador throughout her career. For this she receives the 2018 AGU Ambassador Award.

A native of Brazil, she is considered a role model for Latinas, in particular, and an inspiration for numerous students from Brazil and other countries. Her outreach efforts have reached students and the public nationally and internationally and have been recognized by NASA and the American Astronomical Society, among others. Throughout her career, she has given many hundreds of interviews to media all over the world, appearing in some 20 television documentaries produced in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Brazil, and has presented outreach lectures on every continent, including Antarctica (at McMurdo Station). She has been extremely active in giving public and school talks throughout California and the United States, as well as in Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Singapore, and several other countries.

She has authored eight books, five at a popular level, and 28 articles in magazines such as Astronomy and Sky and Telescope. She has been recognized for her public outreach work by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences Carl Sagan Medal in 2005, awarded to “recognize and honor outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public.” NASA awarded her the Exceptional Service Medal in 2007 with a citation “for providing planetary exploration knowledge to the public, leading an active volcanology research program, and providing a positive role model for women and minorities in science.” She often participates in events aimed at encouraging young women to pursue careers in science and was used by Sally Ride Science as a role model for her school materials, such as the book and poster What Do You Want to Be? She is featured in several other books aimed at schoolchildren and young people, such as Scholastic’s Extreme Science Jobs, as well as at the public, such as A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers by M. E. Ross (Chicago Review Press, 2014).

For her consistent public outreach effort throughout her scientific research career, Rosaly Lopes receives the 2018 AGU Ambassador Award.

—Susan W. Kieffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


I am deeply grateful to AGU for this great honor, to Dr. Susan Kieffer for nominating me, and to colleagues who wrote supporting letters. I also wish to acknowledge the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech for being supportive of my education, outreach, and community service activities. It has been my honor to serve AGU and other scientific societies and to help advocate for our community.

Inspiring future generations should be the goal of every scientist. Whatever science we do, we should encourage future generations of scientists to surpass it. Our work is a stepping-stone for others to reach farther. For this reason, I remain deeply committed to helping students and early-career people in their own journey and to inspiring young people to follow their passion. An essential part of this commitment is public outreach. I make time to talk to the media, because there may be a young person somewhere who will be inspired by something they read in a newspaper, like I was, or see on television or online. I make time to carefully answer questions from schoolchildren, because they need to know that we value their curiosity. I love the science that I work on and the incredibly smart colleagues who surround me, and it is a pleasure to share knowledge with the younger generation. I realize how lucky I am to have a career in science and wish to help others achieve the same. Per audacia ad astra.

—Rosaly M. C. Lopes, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Esteban G. Jobbágy, Rosaly M. C. Lopes, and Christopher M. Reddy received the 2018 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Christopher Reddy embodies the concept of a scientific ambassador through his tireless efforts to represent, promote, and translate science to a diverse range of groups outside the ivory tower.

Chris’ confidence as an ambassador stems from his deep scientific expertise in environmental chemistry, which draws him into myriad real-world events. With over 200 publications, Chris has developed a niche of studying emerging issues by developing and applying new technologies, simultaneously creating knowledge while answering questions of societal importance. But what makes Chris such an effective ambassador is his persistence in seeking out those who will benefit from his knowledge and then actively engaging them.

Chris constantly reaches out to policy makers, industry representatives, media, spill responders, and the mythical entity known as the general public. As a result, when it comes to the issue of ocean contamination, Chris has become a first point of contact among academic scientists—our ambassador. On any given day, he could be counseling members of Congress, military admirals, corporate executives, reporters, foreign officials, or high school students working on a science fair project. Chris’s special blend of rigor and clear communication has engendered trust among those whose interests intersect with his expertise, which has in turn provided him an exceptional platform from which he can further engage. For example, Chris is one of few academic scientists to develop a level of trust among federal response officials such that he is welcomed into the Unified Command structure during major events. Chris is simply voracious in his appetite to engage for the benefit of science.

Another theme that pervades Chris’s activities is that he challenges everyone—scientists, reporters, congressional representatives—to improve their communication and their use of science. He challenged all scientists to serve as ambassadors in his Science editorial “Scientist Citizens”; he challenged a frenzied media to get their information right in his CNN op-ed “How Reporters Mangle Science on Gulf Oil”; he challenged the disciplinary vernacular that pervades AGU meetings in his Eos editorial “Dude, You Are Speaking Romulan”; and he challenged popular perception of chemical dispersant use in a CNN op-ed we coauthored, “A Frightening Tool to Fight Oil Spills?” Not only is Chris a consummate ambassador for science, but also he pushes all of us to do our equal part. We would do well to heed his advice.

—David Valentine, University of California, Santa Barbara


I thank AGU for the Ambassador Award and Prof. David L. Valentine (University of California, Santa Barbara) for his citation. It is a humbling yet inspiring honor. It cements my resolve to continue my efforts to communicate the culture and function of science beyond the ivory tower. These are challenging times for science, but I believe that fostering a sense of trust and openness is critical to building new and more effective science ambassadors.

In his 2014 book American Ambassadors, Dennis Jett wrote that “Diplomacy, like politics, can be described as the art of the possible.” To me, science diplomacy is very much the art of the possible. Academia often creates more challenges for itself than necessary by relying on terms and customs that are foreign to many. By improving and ultimately delivering the information that the lay public, media, and elected officials need, researchers are engaging in a very concrete and visible example of the art of the possible.

I once asked Bill Rugh what makes a successful diplomat. Rugh, who was stationed in the Middle East from the 1960s to the 1990s and was U.S. ambassador to both Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, emphasized the importance of appreciating his hosts’ culture to understand what is important to them, of meeting with them to develop a sense of honesty and mutual trust, and of mentoring those junior to him. Ambassador Rugh just as easily could have been describing what is important to any scientist attempting to explain his or her work to a journalist, a congressperson, or a grade-school classroom.

I have been lucky to have had many mentors through my career and been afforded the luxuries of many life experiences that have contributed to my growth as a scientist and a person. Learning from my mistakes while continuing to hone my skills has been crucial to that growth. At the same time, training opportunities through the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management allowed me to learn from leaders in business, diplomacy, and the military. These courses also taught me that understanding the cultures of those who value the knowledge that science offers them to make the most well informed decisions possible is the cornerstone to being a successful science ambassador.

—Christopher M. Reddy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.

Jean M. Bahr, Robert A. Duce, and Richard C. J. Somerville were awarded the 2017 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Professor Jean M. Bahr is a recognized leader in the hydrogeological community for her research, dedicated service to the nation, inspirational leadership in -high--profile advisory roles, and mentorship of many young students and especially women. As chair of the first National Research Council Everglades committee in -2001–-2004, she led an effort that evaluated the scientific activities of the existing restoration plan and made recommendations for a research program to support restoration efforts. During her term as president of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in 2009–2010, the society finalized a number of position statements, including ones on climate change and on diversity in the geoscience community. In 2003, she was selected as the GSA -Birdsall–Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer and delivered lectures at 64 universities and public venues.

In recognition of her high regard and outstanding leadership ability, Jean was elected in 2017 president of the American Geological Institute, a nonprofit federation of 45 geoscientific and professional associations (including AGU and GSA). In 2017, she was also appointed by President Barack Obama as chair of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent federal agency charged with reviewing the U.S. Department of Energy’s programs to manage the disposal of spent fuel and -high--level radioactive waste. Previously, Jean served on the National Research Council’s Board on Radioactive Waste Management (1992–1997) and was part of the panel that made recommendations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the highly influential repository standard for Yucca Mountain. Jean has served AGU in many roles, including as editor of Water Resources Research.

Jean’s mentorship of young colleagues is impressive. She has been major adviser to 44 graduate students—57% of whom are women—who are now serving as university professors and scientists working at national laboratories, consulting firms, environmental agencies, and advocacy groups. She served as faculty codirector of the University of -Wisconsin–-Madison innovative undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering Residential Learning Community from 2003 to 2005. She helped coordinate activities for the University of -Wisconsin–-Madison’s -Pre–-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) Program, which seeks to encourage minority high school students by providing opportunities for learning and involvement at the university. In recognition of the above efforts, Jean received the 2012 Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Award.

In summary, Professor Jean Bahr is one of those rare individuals in science who not only has inspired students and colleagues with -top--tier science and mentoring but also has worked tirelessly and unconditionally on behalf of Earth sciences, her fellow citizens, and the nation.

—Mary Lou Zoback, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; and Efi -Foufoula--Georgiou, University of California, Irvine


I’m honored to have been nominated for this award by Mary Lou Zoback, Efi -Foufoula--Georgiou, and Sue Brantley and to have had my nomination supported by a number of other colleagues who, like the nominators, have exemplary records of scientific contributions as well professional service. I love the idea of being considered an “ambassador” for the Earth sciences. As I look back on my career, many of the activities that have brought me the most personal satisfaction (as well as frustration) were those that involved representing the geosciences in general, and hydrogeology in particular, in questions related to public policy. I have enjoyed sharing my passion for our science, as well as my conviction of its importance to society, with audiences ranging from students in introductory to -graduate--level courses at the University of -Wisconsin–-Madison, to local civic groups, to the institutions I visited as a GSA distinguished lecturer, and to governmental -decision makers. I have been fortunate to have had several international ambassador opportunities, including 2 years of sharing my (then meager) knowledge of hydrogeology with a technical team in Mali, West Africa, shortly after college and, more recently, representing the American Geosciences Institute and some of its member societies while presenting an invited short course in Bucaramanga, Colombia, last January.

My father, an electrical engineer, encouraged my early interest in math and science. My mother, who studied economics with one of those who popularized the term “spaceship Earth” in the 1960s, was a consistent, active model of her dedication to goodwill among people of many cultures and to creating a more just, healthy, and peaceful society. Together, they inspired me to find a career that would challenge me intellectually but that also had the potential to make a difference. During the first Earth Day, I saw a path that would easily combine these two. I entered college a few years later with the goal of becoming some type of environmental scientist, finding my way to a major in geology and geophysics courtesy of faculty who highlighted the fact that our planet is, after all, our environment. My graduate mentors from Stanford, Environment Canada, and the U.S. Geological Survey provided me with outstanding hydrologic training as well as tangible examples of how our science can be used to address environmental and societal problems. I have done my best to offer similar training and good examples to my advisees.

—Jean M. Bahr, University of -Wisconsin–-Madison

Jean M. Bahr, Robert A. Duce, and Richard C. J. Somerville were awarded the 2017 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Robert A. Duce has made fundamental contributions to atmospheric transport of chemicals from the continents, their deposition to the ocean, and their impact on marine biogeochemistry and climate, with field and numerical studies in Antarctica, the Arctic, and all the world’s oceans. He has provided crucial leadership to the -atmospheric/-oceanic sciences community nationally and internationally.

Professor Duce’s pioneer research has fundamentally altered the direction of research in the chemical interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans. His work contributed to many detailed investigations of the Chinese sources for mineral aerosol, as well as understanding of the importance of mineral matter as a reactant surface for heterogeneous chemical reactions in the atmosphere and in affecting the radiative properties of the atmosphere. He was the first to evaluate the importance of atmospheric input as a source of nutrients in the surface ocean, particularly for the element iron.

Dr. Duce has also given his time generously for leadership in the atmospheric and marine chemistry community. He has been a leader in the development of integrated and interdisciplinary -large--scale research programs in atmospheric chemistry. In 2016, he was appointed cochair (with Professor Barbara J. -Finlayson--Pitts of University of California, Irvine) of the Committee on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

His scientific contribution and leadership theme were echoed through the comments of several of his atmospheric chemistry colleagues, including Professor Paul Crutzen (1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner), who wrote, “Over the past 3 decades Bob has also been a highly effective organizer of major international research efforts, which always have led to great advances in scientific knowledge.” Professor Ralph J. Cicerone (former president of the National Academy of Sciences) stated, “And his considerable organizational skills and generosity in science have marked him as a leader in many national and international organizations that conduct and/or plan research programs in oceanography, atmospheric chemistry and climate.” Professor Mario J. Molina (1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner) commented that “not only are his numerous scientific achievements of very high quality, but he also has made extremely important contributions through his community service, as documented by the large number of committees he has served on.” In summary, Dr. Robert A. Duce excels in all criteria designated by AGU for the Ambassador Award.

—Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M University, College Station


It is, indeed, a great honor to receive the AGU Ambassador Award, and I sincerely thank my colleague at Texas A&M Renyi Zhang for his generous citation. I have been blessed to be able to learn from and interact with so many outstanding individuals in the ocean and atmospheric sciences for 60 years. Working at both the scientific and administrative interfaces between these two disciplines has been particularly exciting and rewarding. This award is really for the many colleagues over the years who have worked toward a fundamental understanding of the importance of the -air–-sea exchange of chemicals to marine and atmospheric biogeochemistry and climate. Pioneers like Peter Liss, Joseph Prospero, William Fitzgerald, Tim Jickells, Maria Kana-ki-dou, Mitsuo Uematsu, Tom Church, and many others have been central in the development of -global--scale interdisciplinary and international research efforts to address these issues. And as all of us in academia know, we ride largely on the coattails of our graduate students and postdocs, and I have been so fortunate to have had many outstanding ones.

As we look back, we reflect on those who made the greatest professional impact on our early academic careers. Jack Winchester, my major professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of the most upbeat and positive individuals I have ever met. He taught me that there are no failed experiments or measurements or studies. Every such event that turned out differently from what one expected is a positive learning experience. Al Woodcock was completely self-taught, and he rose to be a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In the latter years of his career, he moved to the University of Hawai‘i, where he taught me to look at and experience nature closely. He was the consummate natural scientist. John Knauss, the founding dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, had a major impact on my administrative career. John believed that one of his primary responsibilities as dean was to take as much administrative burden as possible off the faculty so they could focus on their research and teaching. And he did that remarkably well. I am particularly grateful to these three individuals for their impact on my life.

Finally, I thank my wife, Mary, and the rest of my wonderful family for having the love, patience, and forbearance that allowed me to do the things I love.

—Robert A. Duce, Department of Oceanography and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station

Jean M. Bahr, Robert A. Duce, and Richard C. J. Somerville were awarded the 2017 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Richard C. J. Somerville has always been a clear and effective communicator of climate science, as recently acknowledged by the AGU community in naming Richard winner of the 2015 AGU Climate Communication Prize. Richard’s audience has been the general public at large, world leaders and policy makers, students, and fellow scientists. Successfully addressing and accurately informing an audience this diverse on topics as complex as global warming and global climate change truly require the communication skills of a seasoned and knowledgeable ambassador.

Richard has been an inspirational educator. Beginning in 1973 at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and later at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, he mentored dozens of currently active climate scientists. For his accomplishments in promoting excellence in education, Richard was honored by the San Diego Science Educators Association as an outstanding university science teacher.

He served as a coordinating lead author of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report for which IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. His elegant book The Forgiving Air was an easily understandable account of the science behind global warming, winning in the process the Louis J. Battan Author’s Award of the American Meteorological Society. In his 2011 Physics Today paper “Communicating the Science of Climate Change,” Richard explained the climate change problem in exceptionally clear and concise terms to both physicists and the general public.

With a solid foundation in climate science and a research specialty in atmospheric dynamics, Richard’s first permanent position was at GISS, where he led the effort to construct the first global general circulation model of the atmosphere specifically aimed at providing -long--range seasonal weather forecasts. His effective leadership was the key ingredient to successfully retrofitting an early University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), weather model into the general circulation model (GCM) that became the predecessor of the GISS Model II climate GCM.

At Scripps, Richard began to direct his attention more fully toward public service by promoting the core objectives of our leading science organizations, government agencies, nongovernmental institutes, and worldwide -policy--making bodies. He served selflessly on advisory committees for nongovernmental organizations and for government agencies such as NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council. He was instrumental in helping to establish the Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI) and has been serving on the AGCI Advisory Board since 1990. He was also chair of the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

—Andrew Lacis and Michael Mishchenko, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York


My field is climate science, and we scientists all know that the world faces serious challenges in this area. Meeting these challenges requires taking science into account. We must not only continue to do research that enables us to understand and predict climate change, but we must act energetically to help the world make use of the science that we create. Albert Einstein said it best in an address to students at the California Institute of Technology in 1931: “Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors…in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”

The AGU Ambassador Award recognizes contributions in four areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool. All four are critical in making our science “a blessing and not a curse to mankind.” My work in these areas has always involved collaborations. Consider the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Writing the IPCC assessment reports is a team effort, and a selfless one, in which we scientists take time away from our own research to provide governments and the public with scientific information that is relevant to policy making but not prescriptive of policy. Persuading governments, especially the U.S. federal government, to accept the science is an unfinished task.

On a personal note, my Ph.D. dates from 1966. During my student years, I encountered almost no women students in meteorology or climatology, and there were very few prominent women scientists in the field. That has changed dramatically, and I have been fortunate to work with numerous outstanding women scientists during the last half century. Many of my graduate student advisees and postdoctoral fellows have been women. Among my female collaborators in the work for which the Ambassador Award is given, I must mention especially Catherine Gautier, Susan Joy Hassol, Cherilynn Morrow, Lynn Russell, and the late Sally Ride.

I thank Andy Lacis and Michael Mishchenko for nominating me for the Ambassador Award. I thank all the students, postdocs, and colleagues who have worked with me. I thank AGU for establishing the Ambassador Award and for honoring me with it. Finally, I thank Sylvia Bal, my wife of more than 50 years, for supporting me with constant love and exceptional tolerance.

—Richard C. J. Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

Ashanti Johnson was awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Ashanti Johnson has devoted substantial effort to mentoring underrepresented minority (URM) Earth system science (ESS) undergraduate and graduate students, as well as URM -early–career professionals. She recognizes the importance of effectively encouraging URM students to pursue careers within ESS, despite the fact that professional rewards for academic scientists often come not for being good mentors but primarily through their scientific research activities. Although, initially, Ashanti utilized the normal mentoring channels available to faculty by mentoring students who enrolled in her classes or had research interests similar to hers, she quickly recognized a need for a broader, more proactive approach that would reach larger numbers of students, particularly URMs.

I recognized her rare ability to balance and sustain creative and visionary ideas with the necessary detailed research and technical applications. She is one of those individuals who can see the big picture while still managing a complexity of details. It is these attributes along with her dedicated leadership that have led to the Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science (MS PHD’S®) Professional Development Program.

I believe the results of the MS PHD’S Professional Development Program alone would make Ashanti worthy of AGU’s Ambassador Award. However, Ashanti also actively engages in a number of other professional development and -diversity–focused scholarly activities designed to facilitate research and professional development experiences for URM students and -early–career faculty. Recognizing the crucial need for collaborative leadership within the scientific community for continuing to foster the development of a globally diverse ESS community, Ashanti also engages in key service activities with scientific communities whose missions include a commitment to broadening participation. In 2002, AGU established a Diversity Plan recommending a policy of education, engagement, outreach, facilitation, partnership, and collaboration in order to increase the diversity and representation of minorities in ESS. The plan recognized that such increased representation would provide the global scientific community with an expanded means of communicating the science behind ecological and economic practices that affect natural resources. Scientists like Ashanti serve to inspire URM students to pursue the goals of AGU’s Diversity Plan. I believe there is no one more deserving of the AGU Ambassador Award than Dr. Ashanti Johnson.

—Warren M. Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.


It is indeed a great honor to receive an AGU 2016 Ambassador Award. I am even more honored to have been nominated for this award by Warren Washington, an amazing role model. This award is a testimony of our scientific community’s acknowledgment of the need for targeted efforts to increase participation of underrepresented minorities (URMs).

I was able to attend my first AGU Fall Meeting in the mid 1990s utilizing funds from my Ford Foundation Minority Doctoral Fellowship award. Before the meeting, I was excited to be able to present my research on radionuclides in the Laptev Sea and looked forward to interacting with other researchers. During the actual meeting two things stood out to me: (1) there were thousands of attendees, and (2) I did not see any other attendees who were identifiably African American. Although I was surrounded by many individuals who were pursuing geoscience careers, I felt absolutely alone. In fact, during my debriefing with Martha Scott, my graduate advisor at Texas A&M University, I expressed how I felt and my hesitation to attend future AGU meetings.

In 2003, as a Georgia Tech research scientist working on an aquatic geochemistry project, I coordinated the university’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. AGEP’s main objective was to improve URM doctoral students’ pathways to the professoriate. In addition, during the same year, I launched the Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science (MS PHD’S®) pilot project in conjunction with the final Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) Open Science Conference. These activities served as my first formal programmatic opportunities to facilitate the advancement of STEM URM students and strengthened my commitment to provide professional development, mentoring, and funding opportunities for URM students throughout my career.

I am blessed to have been supported by many individuals, including Claudia Alexander, Peter Betzer, LaTanya -Turner–Braxton, Jacquelyn Bolman, Robert Duce, Art Hicks, Warner -Ithier–Guzman, Ambrose Jearld Jr., Roosevelt Johnson, Jill Karsten, Margaret Leinen, Gary May, Lois Ricciardi, Marilyn Suiter, Ming-Ying Wei, Warren Washington, Vivian Williamson Whitney, and Thomas Windham. Unfortunately, text limitations do not allow me to acknowledge all of those who have positively impacted the efforts for which I am being recognized, but please know there were many. It is because of these individuals and our professional community, coupled with the tremendous talent and dedication of so many URM students that I humbly accept this award.

—Ashanti Johnson, Mercer University and Cirrus Academy Charter School, Macon, Ga

Susan Lozier was awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Susan Lozier is widely recognized as a true intellectual achiever and as an awesome role model in physical oceanography. Susan is a Fellow of AGU, a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and the 2010 recipient of the Association of Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Award. She is the current president of the Oceanography Society.

Susan is unquestionably among the foremost physical oceanographers of her generation, making significant contributions to both theoretical and observational physical oceanography, as well as being a pioneer in understanding the physical controls of biological productivity. Susan’s key contributions to physical oceanography have transformed the way we think about the North Atlantic circulation. She currently leads the international Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP) initiative, designed to enhance our understanding and ability to model the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation—an important component of the Earth’s climate system.

While Dr. Lozier’s scientific achievements are clearly exceptional, the contribution she has made to geosciences in creating and leading Mentoring Physical Oceanography Women to Increase Retention (MPOWIR) is what makes her uniquely deserving of this Ambassador Award. MPOWIR was established in 2005 in response to her concerns regarding the declining participation of women in the physical oceanography workforce going up the career ladder from Ph.D. to postdoctoral to faculty levels. Entraining both senior and junior scientists, Susan created a community-based structure that allows for the mentoring of a larger number of young women scientists than any one person could do alone. Junior women and senior scientists share experiences and are able to provide and receive frank advice and voice concerns, all the while building community networks to help raise confidence and skills for promoting science and recognizing that there are many different pathways to career advancement and success. The MPOWIR approach acts to strengthen the whole community through our commitment to one another. Now, a decade after its implementation, MPOWIR is having a positive impact on the retention of junior women in physical oceanography, ensuring diversity for future generations. As such, MPOWIR also serves as a model program that could surely enrich and diversify the entire geophysical community.

In summary, Susan Lozier is a natural leader whose efforts have benefited the oceanographic community as a whole, not simply the individuals who have personally participated in the science or mentoring programs she has led. Susan Lozier is an excellent and worthy recipient of the AGU Ambassador Award.

—Janet Sprintall, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla


The truth of the matter is that this AGU Ambassador Award is for the physical oceanography community. I am happy to accept the award on the community’s behalf but prefer not to pretend that it is mine alone. MPOWIR got its start in May of 2004, when I invited several colleagues to join me in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with representatives from ONR and NSF to discuss retention issues for women in physical oceanography. Though I admit to bending a few ears, I never had to twist a single arm. From the beginning, my colleagues understood the need for a community-led mentoring program and, importantly, understood that the retention of female scientists was a community issue, not a women’s issue. Thus, men in the physical oceanography community joined the effort, wholeheartedly so. NSF, ONR, NASA, NOAA, and DOE lent needed financial support along the way, and, perhaps most important, early-career female physical oceanographers responded with enthusiasm. And now, 12 years down the road, MPOWIR is moving the needle on retention, a point of pride for all members in the physical oceanography community.

Though I am loath to take personal credit for this award, I have no qualms about giving personal thanks. I’ll start by expressing deep gratitude to oceanographer extraordinaire Janet Sprintall for heading this nomination; to Mark Cane and Rana Fine for providing shining examples of mentorship; to Sonya Legg and Colleen Mouw for so ably continuing the leadership of MPOWIR; to Eric Itsweire, Terri Paluszkiewicz, and Eric Lindstrom for their longstanding support of MPOWIR; and to Victoria Coles, Amy Bower, and LuAnne Thompson for sticking with me and MPOWIR from the start. Also, a thousand thanks go to my current and former graduate students who taught me how to mentor and forgave me my stumbles.

My engagement with MPOWIR and my own graduate students through these many years has been nothing short of a pleasure. When I think of my role as a mentor, I am reminded of an Edwin Markham quote that my mother taught me long ago: “All that we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own.” It has been a privilege and honor to be part of MPOWIR, to be part of so many students’ lives, and to be part of the physical oceanography community. Thank you.

—M. Susan Lozier, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Anne S. Meltzer  was awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


For 2 decades, Anne S. Meltzer has been a leader in developing community–driven science initiatives and in ensuring that community priorities guide organizations such as the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).

Dr. Meltzer’s leadership was key in shaping a groundswell of community interest into the National Science Foundation (NSF) EarthScope facility and science program. She helped to develop the concept for the USArray—a rolling transportable array of broadband seismic stations that spanned the contiguous United States and is now in Alaska, plus permanent stations and targeted temporary arrays—and she played an important role in building consensus and crafting the plan for the EarthScope facility (funded by Congress at $200 million) that also included the Plate Boundary Observatory and the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) San Andreas drilling project. Dr. Meltzer coordinated the USArray Steering Committee (1999–2002), was a key member of the EarthScope Executive Committee, and chaired the IRIS Board of Directors during this critical period.

Dr. Meltzer has continued as a leader within EarthScope and IRIS on the EarthScope Science and Education Committee (2002–2005) and as chair of the EarthScope Program Committee (2005–2008), chair of the EarthScope Facility Management Review (2011), chair of the IRIS -USArray Advisory Committee (2012–2013), and chair (since 2014) of the IRIS Board of Directors. She was an early proponent of EarthScope–related education and outreach, which, through vibrant programs and the work of many people, has carried this science to thousands of students, teachers, and members of the public. Scores of undergraduates were recruited to help locate sites for transportable array stations, and Dr. Meltzer herself coordinated the student siting effort in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

Dr. Meltzer has worked to expand seismological expertise in developing countries, through research collaborations in Pakistan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Chile and as white paper author and founding chair of the IRIS Committee for International Development Seismology (2008–2011). One highlight was the 2011 NSF Pan–American Advanced Studies Institute in Ecuador, a 2-week immersion in seismology for over 30 students and young faculty. Dr. Meltzer also played a pivotal role in a May 2015 workshop in Chile that gathered more than 100 researchers to discuss best practices for modern geophysical networks and led a 2016 IRIS seismometer deployment to record aftershocks of a damaging earthquake in Ecuador.

In summary, Dr. Meltzer’s work has enabled hundreds of researchers worldwide to excel scientifically and thousands of students and members of the public to be inspired by the Earth sciences.

—Karen M. Fischer, Brown University, Providence, R.I.


I am honored to receive an AGU Ambassador Award and am grateful to Karen Fischer and other colleagues for nominating me. It is rewarding to have been in a position to help advance community initiatives at various points in my career.

Science is first and foremost a human endeavor, and academic consortia like IRIS have demonstrated that working together, we can achieve remarkable scientific advances. What started as a vision for shared facilities for collection and curation of seismic and other geophysical data, built on principles of open access to data and engagement of individuals across a spectrum of institutions in the United States and abroad, has built a community of scientists with global reach and impact.

The community of scientists who first conceived of USArray, PBO, and SAFOD, in partnership with funding agencies like the NSF and USGS, brought EarthScope from spark to ignition and transformed the Earth sciences. As a multi-decadal infrastructure and science program, EarthScope has provided insights into Earth structure and dynamics on a continental scale, engaged a new generation of Earth scientists who easily work with big data and as part of interdisciplinary teams, and sparked the imagination of the next generation of scientists by directly engaging the public in the largest Earth science experiment conducted to date. New community initiatives like subduction zone observatories have the potential to do the same while contributing to the science behind hazards related to earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides around the Pacific Rim and the Caribbean.

I have benefited from being a member of a diverse scientific community and the shared resources managed by IRIS. Community resources and collaborations with colleagues have allowed me and my students to pursue research in some of the most phenomenal places in the world in terms of Earth processes and sheer beauty, and to meet and get to know the most remarkable and culturally diverse people. We have been welcomed and received support everywhere we have worked and in turn have tried to give back in kind by supporting the communities who supported us and by collaborating with our colleagues abroad to build capacity in their countries. Many geoscientists working internationally, in ways both small and large, do the same. By building capacity at home and abroad, we extend the community of scientists studying our planet, how it works, and our relationship to it.

—Anne S. Meltzer, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.

Naomi Oreskes was awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Naomi Oreskes is truly an ambassador for our community. Her unique expertise, spanning the disciplines of history and geoscience, has allowed her to fulfill a particularly valuable niche in the academic and societal discourse over human-caused climate change.

As a scientist, Naomi has authored or coauthored several fundamentally important articles that have significant implications both for our understanding of the science of climate change and for our appreciation of the larger societal issues involved, including the challenge of communicating science in a hostile environment and the role of scientists as advocates for an informed public discourse. In 2012, Naomi co-authored a study providing a retrospective evaluation of climate science and introducing into the lexicon the phrase “erring on the side of least drama” in describing how and why scientists in our field have tended to err on the side of -conservatism/-reticence when it comes to predictions and projections of climate change and its impacts. Naomi’s groundbreaking 2004 study in Science, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” is one of the most cited studies in our field (more than 1000 citations), which exposed the fallacy that there is still debate within the scientific community as to whether or not climate change is real and substantially due to human activity. It is this article, and the attacks she was subjected to by those looking to discredit this finding, that led Naomi into the center of the public sphere. We are all better off for that development.

Naomi went on to coauthor, in 2010, Merchants of Doubt, which explores the historical context for -modern-day climate change denial, demonstrating how it grew out of previous disinformation campaigns like that behind tobacco industry efforts to deny the negative health impacts of its product. The book has sold over 50,000 copies, has been translated into six languages, has won several prizes, and was made into an award-winning documentary film that came out in 2014.

Naomi has provided testimony for numerous governmental and scientific panel assessments, has written dozens of commentaries and -op-eds in leading newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times. She is a leading force for furthering an appreciation of the historical development of geophysical knowledge, for communicating our science and its implications to the public, and for combating antiscientific attacks in our field, particularly in the arena of climate change. Nobody could be more deserving of the AGU Ambassador Award.

—Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Thirty years ago, Lady Bertha Jeffreys advised me not to become a historian of science. I was making a grave mistake in throwing my scientific career away, she told me, particularly in light of my hard-earned first-class honors degree from Imperial College.

At the time, there were precious few women in geophysics. If asked to name one, most people could only mention Inge Lehmann. It had required extraordinary dedication and grace for Lehmann to earn her place; the same was true for Lady Jeffreys, and no doubt she wanted to keep me “in the fold.” Had I been quicker, I would have explained that I was not leaving science; I was simply going to contribute in another way. I would have explained that my goal was to understand science as an enterprise: to study how scientists gather evidence about the natural world and come to conclusions about it. Above all, I wanted to answer the question, Given what we know about the fallibility of all human enterprises, what is the basis for our trust in science?

Today we live in a world where many people do not trust science, which puts our enterprise at risk. As Michael Mann and Ben Santer know, it is not easy to do your scientific work while you are under subpoena or being harassed. It is not a joke when a congressman threatens to hold you in contempt, or put you in jail.

As individuals, the continuance of our work depends upon our capacity to persuade others of its value; as a community, it depends upon our capacity to maintain public trust and resist those who seek to undermine it. The success of science as an enterprise rests on our capacity to persuade others that our work has integrity because we have integrity.

I am extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to stand up for the integrity of science and am grateful to be called an ambassador of the Earth science community. I would like to thank all the scientists with whom I have worked, in particular, Michael Mann and Benjamin Santer, who nominated me for this award; my teachers at Imperial College, particularly Rick Sibson, who taught me how to be a keen observer; my professors and fellow students at Stanford, who encouraged my hybrid career path; and my diverse colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Harvard University. I am particularly indebted to the late Charles Drake, and the -still–vital Charles Kennel, who supported me at crucial junctures. But above all, I am grateful to the climate scientists whose work I have had the honor to communicate, represent, and stand up for.

—Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Charles R. Chappell, Lucile Jones, and Gordon McBean were awarded the 2015 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Throughout his nearly half century research career in solar–terrestrial physics Rick Chappell has continuously focused his energies on communication, outreach, mentoring, and creating innovative programs that enhance the public understanding, appreciation, and support of space and Earth science. These activities were originally focused on his own discipline of space physics but have spread to include Earth science and to address the broader issue of communicating science through the media to the public.

Rick began his outreach activities first with a major museum exhibit and then a movie about magnetospheric physics. He continued his public communications through being a media spokesperson for multiple Spacelab/shuttle missions.

Chappell’s experience with the media led him to return to his alma mater, Vanderbilt University, in 1996 to conduct a study on the interaction between the science community and the media. This led to the book Worlds Apart and to the creation of a new undergraduate interdisciplinary major in the communication of science and technology. During this time he was a member of the AGU Committee on Public Outreach, being chairman for 1 year of his 3–year term.

Rick worked with colleagues to organize two -cross--discipline collaborative AGU conferences, one in 1974 and one in 2014, which brought together scientists from different disciplines to understand the interaction between the ionosphere and magnetosphere.

Working with John Denver’s Windstar Foundation in the late 1980s, Rick joined with scientists in Earth and space sciences to create the Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI). AGCI has now been in operation for 25 years and has involved hundreds of Earth, space, and social scientists, who have carried out the cross–discipline study of global change. AGCI has also created education outreach programs such as ground truth study activities for students at the Science Olympiad.

The NASA administrator asked Rick to work with Vice President Gore to create the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program in 1994–1995. GLOBE involves K–12 students around the world in measuring their local environment and in reporting the results online. The program now involves tens of thousands of schools in more than 100 countries.

Rick has given talks to thousands of students of all ages and continues to be a leader in communications and educational outreach. I cannot think of anybody more deserving of the AGU Ambassador Award.

—Andrew Nagy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


I am honored and deeply grateful for being selected as an AGU Ambassador. My career has been about space exploration and communicating the results and importance of that exploration to the public, especially to the teachers and students. To be recognized for these communication and outreach activities is most meaningful to me.

As scientists, we all start our exploration journey in a limited area of study. As we grow in our understanding, the interdisciplinary nature of science leads us to work with explorers in other fields. Whether it is the relationship between the Sun and the Earth or the changing global environment, it is critically important to cross disciplines and interact with other scientists to piece together the big picture.

In my career I have worked to facilitate -cross-–discipline exploration through both planning interdisciplinary Chapman conferences and creating organizations such as the Aspen Global Change Institute. It is in this environment that sharing and learning take place and the broader research challenges are met through new partnerships.

For each of us explorers, taking time to communicate as individuals and as groups is critical, particularly in this time of the confusing politicization of science in areas such as global change. We owe a continued, understandable report to the public which funded our research, and we owe a period of giving back through teaching, interacting with teachers, and mentoring the young student explorers of the future. Programs such as GLOBE bring scientists, teachers, and K–12 students together to share knowledge while measuring their local environment. In this hands–on way, students become explorers who are sensitive to the changing environment around them. It was a great pleasure to work with Vice President Gore to help create this interagency program.

As scientists, we are given the great privilege of living the adventure of exploration and of doing and learning things that others have never done before. We are able to “live in the what might be” where our ideas that are born, honed, and realized through teamwork can become reality and can then be shared with others.

Thanks so much to all of the incredible people who explore our world and to AGU for creating this award, which recognizes the importance of our research and the need both to communicate to those who have invested in us and to pass the torch to the next generation of explorers.

—Charles R. Chappell, Vanderbilt University, Destin, Fla.

Charles R. Chappell, Lucile Jones, and Gordon McBean were awarded the 2015 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Dr. Lucile “Lucy” Jones is an extraordinary public servant who has devoted her path–breaking career to reducing the threats of natural hazards in southern California, across the nation, and around the world. Since joining the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1983, Lucy has made outstanding research contributions and provided significant scientific leadership to the nation. She rose rapidly through the scientific ranks in recognition of her research on earthquake occurrence probability, which to this day forms the basis for all earthquake advisories issued by the state of California.

Since then, Lucy has expanded the scope of her research into the realm of risk and vulnerability studies to improve knowledge transfer across multiple natural hazards. She has led the development of scenarios that have made catastrophic hazards real to the people of California and in doing so sparked a science–based approach to earthquake preparedness that now involves tens of millions of people worldwide. She has successfully built strong partnerships with engineers, social scientists, biologists, geographers, public health doctors, emergency managers, and public officials to design scenarios that are among the most visible and highly used products to come out of the USGS.

Most recently, Lucy led a USGS cooperative project with the city of Los Angeles in which she served as the science adviser for seismic safety to Mayor Eric Garcetti. The results of this collaboration include a consensus approach to improving building safety, a comprehensive program to strengthen the water infrastructure in the city, and convening stakeholders in the state’s utilities to address the vulnerabilities posed by utilities crossing the San Andreas Fault.

Lucy is widely recognized as an authoritative voice on natural hazards and disaster risk reduction. When earthquakes strike, the world’s major media outlets turn to her for answers, and time and again, she has seized the teachable moment to the benefit of all. Lucy’s skill in communicating with reporters and connecting with the public—including the many thousands who follow her on Twitter—has made her one of the most trusted scientists in America. Lucy Jones is truly an ambassador for science in service to society and a worthy recipient of this award.

—David Applegate, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va.


I am honored to receive the Ambassador Award and am grateful to David Applegate and other colleagues at the USGS for nominating me. One cannot be an ambassador without a home country to represent and I am proud the USGS has been my intellectual home for 32 years and of its commitment to science in the public service.

I began work in seismology while a graduate student at MIT, using my undergraduate degree in Chinese Language and Literature to study the Haicheng earthquake. I came to realize that the Chinese need for prediction to save lives was so large and the cost of a false alarm in an agrarian economy was so small that they could use the probability gain of an earthquake swarm to act at a much lower level of certainty than would be possible in the United States. In other words, the decision to act required economic and social information as well as seismologic information. This led to a career in earthquake statistics, to try to bring seismology to the people with the information to understand the impact of the predictions.

However, as we progressed in our ability to deliver probabilities, we discovered how few people actually understand them. I am grateful to the USGS for the opportunity to explore other approaches to explaining risk, including the ShakeOut, ARkStorm and SAFRR Tsunami Scenarios. That this path would eventually lead to a full year in Los Angeles City Hall is as astonishing to me as to anyone. Along the way, I have discovered that the scientist’s boredom with solved problems and our need to express, quantify, and generally live in uncertainty often leads us to tell our potential partners what we don’t know, rather than fulfill their need to understand what we do know. I also found that the stories of the scenarios and an understanding of the individual impacts of collective decisions helped bring our community together to finally address the risk.

Most support for our research comes from government, from the public purse, because people want the results. Especially as Earth scientists, much of our research could lead to a safer, more prosperous future, but only if it is used. I believe we have an obligation to ensure that the results of our research are not just heard, but understood by those who entrusted with the decisions that can protect our society and our environment.

—Lucy Jones, U.S. Geological Survey, Pasadena, Calif.

Charles R. Chappell, Lucile Jones, and Gordon McBean were awarded the 2015 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Gordon’s leadership roles in the community were propelled with his appointment in 1984 as a member of the Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) for the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), mandated to plan and implement the major global climate research programs. He subsequently became the chair of JSC (1988–1994), and under his leadership WCRP implemented four major research programs in the areas of water/energy, variability/prediction, stratosphere, and Arctic/cryosphere.

While chairing WCRP and recognizing that there was little participation from the developing world in these major science programs, he helped in the creation of the -Inter--American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the System for Analysis Research and Training (START) for Africa and Asia. The success of both IAI and START programs in scientific capacity building in Latin America, Africa, and Asia is a testament to Gordon’s vision and leadership.

Gordon also served as Canada’s assistant deputy minister in Environment Canada, responsible for climate, weather, and air quality sciences and services and ministers’ adviser on climate change science and policy, including at the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1997.

Gordon has also made significant contributions to the field of disaster risk reduction. After the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy, he chaired the scoping and planning committee that led to the establishment of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk program.

Gordon is the current president of the International Council for Science, the leading nongovernmental science organization in the world speaking on the issues of the freedom and responsibility of scientists around the globe.

Gordon’s outstanding scientific contributions and his selfless efforts as a scientific ambassador to serve the profession and society make him an excellent recipient of this award.

—Soroosh Sorooshian, University of California, Irvine


I am very pleased and honored to have been selected for an AGU Ambassador Award for 2015. Throughout my career I have been inspired and motivated by mentors and colleagues to work together with scientists from around the world to understand and take action on the global geophysical issues of climate change, disaster risk reduction, and enhancement of research capacity around the globe. The development and implementation of these global programs, WCRP, IRDR, START, IAI, and others, were really the result of global team efforts and commitments, with all of us being motivated by our scientific interests to understand these complex issues and also to provide societies with the scientific information upon which actions can and should be made.

It has been very inspiring for me to work with many colleagues, including Professor Soroosh Sorooshian, who have contributed in many different ways to me being selected for this award. By working together, we have been able to make a much more substantial contribution to these issues—but we still have a long way to go with, for example, climate change. It is a continuing challenge for scientists to better communicate, clarify and, as appropriate, motivate our governments and societies to take action.

When writing this response, I knew that the global community will meet at the climate change Conference of the Parties 21 in Paris that is scheduled to end just before this AGU conference; but I could not really predict the outcome. As now president of the International Council for Science (ICSU), I think that it is important that we, collectively as a scientific community, speak out on these issues. We also need to address the issue of the freedom for all scientists to do science and have the support to enable their doing excellent science and connecting it to societal needs. We also need to, as a scientific community, emphasize our individual and collective responsibility of scientists.

I would like to thank AGU for this very important award and thank all my colleagues for their collective contributions to me being the recipient.

—Gordon McBean, University of Western Ontario, Ontario, Canada

Ghassem R. Asrar was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



For more than 20 years, Ghassem Asrar has been a distinguished public servant to the Earth and space community of the highest degree. As chief scientist for the Earth Observing System (EOS) at NASA from 1992 to 1998, Ghassem developed a communication and outreach strategy promoting the EOS program to the public, the U.S. Congress, and international scientific organizations that still exists today. From 1998 to 2004, he served as associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Earth Science. In this capacity he had overall scientific, technical, programmatic, and organization management responsibility for Earth science, with an annual budget greater than $1.5 billion. During this period, the program developed and successfully launched 15 Earth observing satellites and developed a comprehensive, multidisciplinary data and information system (-EOSDIS) that enabled the use of data from these satellites by more than two million users. Ghassem’s last tour of government service was as deputy administrator for the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2006 to 2008, where he was responsible for management and oversight of a $250 million portfolio of environment and natural resources research projects located at numerous laboratories throughout the United States.

One of the hallmarks of Ghassem Asrar’s scientific leadership has been his commitment to interdisciplinary and international science. During his time as director of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the number of nations participating in the program and their financial and in-kind contributions for WCRP activities increased. For example, for the first time in the -30-year history of the WCRP, an Open Science Conference was held in October 2011 in Denver, Colo., and attracted 2000 scientists from around the world, including 530 early career-scientists, more than 300 of whom were from developing nations and regions. Another attribute of Ghassem’s impact on many fields has been his devotion to the next generation of Earth scientists. While at NASA, he established the NASA Earth System Science Graduate Student Fellowship program to attract students with strong math, physics, and basic sciences backgrounds to focus their Ph.D. research and training on the emerging interdisciplinary field of Earth system science. NASA has awarded a total of 150 fellowships each year, the legacy of which has been the successful graduation of several thousands of Ph.D. and postdoctoral students who are now serving as the advisors and mentors of future generations of applicants and recipients.

In summary, Ghassem Asrar’s leadership and service to the present and future generations of Earth scientists truly embody the spirit of the AGU Ambassador Award.

—Antonio J. Busalacchi, University of Maryland, College Park


I am honored to be among the first recipients of the newly established AGU Ambassador Award.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had great opportunities to contribute to the field of Earth system science as a researcher, educator, science manager, and senior administrator. These opportunities allowed me to contribute in a variety of ways during the past 30 years. Reflecting on those years, I can confess that none of it had been planned the way they came along, not on my part! Even my first postdoctoral appointment in 1985 came about through a surprise invitation letter when I was completing and defending my Ph.D. dissertation. It was this opportunity that shaped my professional career during ensuing decade(s). One major common contributor was NASA, which sponsored my postdoctoral appointment, hosted me as a visiting senior scientist through the California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and ultimately accepted me as one of its own. Combined together, these posts shaped more than 2 decades of my career. As such, I will always have a soft spot for NASA and its mission in my heart.

I can think of many fond memories and proud moments, such as being a part of the international science teams promoting interdisciplinary and coordinated field experiments in the 1980s and 1990s, a member of the international team formulating the international Earth observing system program with NASA’s Earth Observing System as a major component, and a member of the U.S. national science teams for developing the U.S. Space Exploration and Energy Independence initiatives. The one role that I cherish most is my contribution to the NASA education programs such as the Earth system science fellowship, New Investigators program, and National Earth System Science curriculum and education standards. They have enabled training and development of current and future generations of Earth system scientists, globally. Without intellectual leaders sponsored by these programs, we could neither utilize effectively the current Earth observing system nor dream of the future generation of such systems.

I thank AGU for bestowing on me the Ambassador Award for my modest contribution to the field of Earth system science. I share this recognition and my gratitude with those who helped shape my career. I could succeed because of their support for me, and it is my great pleasure to accept this prestigious award. Thank you.

—Ghassem R. Asrar, Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, Md.

Paul A. Hsieh was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Paul Hsieh famously played a key role in resolving the disastrous 2010 blowout of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. Many news accounts of Paul’s role in capping the well can be found simply by an internet search on the phrase “Paul Hsieh hero.”

Paul’s success during the Macondo incident is no surprise. Rather, it is part of a career-long pattern of developing and applying fundamental scientific principles to resolve important societal issues.

Paul is a world leader in two complementary research areas: (1) the hydrology of fractured rocks and (2) the coupling between fluid flow, stress, and deformation. Perhaps more significant in the context of this award is how Paul has parlayed that expertise in terms of societal impact and service to the Earth science community.

The U.S. Geological Survey has a large program of cooperative studies in which state and local government entities help fund hydrologic investigations. Paul is part of the relatively small cadre of research scientists who assist this operational program on important and intractable problems. For instance, Paul led the successful completion of a sole-source aquifer model spanning the -Washington--Idaho border. The responsible state agencies were initially wary of each other, but Paul quickly developed working relationships, and under his leadership the team produced timely and -well--received results. This and many similar examples highlight Paul’s ability to formulate solutions to hydrologic problems and bring all parties to the table. To facilitate such efforts, Paul has created open-source software for visualization of model results—tools that have considerably advanced the degree to which modelers can gain insight from simulations and effectively communicate results.

Paul’s stature in the field of -fractured-rock hydrogeology led to service on three National Research Council committees, including the Panel on Conceptual Models of Flow and Transport in the Fractured Vadose Zone. This committee, which Paul chaired, was particularly important. Water collected at Yucca Mountain showed that bomb blast isotopes had penetrated deep into the unsaturated zone. This unexpected observation required leading scientists to critique existing theory and explore alternatives. At the time the site was approved, the future of Yucca Mountain as a viable nuclear waste repository depended on understanding this phenomenon.

This background illustrates Paul A. Hsieh’s -career-long pattern of developing and applying fundamental science to resolve important societal issues. Paul is a zealous and unselfish collaborator, motivated entirely by the goal of achieving -high--quality science, and an exemplary recipient for the inaugural Ambassador Award.

—Steve Ingebritsen, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.


Thank you, Steve, for nominating me, and thank you to my colleagues who wrote letters to support the nomination. I am deeply grateful to AGU for selecting me as one of the five recipients of the Ambassador Award. In today’s world in which human impacts are manifested on a global scale, it is highly fitting for AGU to emphasize the role of science in addressing societal issues, not only for today but also for future generations.

As an undergraduate at Princeton in the 1970s, I was drawn to hydrologic science through the classes taught by George Pinder and William Gray. Their pioneering work on computer modeling in hydrology instantly captured my fascination. Shortly thereafter, I had the good fortune of being hired by John Bredehoeft to work at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Under John’s guidance, I learned how to transform difficult questions into tractable problems—a process elegantly demonstrated in many of John’s papers. During graduate school at the University of Arizona, I learned from my advisor, Shlomo Neuman, the importance of understanding fundamental theory and not simply learning methods and procedures. It is through such fundamental understanding that one is able to expand beyond one’s own area of study to collaborate with others in related fields. To my mentors who invested time and energy in my education and growth, I am truly grateful.

I consider USGS my professional family. It is a joy to be among peers who are totally dedicated to their work. During my career, I have been allowed the opportunity to pursue different areas of work, from groundwater contamination to induced seismicity. Such diversity of work has greatly contributed to my career growth. I am thankful to be part of an organization that recognizes its employees as its most valuable assets.

My participation in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a career highlight. It was a privilege to serve on the government science team, led by -then secretary of energy Steven Chu. In my opinion, it was Dr. Chu’s deep understanding of science and his wisdom in balancing risks and benefits that led us through the environmental crisis. It was a great example of the importance of science in decision making. Yet even the best scientists today must suffer the slings and arrows of a politicized society, a situation to which climate scientists, for example, are no strangers. And so we must continue to strive for rigor and openness in our work.

—Paul A. Hsieh, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.

Scott Mandia was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Scott Mandia is helping the Earth science community deal with problems we never expected.

In 2009, scientists at leading research institutions had their emails stolen, mischaracterized, and plastered across the global media. Scientists were shocked that misinformation about their research could spread so rapidly.

Scott Mandia, along with two other researchers, decided to help. They formed the Climate Science Rapid Response Team to proactively address misinformation about climate research and assist scientists in accurately communicating their research to the public and the media. Their volunteer effort now includes more than 200 climate researchers who regularly communicate with journalists and provide assistance to nongovernmental organizations that are active on climate issues.

Mandia’s work has helped many early- and -mid--career scientists take on more ambitious public outreach opportunities, and many members of the rapid response team have grown as communicators in the past several years.

Of course, attacks on climate scientists didn’t stop. In many ways, they got worse. In several cases, advocacy groups and politicians sued scientists in court and falsely accused them of faking their climate research. At the time, the Earth science community was not prepared to respond to these unprecedented legal assaults. Mandia stepped into the breach again and worked with documentary film maker Joshua Wolfe and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to create the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), which now provides regular legal assistance to researchers.

The group has been a saving grace to the many scientists who have faced invasive document requests and other burdensome legal attacks. At the same time, the group’s assistance has had a positive ripple effect in the scientific community. Other researchers can publicly communicate about their work secure in the knowledge that if they are attacked by advocacy groups or politicians, they can get the help they need.

Mandia’s drive and enthusiasm are infectious. He approaches his work with the Earth science community seriously and with good cheer. His willingness to step up and provide valuable, necessary services to Earth scientists makes him an excellent inaugural recipient of AGU’s Ambassador Award.

—Michael E. Mann, Pennsylvania State University, University Park


I am honored to have been chosen to receive one of AGU’s inaugural Ambassador Awards. I accept on behalf of the many people who helped make this possible. Deepest thanks to Dr. Michael Mann for coordinating the nomination process and to the others who wrote supporting letters. Thank you to the AGU awards committee members for considering my nomination worthy of this award. Your time is greatly appreciated.

Thank you to Drs. John Abraham and Ray Weymann for founding the Climate Science Rapid Response Team with me in 2010 and to Drs. Michael Ashley and Jan Dash for helping to manage the team over the past few years. Thank you to the climate scientists who joined the team. Your willingness to be “on call” for journalists and policy makers has provided them with critical, rapid, and cutting edge science information. Deepest thanks to Aaron Huertas (Union of Concerned Scientists) and to Susan Joy Hassol and Dr. Richard Somerville -(climatecommunication.-org) for providing science communication workshops for our team members. Because of the work of these two groups, many of our team members have become superb science communicators. The combination of our experts’ willingness to reach out coupled with their advanced communication skills has moved forward the public dial of understanding of climate science.

Unfortunately, some groups and individuals have found climate science research inconvenient to their worldview and have used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws to harass our experts and thus stifle the scientific endeavor. In January 2012, I cofounded the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund along with Joshua Wolfe to respond to this unfortunate reality. The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund serves to assist scientists when they face legal attacks as well as to educate them about their rights and best practices to avoid such attacks. I wish to thank Jeff Ruch and his staff at PEER for agreeing to become our fiscal sponsor and for always being there when scientists contacted our service in need of legal advice. Many thanks to Joshua Wolfe for being a huge part of the growth and success of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, even though you prefer to remain behind the scenes.

Finally, I wish to thank my wonderful wife, Kelly, who has steadfastly supported all of my climate -science–related activities. You understand how important these activities are to me and to others, and for that, I am truly grateful.

—Scott Mandia, Suffolk County Community College, Selden, N.Y.

James E. Overland was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



It is my great pleasure and honor to give the citation for the 2014 AGU Ambassador awardee Dr. James E. Overland. Jim’s contributions to raising public awareness and fostering collaborative, interdisciplinary research on Arctic change and ecosystem responses are tremendous.

Jim’s tireless work includes publishing more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, book chapters, and reports; giving presentations at scientific meetings and local community gatherings; convening meeting sessions; organizing workshops; and forming working groups to address important issues related to Arctic climate change and its impact on fisheries and components of ecosystems. He communicates the significance of scientific findings to policy makers, fisheries managers, environmental agencies, biologists, and the public. Jim is a leading force to push Arctic research to the forefront. He shows great foresight in Arctic research and supports young scientists by serving as a Ph.D. committee member around the world.

Jim has brought communities of scientists from different disciplines together to work as a cohesive unit. Because changes in the Arctic environment are multivariate and data sources are scattered, Jim envisioned a single interdisciplinary portal of information to contain key indicators of the Arctic environmental system. His goal was to make the information easily accessible to scientists, teachers, students, decision makers, and the general public. Jim founded the State of the Arctic Report in 2006, which later became the Arctic Report Card, a yearly assessment of the Arctic’s physical, chemical, and biological systems and how they are changing. He continues to serves as an editor of the Arctic Report Card, which in 2013 featured 18 essays authored by a team of 147 researchers from 14 countries.

In 2008, Jim organized scientists to create a Web-based forum/summary called the Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) with the purpose of providing the scientific community, stakeholders, and the public the best available information on the evolution of Arctic sea ice. In 2013, 23 groups of experts provided their predictions on the basis of model and/or empirical analyses.

Because of his profound knowledge of Arctic climate change and his insight into studies of climate -change–related issues, Jim was chosen to represent the United States as a lead author of chapter 10 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. Jim has responded to requests to provide climate projections for evaluating endangered species and has contributed to U.S. and international Arctic change assessments.

Jim is a true ambassador in the Arctic research community.

—Muyin Wang, University of Washington, Seattle


I am honored to be considered for the AGU Ambassador Award as a larger recognition of how the Arctic science community has cooperated and communicated the importance of ongoing rapid changes in the Arctic over the last decades. For me, it starts with the professional values promoted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration leaders to provide credible scientific information backed by peer review publications. It has included working with other editors on the Arctic Report Card, a yearly update of multiple changes that now includes more than 100 contributors, and Sea Ice Outlook, a website to discuss the causes of rapid summer sea ice loss that has matured to a larger activity in the last 2 years. A challenge was working with biological scientist colleagues on Endangered Species Act listings for polar bears and various ice seals; here one compared climate change projections with potential impacts based on different life histories. With Arctic temperatures rising 2–3 times faster than the global value and many Arctic “surprises,” it has been necessary for the community to come together during symposia and workshops to understand the mechanisms for this “Arctic amplification” as an indicator of global change and local impacts. Such efforts are seen by the many -Arctic--related sessions at the current AGU meeting. International support for integration activities is through the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and various World Meteorological Organization activities. Achieving synthesis and consensus is not always easy or possible, as with any rapidly evolving science activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report dealt with differences between data and models on future timing of sea ice loss, and the community is currently debating the extent of larger hemispheric impacts of Arctic change. I appreciate the many colleagues whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate with over the years.

—James E. Overland, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Wash.

Michael E. Wysession was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”



Michael Wysession is one of the world’s leading geoscience educators. Most notably, he chaired the writing of national standards requiring, for the first time, that high school and middle school students complete a year of modern, quantitative, -data--based Earth and space science.

Wysession is an excellent researcher, who has made and continues to make important contributions using seismology to study deep Earth structure. He has done even more as an educator, showing that it is not “those who can’t, teach” but “those who understand, teach.” Rather than avoid or dumb down complicated concepts, he thoughtfully and clearly explains them.

His interest was already apparent in grad school. While doing a fine thesis, he asked to coauthor the seismology text I was writing. I declined, feeling that he should focus on research until getting tenure. After he had gained tenure, we agreed that the book was largely completed, so he should get 10% of the royalties. Because many figures in texts are schematic, a key goal was to ensure that ray paths and travel times were computed to be correct. Michael produced superb figures explaining the complicated paths and travel times for core phases and clearly discussed their use. He also produced the beautiful cover comparing ray paths and wave fronts in the Earth, which explains their relation, which baffles most students. Michael put much of the book online (a new concept in 2002!) via a widely used website. When all was done, we agreed that Michael deserved 30% of the royalties since he did 3 times more than expected!

Wysession made an equal contribution by developing sophisticated animations showing how seismic waves propagate that give enormously more insight than the ray paths alone. When he presented these at an AGU Fall Meeting as a video, the poster session was crowded with students and senior scientists, who watched the animations repeatedly, gaining new insights into topics such as core-diffracted waves. Michael enthusiastically disseminated the animations on video and on the Web. They are now such a fixture of classes ranging from introductory to advanced worldwide that I cannot imagine teaching seismology without them.

He went on to become a leader in geoscience education, coauthoring more than 20 textbooks at elementary, middle school, and high school levels and authoring video courses on How the Earth Works (35,000 copies sold) and The World’s Greatest Geologic Wonders (15,000 copies sold). He has also taken leading roles in the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and other community activities.

—Seth Stein, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.


I am honored to be one of the first recipients of the AGU Ambassador Award. Science education, literacy, and outreach are extremely important, and I am very pleased that AGU has decided to recognize these kinds of efforts with a new award. I was also greatly honored to be primarily responsible for the construction of the Earth and space science component of the new national K–12 Next Generation Science Standards, both at the National Academy (for the writing of Framework for K–12 Science Education) and at Achieve (for the writing of the actual standards). We are at a momentous point in the history of American education. Geoscience finally broke through the 120-year-old barrier and joined biology, chemistry, and physics as a science worthy of every student’s high school education. The university presidents who wrote the influential 1893 Committee of Ten report [where (1) 3 years of high school science were codified as being biology, chemistry, and physics; (2) “physical geography” was delegated to middle school; and (3) space science was omitted from secondary education altogether] could scarcely have foreseen the catastrophic impacts of their document in creating an American public ignorant of the critical -geoscience--related issues of energy and mineral resources, water availability, natural hazards, climate change and its consequences, and the increasing environmental impacts of human activities. No more. The 2013 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), already adopted by more than a dozen states and countless other school districts (with many more in process), recommend that high school science education consist of a year of life science, a year of physical science (a semester each of chemistry and physics), and a year of geoscience. The same would hold for middle school. NGSS are revolutionary in other ways as well: teaching science and assessing student understanding from a -practice--based approach and seamlessly incorporating engineering and technology into the science curriculum. But it is the presentation to American K–12 students of geoscience as a set of modern, complex, fascinating, systems-oriented, transdisciplinary, quantitative, data-oriented, and (most importantly) extremely human-relevant sciences that will prove to be the greatest impact of NGSS. National K–12 science textbooks and curricula are frantically being rewritten to respond to these changes. We at AGU, as a community, need to respond and do whatever we can to help this transition to an eventual -geoscience--literate public. Our future funding and work force will depend upon it.

—Michael E. Wysession, Washington University, Saint Louis, Mo.

Honors Contacts

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Program Manager, Fellows

[email protected]