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Charles S. Falkenberg Award

Information on the Falkenberg Award

The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is an annual award sponsored by AGU and the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) to recognize an early to mid-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.

Charles S. Falkenberg was a computer scientist whose research focused on enabling practical applications of Earth science through data visualization and information technology. Falkenberg was also committed to increasing public awareness of both the research methods and findings regarding the Earth's environment. After he and his family died in the tragic events of 11 September 2001, Falkenberg was posthumously recognized as the first recipient of this award in 2002.

Illustration of data and global information connecting

Award benefits

AGU is proud to recognize its honorees. Recipients of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award will receive an engraved award, as well as the following benefits with the honor:

  • 1
    Monetary prize
  • 2
    Recognition in Eos
  • 3
    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year
  • 4
    Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year


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

  1. Nominees: The nominee must be within 15 years of receiving their highest terminal degree or under age 45 as of 1 January when nominated.AGU membership is not required but they must 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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Criteria for nomination and support letters

All nominations should clearly demonstrate that the honoree has met the key criteria of improving the planet and quality of life through using and increasing awareness of data and the understanding of our planet.

The nomination package should detail (itemize) demonstrable, current impacts of the nominee’s research as opposed to future possibilities, and the nominator should also include evidence of current or past impacts. This can manifest in recommendation letters that provide details that are verifiable or where the nominator can direct the committee to find such evidence. The nominator should include details on the scope of impact, including the number and/or diversity of the people or communities impacted.

If the nominee’s work has been within a group effort, the nominee’s specific contributions should be detailed with supporting evidence.

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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 pioneering work on improving quality of life through use of earth sciences information to understand and predict movement of pathogens in human populations.


Dr. Angelia Seyfferth’s research brings geochemical insight to societally critical problems, mostly focusing on healthy and sustainable rice production systems and salt marsh biogeochemistry and carbon cycling. Her research focuses on how small-scale soil-chemical processes influence contaminant (e.g., arsenic, cadmium, lead) and nutrient (e.g., silicon, phosphorus, iron, sulfur) release or attenuation, which has large-scale impacts on human and environmental health. A variety of cutting-edge approaches are utilized, including the coupling of laboratory experiments (for mechanistic information) and field-based observations to decipher contaminant and nutrient cycling and plant interactions under environmentally relevant conditions. Her work takes a systemic view of both research areas, investigating many potential pitfalls and trade-offs of different solutions. Specifically, her research on rice helped detect and elucidate the challenges of grain metal(loid) uptake — unfortunately, the anaerobic, flooded conditions of rice production allow the migration of arsenic into the grain, where it poses a human health risk. She uses big data to solve big problems in societally relevant metal cycling through the use of state-of the-art synchrotron analysis and data visualization of what is actually happening in the plant-soil interface with regard to contaminant uptake. The collection of rhizosphere chemistry images as well as grain arsenic images using synchrotron techniques has produced chemical "photographs" that can be used to better "see" what is happening.

Dr. Seyfferth’s work not only details the arsenic species present in rice plants and their distribution therein; it also takes a solution-oriented approach by investigating beneficial roles of silicon and irrigation water management in reducing the arsenic concentrations. Given the importance of rice as a food crop, particularly in developing nations and poor communities, the risks are great. Ultimately, she conducts basic research that can be applied to benefit society on a local-to-global scale.

Dr. Seyfferth has an unmatched ability to communicate the research she is so passionate about through her natural affability. She can effortlessly teach to a room full of students, receiving university-wide teaching recognition in the process; she can understandably explain the importance of contamination and responsible farming practices to a layperson; she can motivate and lead groups of natural and social scientists through interdisciplinary projects; she captures the attention of funding programs and government leaders as attested by her hugely successful grant and publication records. On top of her impressive research and academic rigor, she makes time to devote to outreach programs within the community that have made considerable impacts on environmental awareness.

— Brandi Kiel Reese
Dauphin Island Sea Lab and University of South Alabama
Mobile, Alabama


I am deeply honored to be named the 2022 recipient of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. Charles Falkenberg’s legacy of data visualization for societal good has touched many people and will continue to live on. I am incredibly proud to be among the prestigious list of previous awardees.

My inspiration for using and communicating scientific knowledge to help people and the planet came from my grandparents, Len and Grace Bryant, and my late brother, Donny Seyfferth. From a very young age, my grandparents were instrumental in developing my passion for environmental science. My brother Donny was always smiling and received joy by doing good in the world and making others smile. I dedicate this award to them, for I wouldn’t be who I am as a scientist or a person without their influence.

I am sincerely grateful to the colleagues who supported my nomination and especially to Brandi Kiel Reese for nominating me. Thank you, Brandi! You have always been a supportive cheerleader and true friend in my corner.

To the many incredible students, collaborators and mentors I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with over the years, thank you! I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you to my incredible research group (both past and present), you rock! Thank you to my undergraduate research adviser, Ryan Casey, and my analytical chemistry professor, Joe Topping, who gave me confidence that this girl who transferred from a community college could (should?) go to graduate school. Thank you to Dave Parker, my Ph.D. adviser, who took a chance on me and taught me a field of plant-contaminant interactions that was different from phytoremediation. Thank you to Scott Fendorf, my postdoc adviser, who let me “play” at the synchrotron to visualize metal(loid)s in plants and who continues to be a steadfast mentor and friend.

I am thankful to Brandi, my mentors, my research group, collaborators and friends who have supported me throughout my career. I am grateful for the love and unwavering support of my family. I thank the selection committee for honoring me with the Charles S. Falkenberg Award.

— Angelia Seyfferth 

University of Delaware

Newark, Delaware

Ryan Abernathey received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2021 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 15 December 2021 in New Orleans, LA. The award honors “an early- to middle-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”


Ryan Abernathey’s community and technical leadership in the development of a new paradigm for scientific computing and collaboration, contributions to open-source software libraries (xarray, xgcm, xmitgcm, xrft, pyqg, dask, pyviz), and focus on “enabling practical applications of Earth science through data visualization and information technology” fully align with the spirit and vision of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award, as stated in the description on the award’s website.

Ryan co-founded the Pangeo project, which set out to create an inclusive community working to improve collaborations between scientists and developers working on open-source scientific Python applications. This is an example of Ryan’s approach — he identified a critical shortcoming in how science was being accomplished and began building a community to address the issue. Scientists, like us, were spending much of their time struggling to use data. Instead of focusing on analysis and big science questions, many Earth scientists spend a substantial amount of their time limited by data access, data wrangling and data processing. Ryan’s work to flip this equation enables scientists to focus on their science and has created an ecosystem where community solutions address community problems. This approach builds bonds between scientists in disparate disciplines enabling truly transformational, interdisciplinary work.

With Ryan’s leadership, Pangeo has grown into a thriving open-source community and platform for many kinds of scientific research. Tangible examples of this growth include the number of active members in Pangeo’s community forum (>650), active users of Pangeo’s cloud deployments (>600) and peer-reviewed publications that use Pangeo tools (>50). Ryan’s consistent contributions in this space have resulted in past, present and future impacts across the computational geosciences — advancing the state of the art in data analysis and visualization while cultivating an open scientific community. Indeed, these impacts go well beyond the computational tools Ryan has helped build — advancing how scientists think about, collaborate on and publish their research.

It can be difficult to point to specific achievements of individuals when discussing open science and open-source software because they are community collaborations. To us, Ryan’s nomination for the Falkenberg Award is deserved because of his tireless efforts to build inclusive communities to improve how all of science is accomplished. This work benefits us all and is democratizing science.

— Chelle Gentemann
Farallon Institute 
Petaluma, California

— Joe Hamman 
National Center for Atmospheric Research 
Boulder, Colorado


It's deeply personal and emotional to receive an award conceived in such a tragic way. I take it extremely seriously and, although I never knew him, will do my best to honor the memory of Charles Falkenberg. It's also inspiring to join a list of other scientists I admire so much. I thank those who supported my nomination from the bottom of my heart.

I am trained as an oceanographer. This award reflects a drift in my career away from disciplinary science and toward building things that are useful very broadly for the geoscience community —specifically Pangeo and all of the activity around that project. This turn was motivated by the challenges we face in oceanography related to data-intensive science. It has been eye-opening to learn how universal these challenges are across science. I remain very excited by physical oceanography, but I am obsessed with issues related to data, software and open science. In some ways, I feel like my own career will have a bigger impact if I follow this obsession, and this award seems to confirm that hunch.

One of the core themes and founding principles of Pangeo is community. We are not just building tools — we are building a community of practice around open-science, open-source and values of collaboration and inclusivity. And that's exactly why receiving an individual award for this sort of work feels slightly dissonant. So many people have worked hard for years to help Pangeo succeed. I'm not going to try to name them all here because I worry about leaving someone out. You know who you are.

Individual awards can serve to reinforce the problematic "hero model" of science. A recent article by Lindy Elkins-Tanton entitled "Time to Say Goodbye to Our Heroes?" articulates very well some of the things I have been feeling about the importance of teams over individuals. So while I gladly accept the award and the good feelings that come with it, I also want to ask the scientific community to think hard about how to recognize scientific communities and teams, rather than just individuals. Based on everything I have read about Charles Falkenberg, I like to think that this would be an evolution in scientific culture that he would support strongly!

— Ryan Abernathey 
Columbia University
New York, New York


Rebecca B. Neumann received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award honors “an early- to middle-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



From her early career, Becca has been passionate about combining fieldwork with laboratory analyses, Earth science data, and models to discover insights into large-scale societal problems, such as arsenic contamination of groundwater in Asia, methane emission from peatlands of the Arctic, and food quality challenges in a changing climate. She has always dared to tackle wicked problems by traveling around the world and has put herself in difficult situations.

As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Becca focused on the large-scale problem of arsenic contamination in groundwater in Bangladesh. Her work advanced understanding of how land surface modifications related to water resources management and agricultural development could affect groundwater arsenic concentrations by altering water and carbon fluxes through the soil and aquifer. By focusing on fundamental physical and biogeochemical processes, her research resulted in a number of concrete suggestions for policy makers and land use planners, including approaches for reducing agricultural water use, providing the area with arsenic-free drinking water, and minimizing future arsenic contamination.

After MIT, Becca’s continued work in Bangladesh demonstrated that current irrigation practices can actually result in more methane gas being released into the atmosphere from pumping methane-rich groundwater than what paddy fields normally release through the slower decomposition processes. This archaic irrigation practice by millions of farmers who actually feed nations is in urgent need of improvement to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Becca responded to this need, publishing a study demonstrating that the simple act of sealing the boundaries of rice fields can save a large amount of irrigation water and unnecessary emissions of methane.

In more recent times, Becca has articulated the risk of legacy arsenic in Puget Sound lakes to aquatic ecosystems and human health via fish. She has developed a mechanistic understanding of how arsenic uptake by rice will change with warming temperatures in rice-producing countries. She is also investigating how dam development on the Mekong may alter rice production and grain quality in Tonle Sap Lake of Cambodia. Because of her recognized expertise in these areas, she was asked to review the California Environmental Protection Agency’s draft scientific document titled “Proposed Naturally Occurring Concentrations of Inorganic Arsenic in White and Brown Rice” in 2017. A little farther north of her workplace in Seattle, Becca has been engaged in fieldwork in the Arctic to understand how warming may change greenhouse gas concentrations as permafrost melts.

I am thrilled that AGU has bestowed on Becca the Falkenberg Award for 2018.

—Faisal Hossain, University of Washington, Seattle


I entered environmental research because I wanted to protect human and environmental health globally, and I believed that through research I could generate the knowledge and understanding needed to create sound policy and management strategies. While I feel that there is always more to achieve, receiving the Charles S. Falkenberg Award is recognition that my work so far has had a positive impact and, quoting the award criteria, “contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet.” I feel fortunate to have a career that gives me the freedom to pursue these ideals, tackling societally relevant problems in a multifaceted and cross-disciplinary way.

I want to thank Faisal Hossain for recognizing the impact of my efforts and nominating me for the award. I am awed by his apparently bottomless reservoir of energy and encouragement. I am also grateful to those who, in addition to supporting my nomination, have mentored and guided me in my research career: Charles Harvey, Zoe Cardon, Borhan Badruzzaman, Roger Beckie, and Jim Gawel. Acknowledgment is also due AGU, the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) federation, and the Falkenberg Award review committee.

I did not know Charles Falkenberg, but from his legacy it is clear that he was committed to involving the public in Earth science. Moving scientific knowledge beyond the ivory tower is a difficult and daunting task, but it is an important endeavor. I am energized by recent efforts of AGU, my home institution (University of Washington), and other organizations to provide scientists with the communication and networking skills needed to make their science actionable. I am actively taking advantage of these opportunities and building skills to better realize my goal of translating research results into policy and management strategies that protect human and environmental health. I am optimistic that as a scientific community, we will only get more proficient at navigating the science–public interface. At the University of Washington, I am surrounded by energetic undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who are truly motivated to make positive change in the world and already have the soft skills needed to engage the public, policy makers, and journalists.

It is an honor to be part of Charles Falkenberg’s legacy. I am inspired to continue moving the findings of my own research program into the public and policy spheres and supporting others with this important undertaking.

—Rebecca B. Neumann, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle

Hook Hua was awarded the 2017 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award is for “an early- to middle-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Hook Hua of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) richly deserves the Charles S. Falkenberg Award for 2017. Hook’s primary professional contributions have been in applying emerging computer science techniques and technologies to Earth science to accelerate our understanding of the Earth, its phenomena, and its processes. Hook demonstrates the spirit and dedication of Dr. Falkenberg in his tireless efforts to improve our understanding of Earth science phenomena and processes by making instrument output more useful more quickly. His hallmark effort, the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) Project and its related Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Science Data Processing Foundry, embodies his ability to think strategically and execute ideas to completion with the science community in mind.

Hook has led a brilliant and talented team addressing the science data processing of SAR data. Both his own contributions and his leadership of the team in applying workflow tools, cloud computing, and machine learning techniques to the processing of data from multiple Earth science instruments are a credit to his skill and ability to attract very smart people to work with him. Hook’s team has created and implemented innovations in science data processing that have accelerated the availability of SAR data for use by the solid Earth, hydrology, and hazard response communities. Hook and his team have transformed the discipline of science data processing by three different and important contributions: (1) workflow tools to pipeline processing, (2) automated quality control, and (3) expanding the use of cloud computing as an environment for quickly processing the high-volume output of these instruments.

The effect has been to move SAR data processing out of the realm of the artisan and into a true production capability, driving down the cost. The NASA–Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) SAR and Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 instrument teams recognized the value of Hook’s strategy in that they adopted his approach for their instruments.

Another of Hook’s innovations has been the use of machine learning techniques in identifying anomalies in data to adjust the science data processing approach for a given scene, minimizing human intervention. Hook and his team were able to apply some advanced computer science techniques and then retest the scene. This reduced the labor and delays from manual rehandling of the data by scarce experts.

—Michael Little, NASA Earth Science Technology Office, Greenbelt, Md.; Chris Lynnes, NASA Earth Science Data and Information System Project, Greenbelt, Md.; Curt Tilmes, NASA Goddard Research Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and Sue Owen, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


I am deeply honored by this recognition of the 2017 Charles S. Falkenberg Award. It is very humbling to be recognized along with the prior recipients, who are great role models in the use of Earth science toward improving societal benefits.

I owe this recognition to Michael Little of NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office and colleagues at JPL, other NASA centers, the Earth Science Data and Information System, Distributed Active Archive Centers, Federation of Earth Science Information Partners, Earth Science Data System Working Groups, and program management at NASA Headquarters, who all share similar passions. Particular appreciation goes to Curt Tilmes, Chris Lynnes, Steve Berrick, Sue Owen, Gerald Manipon, Brian Wilson, and Frank Lindsay, who gave me my first big break in the Advancing Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science (ACCESS) program over a decade ago. In addition, I have been blessed to work with a diverse and talented team of multidisciplinary scientists and technologists in the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) Project at JPL/California Institute of Technology. Last but not least, I want to thank my family, who has supported these pursuits.

My roots in the late 1990s at JPL working on science data management and high-performance computing (HPC), and later applying HPC to interferometric SAR processing, exposed me to the pain points of Earth science data processing, such as long queue times and moving voluminous data to the computer. In 2009 we first proposed to do large-scale SAR processing “in the cloud.” This proposal was naturally received with skepticism and uncertainty. But through perseverance and trust from the Earth Science Technology Office’s Advanced Information Systems Technology Program, we were able to demonstrate that not only can SAR analysis be done in the cloud, but it can be more viable for addressing the computation and data volume challenges associated with large-scale SAR processing.

Six years later, NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) mission came to our team to help port Level-2 full physics processing to the cloud. This was the pivotal moment when a tier 1 NASA mission started to take cloud computing more seriously as a viable approach beyond just research projects. From this, we pioneered the exploitation of the AWS “spot market” for low-cost operational science data processing in a volatile computing environment.

Through real-world use of cloud computing in projects such as ARIA, the SAR Science Data Processing Foundry, and Getting Ready for NISAR (GRFN) project, we also had opportunities to innovate in pay-as-you-go approaches to custom on-demand and large-scale SAR analysis. It is humbling to see our efforts being used for disaster urgent response events such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and volcano monitoring, even more so when we can see how effective cloud computing has been for generating rapid response SAR data products that are being used within hours by other agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster response.

After years of perseverance, we finally see cloud computing for Earth science now becoming part of the baseline plan for NASA’s upcoming large radar missions, Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) and NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR). We are finally crossing the “Valley of Death” from research to flight infusion. It is amazing to see firsthand the evolution of Earth science data systems finally transition to the paradigm of “data lakes,” where we move computers closer to the data but do so in cost-effective and science-enabling ways. Doing so will require continued innovation (e.g., applied machine learning) that bridges the gaps between the research and flight project worlds.

—Hook Hua, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Kevin Murphy received the 2016 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an “­early- to ­mid-­career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Kevin Murphy is receiving the Falkenberg Award because of his extraordinary accomplishments as the system architect for NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (­EOSDIS). In this role, Kevin Murphy has greatly expanded the utilization and exploitation of NASA’s vast Earth science data holdings. With ~15 petabytes of remote sensing data hosted at a dozen Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), ­EOSDIS is one of the largest Earth science information systems in the world. Mr. Murphy heartily embraced the ­EOSDIS primary goal of making those data accessible, understandable, reliable, and usable by a wide range of science and applications users.

EOSDIS today serves a worldwide community of users. In 2015 alone, ­EOSDIS distributed over 1.4 billion files of scientific data. ­EOSDIS has had a significant impact on Earth science, as evidenced by the growth in the number of publications utilizing the data and their citations. The data products managed by ­EOSDIS are used for answering fundamental questions about the Earth system, which are of global interest. Answers to these questions will have a profound impact on policy and will have political and economic consequences.

­EOSDIS must evolve and keep up with advances in technology, which fundamentally change user community expectations every few years. Mr. Murphy’s visionary ideas, as well as technical leadership, have had the most impact in this area. A few among his numerous contributions are the following: (1) an integrated but flexible architecture for the “front door” to NASA’s data holdings and services (https://­earthdata.­, which provides an active and immersive user experience, leveraging current and emerging web services, (2) the Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE), which provides access to data from several EOS instruments within less than 3 hours of observation, and (3) Global Image Browse Services (GIBS), a ­full-­resolution, interactive browse capability, and the associated client, Worldview, opening up the data holdings to geographic information system users.

In summary, Kevin Murphy has made very significant contributions to science through his technical innovation and leadership in data systems development and Earth science informatics. His system development activities have greatly contributed to the vitality of NASA’s data and information systems and ensured ready access to a large body of Earth science data from NASA’s missions for the scientific and operational user community.

—Hampapuram K. Ramapriyan, Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, Md.


I am honored and humbled to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award from AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership (ESIP). Both AGU and ESIP serve critical roles in the advancement of Earth science and communication of science results for societal benefit. Like all human endeavors, accomplishments in Earth science are built on the achievements of those who precede us; our progress is supported by the incremental advancements made in the past. My achievements would not have been possible without the support of a large community, so I would like to thank everyone at NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System project, NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Centers, User Working Groups, and the ESIP community for supporting and helping to steer these activities.

My deep appreciation goes to Dawn Lowe, Hampapuram Ramapriyan, and Martha Maiden for embracing the ideas and resulting projects that led to this award. Thanks to Andrew Mitchell for being a patient and thoughtful sounding board from conceptualization to implementation and everyone else along the way. I also want to thank my family, particularly my wife, Tasnima, and our son, Marik, for their endless support, especially through the many weeks away and nights and weekends worked.

Back in the early 2000s, when I was a graduate student trying to access the open data being collected by NASA’s EOS instruments, I was frustrated by how difficult it was to find the data I needed, and how long it took to get those data. This experience created my first understanding of the need for improving access to NASA’s measurements for scientific use. At that point I did not realize how complicated it is to produce systematic global products and provide them to millions of users across the world day in and day out. The dedication and efforts of many people have created today’s more interoperable, accessible, and usable data systems; users around the world owe thanks to the many scientists, operators, and managers for this ­decades-long effort.

There is still a lot of work to be done. The way to improve is through continued work across the U.S. government, with international partners, and collaboration with industry today and in the future. Only by working together can we continue to improve our understanding of Earth’s environment and make this information available to a wide range of scientists and for global societal benefit.

—Kevin Murphy, Program Executive of Earth Science Data Systems, NASA, Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Lee Preston received the 2015 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an “-early- to -middle--career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Dr. Benjamin Preston fully embodies the spirit and focus of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. Ben has been a tireless leader in climate change research and raising societal awareness of the challenges posed by climate change. He has published research that spans experimentation, analysis of Earth system observations, and physical/ecosystem modeling. His research leadership also extends into the social sciences. This depth has enabled Ben to become an internationally recognized innovator in both fundamental and applied research regarding the assessment of climate change vulnerability and risk, including probabilistic analysis of climate projection ensembles, evaluation of exceeding climate thresholds in natural and human systems, and the use of risk management in guiding climate adaptation decision making.

For over the past decade, Ben has been working on the analysis of the spatial and temporal dynamics of climate risk to human settlements, including spatial integration of heterogeneous biophysical data on climate, topography, and land use from Earth system models and remote sensing. He has integrated these data with socioeconomic data such as land values, population, and infrastructure in order to translate changes in the Earth system into societal vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate and global change. It is this commitment to understanding how climate risk research is used by society that really sets Ben apart from others.

Ben is well known for his skills in communicating with various audiences about climate change, the underlying science, and ways in which society can manage climate risk; he has participated in congressional Climate Science Day, met with Tennessee and Virginia congressional staff, given invited talks at the Chattanooga Engineers Club and Knoxville Rotary Club, participated in a discussion of climate change on local public radio, and talked to high school students about climate change and the rewards of a career in science. He has also been the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report coordinating lead author on Working Group II’s “Adaptation, Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits” chapter and lead author on the IPCC Synthesis Report and was highlighted in the video accompanying the release of the IPCC Working Group II report.

I believe that Ben is emerging as an exceptional and important leader in the AGU and climate community and fully embodies the personal and professional qualities represented by the Falkenberg Award.

—Jack D. Fellows, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.


Almost 20 years have elapsed since I first began my graduate studies in environmental science. Throughout that time, I have sought to identify ways in which science can be applied to address practical environmental challenges. Despite being warned by multiple advisers about the potential pitfalls of dabbling in policy or public engagement, I believe there is a growing demand for scientists who, regardless of the stage of their career, are committed to pursuing quality science with direct social impacts.

Therefore, it is indeed an honor to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. I am grateful to both AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership, not only for this individual recognition but also for their support of the Falkenberg Award, which acknowledges the value of public engagement and science communication. I also owe much to a long list of mentors—Vicki Arroyo, Jack Fellows, Bill Glaze, Gary Jacobs, Jay Gulledge, Bill Hooke, Tony Janetos, Roger Jones, and Terry Snell, to name but a few—who have helped me along what has so far been a rewarding career path.

The advances I have witnessed over the past 2 decades in computing, remote sensing, visualization, and understanding of Earth system processes are clear indicators of the benefits generated from investments in science. Nevertheless, challenges remain in making Earth science information accessible, interoperable, and useful for society. We must constantly reevaluate how we can do a better job of putting that information to work for societal benefit. In so doing, we will likely discover a need to better understand humans as the dominant agent of global change. We are extensively documenting how, when, and where we are affecting our planet, but questions of why are more elusive. By coupling our knowledge of Earth system dynamics with knowledge of human system dynamics generated by social, behavioral, and policy sciences, we can accelerate our capacity to use science to enhance the well–being of human and natural systems alike.

The Earth scientists of the future may therefore be trained quite differently than those of the past. We are already seeing opportunities for interdisciplinary education and careers expanding rapidly. Research organizations, including my own, are actively integrating knowledge and capabilities to address questions at the forefront of Earth science but also relevant to different stakeholder communities and their objectives. These trends are part of the legacy of Charles Falkenberg. Hopefully, that legacy inspires us all.

—Benjamin Lee Preston, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Curt Tilmes received the 2014 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Dr. Curt Tilmes is a worthy recipient of the Falkenberg Award because of his excellent contributions to the discipline of data stewardship, which is fundamental for ensuring long-term access to and usability of Earth science data and for ensuring the credibility of scientific research using such data. This nomination is in recognition of his sustained accomplishments in Earth science informatics over a period of more than 15 years, especially in ensuring the credibility of -data--derived science.

Dr. Tilmes just completed a -2-year detail from NASA to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, where he was the technical lead for the nascent Global Change Information System (GCIS). Initially considered an almost impossible task, given the number and variety of organizations that hold the relevant data sets, the first deployment of GCIS has occurred, focusing on data sets used in the National Climate Assessment, which is a major congressionally mandated report. This system provides a unified Web-based source of authoritative, accessible, usable, and timely information about climate and global change for use by scientists, decision makers, and the public. It helps provide a solid foundation for answering Earth science questions of global interest regarding climate change by facilitating access to data and associated documentation that support conclusions in scientific literature. Such access is essential to ensure the credibility of scientific conclusions. The breadth of Dr. Tilmes’s work goes across 13 U.S. agencies that hold data relevant to global change, and the impact of his work is global.

Dr. Tilmes has extensive and well-recognized experience in developing, operating, and managing data and information systems, as well as leading committees with a focus on data stewardship. Examples of this experience include his work at the Goddard Space Flight Center since 1994 on satellite data-processing systems for the Earth Observing System missions and the Suomi National Polar Partnership mission and his chairmanship of the Data Stewardship Committee of the U.S. Federation of Earth Science Information Partners.

In summary, Dr. Curt Tilmes has made very significant contributions to science through his work in data systems development and Earth science informatics. His system development activities have provided access to a large body of Earth science data from NASA’s missions. His research in Earth science informatics, especially provenance, and leadership in data stewardship are expected to increase the credibility of conclusions and policies derived from Earth science data products.

—Ruth Duerr, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado Boulder

—Hampapuram K. Ramapriyan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


I’m humbled to join such a tremendous group of scientists who have received this award since it was established and awarded posthumously to Charles Falkenberg in 2002. Charles was in my office at Goddard Space Flight Center discussing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data processing system with me not long before the tragic events that took his life and those of his family. He was passionate about Earth science and its benefits for society, and he also valued the contributions from the data management and computer science side of the house.

I thank AGU, the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation, and the Falkenberg Award review committee for their consideration, and especially Rama and Ruth for nominating me.

I would like to think this award gives some recognition of the importance of traceability of science and some validation of our efforts to present the formal provenance and relationships that support the knowledge derived from Earth observation data. I consider such an effort critical to understanding the source and ultimately providing credibility for that knowledge.

I’m grateful for my time at the U.S. Global Change Research Program working with the Global Change Information System and National Climate Assessment teams. I look forward to continuing to interact with those tremendous teams in the future.

I could not have accomplished this work without the considerable contributions and keen advice from dozens of colleagues from NASA, other federal agencies, and interagency committees and working groups, as well as wonderful organizations like AGU and the ESIP Federation. Building on the work of many others and existing data systems at NASA, I consider Global Change Information System (GCIS) the fruition of much research and discussion over many years.

I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the hardship my work and schedule often causes to my family and thank them for their solid support and willingness to put up with me.

—Curt Tilmes, NASA, Washington, D.C.

Chelle L. Gentemann received the 2013 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Dr. Chelle Gentemann is a worthy recipient of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. Through her leadership at both national and international levels, Chelle has contributed significantly to improving the accuracy, accessibility, and utility of satellite­derived fields of sea surface temperature (SST) for a wide range of applications, including numerical weather forecasting, operational oceanography, and climate research.

Dr. Gentemann, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa, California, has become an acknowledged leader in the field of remote sensing of SST, in both the microwave and infrared. In addition to assessing and improving the accuracies of the satellite SST retrievals, she has also studied the thermal properties and behavior of the upper ocean. She was one of the first to analyze SSTs derived from microwave radiometers (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Microwave Imager (TMI)) to study diurnal heating and cooling of the upper ocean. Later, she developed a model of upper ocean diurnal thermal structure that more closely simulates observed characteristics. This is important as the accumulation of the daily residuals of the diurnal heating cycle, either positive or negative, is what gives us the seasonal cycle of heat in the upper ocean and, on longer time scales, the climatological heating (or cooling) of the oceans. Another application of Chelle’s research in diurnal heating and cooling is in the accurate merging of satellite SSTs taken at different times of day. Without a sound physical basis, the merging of satellite retrievals would cause damaging bias errors that would compromise the use of time series of SSTs in climate research. Indeed, without good models of diurnal heating and cooling, the “climate data record” of satellite­derived SSTs will not be realized.

Chelle’s contributions include leading a very successful National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) project entitled “Multi­sensor Improved Sea Surface Temperature,” which received the 2008 Excellence in Partnering Award. She now leads a follow-on NOPP project with an even larger and more diverse set of principal investigators. This project has unified the distribution of SSTs via a common format and location. The ease of access has resulted in an increase in usage of satellite SSTs. She also plays a leadership role in the Group for High Resolution SST (GHRSST) program; one of the major achievements of GHRSST has been in coordinating the research of many groups around the world.

Chelle has contributed to the dissemination of satellite data for wide outreach to the broader community, including multiple contributions to the Earth Observatory, which is an online resource for NASA Earth sciences that includes newsworthy geophysical events and feature articles, as well as provides global data sets for online browsing. She has also contributed material for video and still imagery for many educational and outreach activities.

Chelle’s dedication not only has produced tangible results now but will continue to contribute to progress in the field and to improved understanding of the role of the oceans in the climate system well into the future.

—PETER J. MINNETT, University of Miami, Miami, Fla.


Receiving the 2013 Charles S. Falkenberg Award of the American Geophysical Union came completely as a surprise, wonderful but humbling. It is attributable to those who have made my work possible. Peter Minnett is first on the list. He is a great friend and colleague, an example for us all of how to conduct scientific research. Unstintingly generous with his time, resources, and ideas, he always puts scientific advancement ahead of personal gain. Eric Lindstrom, program manager for NASA’s physical oceanography program, has been a role model on how to run large projects and still stay focused on scientific results. His support of this project from the beginning has been instrumental in its success. I also have been lucky enough to work with Frank Wentz, one of the smartest scientists I know. My husband, David White, has put up with much as I have focused on this work, as have our 3-year-old sons, Austin and Bennett. The rest of my family has given their support, love, and inspiration. I wish that my grandfather, who encouraged my interest in science, could be here to share this honor.

The provision of data in a common format may seem trivial, but each data product has an established history and user base. Inertia can inhibit innovation. Only 10 years ago, sea surface temperature (SST) was being measured by a number of different satellites and distributed in various formats with different data distribution policies. Most operational weather organizations used a single SST as input for their models, leaving them vulnerable if that data source ended unexpectedly due to instrument failure. Scientists who wanted to work with SST were forced to search out various products, often with minimal documentation, staged at many different locations.

This award is for work accomplished by the Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature (GHRSST). The group undertook getting all the different SST data providers to agree to a single data format and estimate retrieval uncertainty. Now the NASA Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) provide SST data from numerous satellites all in the same format. This improved access has improved our ability to understand air-sea interactions, ocean variability, and climate, as well as to predict weather using a significantly more accurate initialization field. Now most operational organizations regularly ingest three or more independent SST products providing enhanced stability and accuracy for their ocean and atmospheric predictions.

The U.S. GHRSST SST project is supported by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), which was set up to encourage interagency collaboration on research projects. In this case, NASA, NOAA, and the Office for Naval Research all committed funding to ensure that scientists from private industry, government, and academia could work together effectively toward a common goal. Interagency collaboration is always fraught with difficulties. This award should be seen to recognize that the participants in the project were committed to working as a team and such commitment makes triumph over obstacles possible.

—CHELLE L. GENTEMANN, Remote Sensing Systems, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Faisal Hossain received the 2012 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 5 December 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Faisal Hossain is an Earth scientist recognized for his research efforts to promote a remote sensing–based flood warning system for vulnerable parts of developing nations where data are scarce and institutional capacity limited. He has argued for a space-based data information system that leverages current and upcoming Earth science satellite missions and complements them on a common platform for water management. He has demonstrated that if prediction uncertainty could be characterized accurately, then the benefits of information derived from Earth observations could outweigh the costs for the 21st century, and these satellite missions could be path finders to more operational missions.

Along this line, Faisal has worked diligently to showcase the potential for socioeconomic benefits through applied research on current and upcoming missions. Although the topic of transboundary waters is already well researched, Faisal was the first to bring it to the forefront of AGU (through EOS) and demonstrate to the scientific community the potential benefits of spaceborne Earth science data. He has argued that satellite data on precipitation, soil moisture, surface water, and land use could overcome the widespread hydropolitical hurdles between riparian nations that do not have mechanisms to share basin-wide data otherwise on an operational timescale. In his 2006 EOS article (Improving flood forecasting in international river basins), Faisal showed through research on institutional capacity and geohydrologic location of various nations that there are many (at least 33 listed in his article) flood prone nations that can benefit from Earth observation data (precipitation in particular). This work was perhaps a key point in drawing the attention of real-world water forecasting agencies in developing nations to the value of spaceborne Earth science data in operational settings.

Since 2007, Faisal has been instrumental in establishing and leveraging Memoranda of Understanding for technical collaboration with stakeholder environmental management and operational agencies in developing nations. Through these mechanisms, he has promoted the use and value of spaceborne Earth science data in a two-way framework. His “forward” way has been to work directly with the operational agencies, train their staff, and demonstrate through hands-on exercises the value of Earth science data for predicting fluxes at regions that are either transboundary or lacking in situ monitoring. This forward approach is motivated by the need for capacity building to adapt to emerging technology. The “reverse” way uses the end results and experience from the “forward” way and feeds them back to the satellite mission community in order to demonstrate the potential economic benefits and suggest ways for tweaking mission planning to be societally more effective. This is an iterative education procedure that has made progress in giving research results and experiences the needed longevity to transform to societal applications for an otherwise very skeptical community of beneficiaries.

–Emmanouil Anagnostou, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut; Marco Borga, Department of Land and Agroforest Environments, University of Padova, AGRIPOLIS, Legnaro, Italy; S. M. MahbuburRahman, WRP, Institute of Water Modelling, Dhaka, Bangladesh; and C. K. Shum, School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio


I am utterly thrilled and humbled by this award. This is by far the highest accolade I have or will have ever received in my lifetime for something that has become a mission for me. I thank the AGU, Earth Science Information Partnership (EISP), and the Falkenberg Award review committee for giving me a never-ending source of inspiration. Thanks also go to colleagues who nominated me, namely, Manos Anagnostou, C. K. Shum, Marco Borga, and Mahbub Rahman.

Let me start by quoting from the AGU: “Charles S. Falkenberg, whose research focused on enabling practical applications of Earth science through data visualization and information technology.” Such monumental achievement of Charles Falkenberg, on which this award category is designed, has been a source of constant inspiration to many of us. For me, it all began many years ago when I learned of the term “Valley of Death” that a funding agency once used to describe the often desolate ‘no-man’s land’ between research findings and their societal applications. Until then, it had never dawned on me that giving longevity to Earth science data and findings for practical applications could ever be even an issue. If it’s obvious to the scientific community that the research has societal importance and therefore merits publication, then why should not the beneficiaries (stakeholders) and the general public not view it the same way and start applying the products immediately?

Like many before me, I realized that it is only when you cross the Valley of Death, you realize the significance of the term, the challenges and get overwhelmed with a humbling feeling. This humbling feeling is one that requires us to step out of our comfort zone, to listen more than to talk, and to understand the mindset of our target group of beneficiaries. I realized that, in order to grasp what the public or the beneficiaries really want from Earth science data to impact their lives or their agenda, a trial-and-error education process is required. The skepticism that many in the real-world harbor towards many types of emerging Earth science data and research findings needs to be addressed through education that solicits candid feedback from the beneficiaries and channels them back via our scientific community. With perseverance, the education challenges can be overcome to make our scientific community more inclusive of our stakeholders and beneficiaries through dialogue. Research devoid of this iterative education process often made me feel that I was only preaching to my choir.

This award is a celebration of the contribution of all my friends and colleagues I have known and who have encouraged and helped me to cross the Valley of Death. So I dedicate this award to each one of them. Since it is impossible to list all of them by name here, I would like to mention just a few. They are, Doug Alsdorf, Dennis Lettenmaier, Ming-Ying Wei, Larry Smith, Ali Akanda, Ross Bagtzoglou, Christa Peters-Lidard, Azad Hossain, Sylvain Biancamaria, Hyongki Lee, David Huddleston, Dev Niyogi, Marshall Sheperd, Roger Pielke Sr and Sayma Rahman.

Once again, I thank AGU, ESIP, and my colleagues who nominated me for this award. Thank you all!

–Faisal Hossain, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee

Jay Gulledge received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the pubic awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



We proudly present the 2011 Charles S. Falkenberg Award to Jay Gulledge in recognition of his exceptional record of effective public communication of climate change science. Since joining the Pew Center in 2005, Gulledge has worked tirelessly and effectively building public awareness of climate change science by giving hundreds of press interviews and dozens of public speaking engagements, speaking at congressional briefings, and blogging and writing op-eds at the science/policy interface. In doing these, he has displayed a remarkable combination of extraordinary communication skills, political savvy, and the capacity to interact with both scientists and nonscientists.

Gulledge obtained his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1996 and then pursued a career of academic research before joining the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in 2005 as a senior research fellow. Since joining the Pew Center, he has initiated discussions on a wide range of Earth science topics, from the social cost of carbon to the emerging role for science translators and new approaches to effective communication between climate specialists, the general public, and our elected leaders. Gulledge now directs the Pew Center’s efforts to assess and communicate the latest scholarly information about the science and environmental impacts of climate change. In this role he has communicated both an understanding of climate science and the need for urgent action to a wide cross section of nonscientists including the press, Congress, the national security/foreign policy community, and the business community.

Gulledge’s dedication to communicating climate change expands beyond his role at the Pew Center. Working closely with national security and military experts, he helped forge commonsense approaches for managing climate change risks. He serves as a nonresident fellow at the Center for a New American Security, where he coauthored “Lost in translation,” a report about closing the information gap between climate scientists and national security policy makers.

As a prolific contributor to the Pew Center’s Climate Compass blog, Gulledge uses extreme weather events as a teaching tool to convey the message that uncertainty should motivate action, not delay it. Since the blog’s inception in 2009, he has helped make the science of climate change accessible to the layperson, and his posts consistently attract the blog’s largest readership. His media appearances in the past year include ABC World News With Diane Sawyer, E&ETV, Forbes magazine, and Reuters.

Although he is now primarily a science communicator, Gulledge has maintained an impressive record of research and publication, including 26 peer-reviewed articles and reviewed reports. He has provided congressional testimony twice and has published 14 policy briefs and opinion articles since 2005. Most recently, Gulledge has been researching and communicating the risk management implications of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together strong elements of Earth and environmental sciences, environmental economics, and policy.

The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is one of the few awards issued by learned societies that focuses on public engagement, and we are pleased to see Jay Gulledge recognized for his extensive public engagement and his extraordinary combination of scientific expertise, public policy experience, and communication skills.

—Greg Holland, Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, Colo.; Peter Backlund, Integrated Studies Program, NCAR; and Lawrence Buja, Research Applications Laboratory, NCAR


The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is the highest honor of my career. I am grateful to AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership and to my peers for this recognition. I am indebted to mentors who have fostered my success over the years. And I am overjoyed that all of them have supported my nontraditional professional journey. The work for which I am being recognized was performed at nonpartisan policy think tanks in Washington, namely, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (now the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions) and the Center for a New American Security. I thank them for taking a policy-neophyte scientist and teaching him how the world actually works.

After following a traditional academic track for 16 years, including graduate school, two postdoctoral research stints, and two tenure-­track faculty positions, I left academia to join the Pew Center. There I have focused on identifying the science most needed by decision makers to make well-informed decisions about one of the most important public policy problems in the history of civil society. From the decision-maker perspective, persistent uncertainty about the detailed consequences of human-induced climate change is the greatest challenge to using science to make policy. For that reason, my efforts have focused primarily on packaging scientific uncertainty into a framework for risk management. In this context, rather than inhibiting action, uncertainty becomes useful information that incentivizes and guides action. This, I believe, has been my most important contribution to both science and society.

I have not performed in a vacuum. I was concerned that leaving academia would negatively affect my professional standing. Almost from the moment I began working in the policy arena, however, dozens of academic scientists were eager to volunteer their time and expertise to help me. Not once has a peer caused me to feel devalued as a scientist. I have also been embraced, mentored, and put to good use by my colleagues in the policy community, and much of what I have accomplished in recent years would have been impossible without their collaboration. I thank both my scientific peers and my policy colleagues for their help and acceptance; they have my undying respect and gratitude.

In recent years AGU has established several Union honors that explicitly reward work at the interface between science and society—the Falkenberg Award, the Spilhaus Award, and the Climate Communication Prize. These honors are important because society does not spontaneously value our science according to its true social worth, especially in times of budget austerity. It is essential therefore that some of us focus on applying scientific knowledge to the production of social benefits. By honoring those who carry on the spirit of Charles S. Falkenberg, AGU will attract more young scientists to work at the science-­society interface. That is a very good thing for the sustainability of our planet and our science.

—Jay Gulledge, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly Pew Center on Global Climate Change), Arlington, Va.

Stefan R. Falke received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 15 December 2010 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



Stefan Falke is an exemplar for the AGU Charles S. Falkenberg Award through his significant and sustained contributions to the stewardship of the planet. Falke has led the way to building a community-driven air quality information system that bridges the gap between research and operations. His insights are novel and demonstrate his knowledge of the science issues at hand and the role of community collaboration in addressing these complex technology and science issues.

Falke’s teaching, research, and professional activities span and connect the fields of environmental engineering and information science and technology. As a professor of energy, environmental, and chemical engineering at Washington University, in St. Louis, Mo., Falke has initiated research relating to the use of satellite sensors to monitor air quality and public health. He has studied eastern United States forest fires and their emissions impact and has been a leader in data fusion to support air quality monitoring. The result of this work has been a richer data system that air quality decision makers can use to monitor and predict air quality events in their regions. He brought these data integration tools and methods to the classroom, teaching spatial analysis and environmental data analysis courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Falke’s broad knowledge in both the atmospheric science and data systems domains has made him a key contributor to exciting developments and breakthroughs in the development of interoperable information systems for Earth science applications. He provides clear and cogent analysis of data system–related issues confronting the atmospheric science community. Falke has communicated this state-of-the-art knowledge to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NASA decision makers in a very effective way, and his contributions have had a strong influence on the development of monitoring and data management programs at those agencies.

In addition to his college-level teaching, research, and development, Falke has guided the development of the successful Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Air Quality Working Group. During his term as working group chairman, Falke recruited a broad cross section of our nation’s top air scientists to participate (on a voluntary basis) in the Air Quality Working Group, and through fostering open collaboration, the group has begun to realize a community-­driven air quality information system that supports research, education, and operational decision support stakeholders. Under Falke’s leadership the Air Quality Working Group has made important technical contributions to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Architecture Implementation Pilot program.

Falke has exemplified the emerging trend toward interdisciplinary science and collaboration across seemingly insurmountable barriers. He has demonstrated great diplomacy and tenacity in working across these many communities. The result of his work has been a growing community with a shared vision to transform air quality science into information usable by state and local decision makers. Falke represents the outgoing science professional that makes him an excellent choice to honor Charles S. Falkenberg’s work in the Earth science community.

—CHARLES F. HUTCHINSON, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson; CAROL B. MEYER, Foundation for Earth Science, Raleigh, N. C.; RUDOLF HUSAR, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.; and FRANCIS LINDSAY, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


It is a true honor to be the 2010 recipient of the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. I did not know Charles, but learning about his commitment to Earth science and to his family has amplified the significance of being associated with his award. Like Charles, I have a young family, and time with them is precious. However, the family-work balance is difficult, and I would not be here today if it were not for the tremendous love, support, and understanding of my wife, Kristin.

I am grateful to Chuck Hutchison, Carol Meyer, Rudy Husar, and Frank Lindsay for nominating me for this honor. I was nominated in part for my involvement in efforts that span academia, government, and industry to better share and use air quality–related data from ground-based measurement networks, satellites, and models. These are truly collaborative efforts made possible by the contributions of many, so it is humbling to be singled out.

For me, it all started with conversations with my graduate advisor, Rudy Husar, about systems thinking, the Web, and the “3 Cs”: collaboration, coordination, communication as applied to air quality data analysis and decision making. While I was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at EPA, discussions with another Fellow, Brooke Hemming, and a former Fellow, Terry Keating, stimulated ideas for a framework of networked and interoperable air quality information systems. While at EPA, I was introduced to the Open Geospatial Consortium and its standards, which have become foundational for advancing interoperability.

A few years ago, NASA stipulated that grantees participate in collaborative Earth science information groups and, as a result, launched the ESIP Air Quality Cluster, a core community forum for fostering interoperability. Multiple agencies are pursuing international collaborations across atmospheric composition and science that are among the exciting efforts aimed toward a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Many others are contributing as well. No single project, program, organization, country, or individual is the leader. Progress is driven by the willingness to jointly find and make connections among our systems. It is about the intersections.

We need to continue to pursue interfaces among our organizations and disciplines at multiple levels. In air quality we talk about integrating models, observations, and emissions data. More broadly, academia, government, and business need to better intersect. But where do systems intersect? And how do these intersections flourish? In answering these questions, we need not make everything completely open or transparent. We should figure out what we consider unique to us and what we share. These shared areas define how our systems can intersect. And the goal is to share not just for the sake of being a good Earth science community citizen—­it’s for our own good as well. We enhance our individual objectives by using what others have shared.

We are progressing toward our vision of networked Earth science information systems in air quality and other fields, but challenges remain. It takes time to establish the trust needed to operate as shared and connected information systems. This award provides motivation to continue working together toward our common goals.

—STEFAN R. FALKE, Northrop Grumman and Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.

Mark A. Parsons received the AGU Charles S. Falkenberg Award, presented jointly by AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership (ESIP), at the 2009 Summer Federation of Earth Science Information Partners Conference, held 7–10 July 2009 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



I am honored to present to Mark A. Parsons the 2009 AGU Charles S. Falkenberg Award. Mark’s career to date has been dedicated to improving the quality of life and stewardship of the planet. He has done so with dedication and a strong desire to improve the flow of Earth science information and raising public awareness of the importance of the Earth’s polar regions and cryosphere. In 2005, he became program manager for the International Polar Year (IPY) Data and Information Service. The results have been a set of data management principles that the IPY community uses to archive and share their data and an infrastructure across the polar research countries, within the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) Commission for Data and Information, and within the new International Association of Cryospheric Sciences.

Mark stands out as a champion and leader of scientific data management in an organization dedicated to the premise that data and information management is a fundamental building block of the scientific method. An example is his impact on the Cold Lands Processes Field Experiment (CLPX) data collection. This experiment had three intensive study areas in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Mark convinced the CLPX scientific leadership that the best way to collect and verify in situ data was to embed “data wranglers” in the fi eld teams. Mark acted as one of the data wranglers in this effort. At the end of long days in the dead of winter, Mark greeted the field teams and other National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) staff with requests for debriefing (metadata are important!) and data transfer to digital media. This approach proved to be so successful that the CLPX data and analyses from the field sites were available within days of collection. Furthermore, NSIDC was able to immediately and safely archive these key environmental data. On the basis of the CLPX example, Mark and others have been able to convince U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA cryosphere research programs to use this approach, which is a fundamental change from the past way of doing business.

On a more personal note, before I knew Mark, I had heard of him through many international committees and activities, including National Research Council (NRC) panels, with high praise. Today I consider him a fine collaborator and friend with substantial integrity and professionalism. I especially appreciate that he even granted himself a degree as a certified data manager, something that sounds amusing but is very close to where our community needs to be heading.

Congratulations, Mark!

—PETER FOX, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y., on behalf of RONALD L. S. WEAVER, University of Colorado, Boulder


Receiving this award is a great and unexpected honor. I must admit it is nice to be recognized. I have been working hard for some years to spread the good word of data sharing and stewardship. But it is especially gratifying to have been nominated by so many diverse colleagues, all of whom I admire greatly and are well worthy of this award themselves. While the recognition is nice, I’m grateful also that this award marks a step toward the formal professionalization of scientific data management.

We have begun to create the professional practice; now we need to ensure broader recognition of its importance in science and society. The award recognizes contributions “to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information.” We need to emphasize the ultimate purpose of why we steward information, and it goes beyond Earth science. It’s Earth system science. It is only through broad, interdisciplinary analysis of the multiple Earth systems that we will be able to address the grand challenges of our day.

So we need to convey the message that wise data stewardship is essential to growing human knowledge, but we must also continue to defi ne and implement the professional practice of stewardship. As I’ve said before, “It’s the data, stupid.” It is easy to get swept up in tools and technologies, the visualizations, the research, the analytics…but it’s all for naught if the data are not shared and preserved. When we take a data- centric view, we recognize that data sharing is a core problem, especially in the extremely multidisciplinary Earth- system context. Long-term data preservation and stewardship is another core issue, especially the development of sustainable business models. I argue that we should view data access and preservation functions as those provided by a basic utility. The system is simple, predictable, and usable for any user while also reliable, extensible, and durable. General costs are shared incrementally and equitably across all of science as a routine cost of doing business. Data are a public good and should be managed as such.

We should be doing everything we can to lower barriers to data sharing while still educating investigators about the need to be conscious and deliberate and to involve professionals when collecting, organizing, and disseminating data. We need to aggressively open up data to allow creative mashups and unanticipated uses. We need to engage young scientists and make data management a basic part of their education. We need to entrain new data professionals and show them an exciting and relevant career path. This is just the beginning. Thank you all.

—MARK A. PARSONS, University of Colorado, Boulder

Daniel E. Irwin received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award, presented jointly by AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership (ESIP), at the 2008 Summer Federation of Earth Science Information Partners Conference, held 15–18 July 2008 in Durham, N. H. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



I am deeply honored and humbled today to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. Without a doubt, this is the greatest honor of my professional career and a testament to the hard work of so many people who have contributed to SERVIR over the past few years. I’m fortunate to have been able to work with such incredible talent throughout NASA; the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Agency for International Development; University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH); the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), in Panama; the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development, in Kenya; and the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD), among others. I also thank AGU and Earth Science Information Partners Federation for the opportunity to be here.

Back in 1993, fresh out of graduate school, I took my first job with a nonprofit environmental organization based in Washington, D. C. After accepting the job, I learned I was being sent to the jungles of Guatemala to implement a geographic information system (GIS) for the newly created Maya Biosphere Reserve, an area about the size of the state of New Jersey. My job was to work with communities within the reserve to map their traditional lands and re-sources using an early GPS and basic survey equipment. This job required extensive time in remote locations, and often I worked weeks on end in the reserve before returning to the main city where my office was located. In the spring of 1994, my life changed forever when NASA archaeologist Tom Sever visited Guatemala to conduct his annual fieldwork and I was fortuitously assigned to support his research in the field. Tom came down to Guatemala with pictures and slides of satellite imagery of the reserve, and I was mesmerized by the fact that I was looking at pictures of the area that had taken me weeks to map in the field under extreme conditions—heat, mosquitoes, ticks, and snakes. When he departed Guatemala, Tom left me his slides of the satellite imagery, and the following week I packed a mule with a slide projector, a small generator, and a white sheet and headed out to one of the villages I was working in. I assembled people of all ages in a thatched hut with a dirt floor and showed them the new high-tech satellite imagery. At first, it made no sense to them, most of whom had never before seen a map—moreover, the images were processed in false-color infrared. However, over 30 minutes I was able to train the participants to read the imagery using familiar features such as lakes and roads.

It was at that time—I’ll never forget—that the people from the village started to “get it.” There was a series of light bulb moments where they realized, and then expressed, that the forest didn’t go on forever—that the Mexican border was not so far away and that their forests were important to protect. With the town elders, we spent 3 more hours exploring and discussing the imagery—and it was that night that I truly realized the power of Earth science information for understanding and protecting our home planet. And that night, in a hut with a dirt floor in the middle of the jungle, I in fact realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

A few years later, I was fortunate to join NASA, which gave me the opportunity to develop SERVIR, which now operates in Central America, the Dominican Republic, and soon East Africa. In only a few short years, we’ve created a massive and passionate community of environmental professionals, students, government employees, and even heads of state who are all using Earth science information for improved knowledge and decision making in their countries.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to know Charles Falkenberg, I am privileged to receive an award in his name—sharing his passion in enabling practical applications of Earth science through data visualization and information technology. This is an honor I don’t take lightly and that further motivates me to continue to build partnerships and develop activities.

Upon receiving the award notification in the mail a couple of months ago, I enthusiastically called a good friend and colleague at the World Bank. I read the letter to him stating that I had won the Charles S. Falkenberg Award, “given to a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information.”

My World Bank friend and colleague wittily replied, “Congratulations, Dan, you’re under 45!”

He left me speechless, and then came back and said, “What I mean is, there are still a lot of years ahead to keep doing what you’ve been doing.” I certainly hope he’s right, and I look forward to continued work and collaboration with this great community in using Earth science information to benefit society.

Thank you.

—DANIEL E. IRWIN, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Dave Jones received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2006 Summer Federation of Earth Science Information Partners Conference, which was held on 19 July 2006, in Nanuet, N.Y. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



It was my great pleasure to nominate Dave Jones for the AGU Charles S. Falkenberg Award.

As founder, president, and chief executive officer of StormCenter Communications, Inc., in Ellicott City, Md., Dave has been a leader in developing new applications for NASA and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth observation information and using these products to educate the public and policy makers about environmental issues affecting our ecosystems.

Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the television industry, Dave pioneered the concept of expanding traditional weather forecasts into ‘Envirocasts®’ that seek to inform the public about the impact of human actions on our natural resources. His work on the impact of stream runoff on the health of the Chesapeake Bay was shown extensively on television news broadcasts in the National Capital region and has received national attention as a model for environmental public education initiatives.

Working with Earth Observation Magazine, Dave initiated and authored a series of 12 monthly articles on the potential of current and planned Earth observation satellite missions and the importance of the information derived from these missions to efforts to understand our planet and respond to manmade and natural disasters that threaten life and property. Dave’s articles in such areas as hurricane path prediction are helping policy makers in both the public and private sectors understand the Earth observing technology that is available to them and to integrate this information into real-world decisionmaking situations.

From May 2002 to August 2004, Dave served as president of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP). At the time he assumed this office, the Federation was an informal association of NASA grantees and data centers. Under Dave’s leadership, the Federation rapidly evolved into a broad-based consortium of Earth observing data interests and a primary user group in the Earth science information community. With a current membership of over 75 organizations involved in both the collecting and storing of remote sensing data and the use of the data for research, technology development, education, and commercial purposes, the Federation provides an ideal mechanism for generating collaborations that will lead to the discovery of new applications for the wealth of data available and improved public policy decision-making relating to the environment of our home planet.

The president of ESIP also served as the chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for Earth Science, a nonprofit organization that is designed to support the work of the Federation and educate the public about the importance of Earth observation research and development. During Dave’s term as chairman, the Foundation initiated public education activities aimed at ‘putting a human face’ on the work being done in the Earth sciences with the aid of Earth observing technology.

It is my belief that the stories of the impact of Earth observation data, models, and decision-making systems on individuals will form the essential bridge that is now missing between Earth scientists and the general public. The Foundation’s GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) information video, produced by StormCenter Communications, clearly demonstrates the potential of using such impact metrics to convey the value of the scientific work being done with Earth observation information in the lives of our citizens.

Through his work as a scientist and communicator—as president of StormCenter Communications, as president of ESIP, and as chair of the Foundation for Earth Science—Dave Jones has provided the leadership required to make the case for the continued investment of national resources in the generation, processing, and application of Earth observation information. In doing so, he has greatly contributed to the advancement of the Earth sciences and qualified himself as the 2006 Charles S. Falkenberg awardee.



About 10 years ago, when I was working at NBC in Washington, D.C., my wife, Denise, asked me what I wanted out of life, what would make me feel that I had accomplished something.

After some thought, I answered, “I would like to know that I have contributed in some way to helping people make more informed decisions when it comes to weather and the environment…I want to make a real difference and help people.”

When I received the letter from AGU notifying me that I was the 2006 winner of the Charles S. Falkenberg award, Denise said, “Wow, Dave, you did it! You did what you set out to do; what an honor and accomplishment!” I got a cold chill that ran through my body when my wife remembered that brief conversation 10 years ago.

This award launches me on a pretty emotional roller coaster. It is the biggest honor I have received in my life, next to my wife saying yes when I asked her to marry me, in 1986, and the birth of my two beautiful daughters, Lindsay and Heather, in 1993 and 2000.

I knew Charlie Falkenberg and discussed Earth science research with him in the early stages of the Federation, and this award will add another permanent reminder in my heart of the events of September 11, 2001, and how the entire world was affected that day. It will also remind me that there is much work to be done to even fill the Earth science gap created by Charlie’s tragic loss. I know Charlie had high hopes for Earth science applications and how those applications could contribute to society. Charlie was looking forward to making big things happen.

We have made quite a bit of progress since the inception of the ESIP Federation with solid communities coming together to address national needs and priorities. The Foundation for Earth Science is putting together plans and a direction to begin raising funds in order to step up Federation efforts that will make significant contributions to people’s lives. As a Federation partner, my company, StormCenter Communications, has stepped up our network of media partners that are exposing more Americans to the value of environmental and remote sensing data. We are laying the groundwork to get more Federation partners involved in providing increased science, climate, natural disaster, air and water information, and public health information to the public in a meaningful and understandable way.

In the past four years, StormCenter has increased its number of media partners from reaching just one market and four million people to more than 10 markets and a national network reaching more than 140 million people. With the recent addition of The Weather Channel®, StormCenter has increased the number of people exposed to Earth science content by 90 million households and is delivering a broad range of research and operational data to more citizens and decision makers each and every year.

We have designed a business model that works for sponsors, for our media partners and content providers network, and for StormCenter that allows us to produce environmental content on a regular basis, always searching for Earth science data and imagery to integrate while delivering Earth and environmental science content through television news and weathercasts. These are exciting times for all of us and the people we serve.

This is something I think Charlie would have been very pleased to see.

Receiving the Charles S. Falkenberg Award touches many emotions, from being overjoyed to being saddened when I think about Charlie and his family. I thank AGU, the ESIP Federation, and the Foundation for Earth Science for nominating me and ultimately selecting me to receive this most prestigious award. Thanks to Dick Wertz and Carol Meyer from the Foundation for Earth Science for running an outstanding organization that will only grow, with NASA, NOAA, and the EPA and others as major partners. Your tireless efforts are making a difference in this world. And a special thank you to Martha Maiden at NASA for believing in my approach to reaching millions; your early enthusiasm and support kept me innovating. It is all paying off big time.

I would, however, never have been placed in the position to even be nominated if it were not for the love and friendship of my wife and family. Without the encouragement of Denise to pursue my dreams to start my own company to work toward making a difference in people’s lives, I think I would still be on television telling the residents of Washington, D.C., that today and tomorrow will be hot. StormCenter is now making a much bigger difference in many more people’s lives. Charlie would have loved to be a part of that…and he still is.

Thank you so much.

—DAVE JONES, StormCenter Communications, Inc., Ellicott City, Md.

George Tselioudis received the Falkenberg Award at the 2004 Joint Assembly Honors Ceremony, which was held on 19 May 2004 in Montreal, Canada. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



“I have known George Tselioudis from his days as a graduate student in the mid-1980s at Columbia University, and have seen him develop into one of our most dedicated and talented climate researchers.

“He has applied his training in physics and meteorology to address a fundamental problem for the climate research community: the role clouds play as a major feedback in the climate system.

“From the earliest stages in his career, George has shown leadership and initiative. His dissertation overturned long-standing claims about how an increase in cloud brightness would counteract global warming. For this work, his peers at GISS chose him as the first winner of our now annual ‘best publication’ award.

“The distribution and availability of water on Earth is one of the critical global issues in the 21st century. Dr. Tselioudis’s latest research outlines and quantifies the role that storm systems play in distributing water in different regions of our planet.

“He understands the value of working across disciplines and has developed excellent interactions between climate modeling and satellite, aircraft, and ground observation groups. A product of these interactions is unique methods for using these data in climate studies, including innovative techniques for evaluating climate model simulations.

“Most recently, Dr. Tselioudis evolved a dimension of his research to consider the economic impacts of storm damage and climate change. He is working on this problem with new colleagues at the Earth Institute at Columbia University across science, economics, and environmental policy disciplines.

“Dr. Tselioudis has a great interest and deep belief in the idea that the Earth science community has a responsibility to make its results relevant to society and to contribute to public awareness about our planet. This is evident throughout his career in the way in which he has integrated public service and education outreach. As a graduate student, he volunteered to teach an Earth science enrichment class at Barnard College as part of a college preparatory program for New York City minority students. In 1994, George joined an ambitious education outreach initiative undertaken by the GISS science community. Its aim is to involve minority students and their educators from New York precollege and undergraduate institutions on our teams working on frontline climate research.

“Students, teachers, and scientists regard him as the most dedicated, creative, and successful of research mentors. In particular, they note that Dr. Tselioudis’s research team helped prepare them with today’s marketable workforce skills.

“It is all too rare to find young scientists who combine the talent to make substantive research contributions with an outstanding ability to communicate controversial science to the public. Whether his audience is high school students, undergraduate students and faculty, museum staff, or research faculty, George Tselioudis finds a way to draw them into his Earth science and challenge them to consider its broad applications in science and society.”

—JIM HANSEN, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y.


“It was primarily my participation in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) outreach program, the Institute on Climate and Planets (ICP), that led to my selection as the 2004 Charles S. Falkenberg awardee. I want to thank the AGU and the Falkenberg family for recognizing the importance of outreach among scientists and for this honor. I would also like to thank Jim Hansen both for his kind words in the citation and for the opportunity to participate in ICP.

“A group of research scientists at NASA/GISS started the ICP program in 1994 with the aspiration of providing high school and college students with a taste of the research experience. We were full of good intentions, but knew little of what it takes to motivate and inspire young minds. We were lucky to have in the program high school teachers who were willing to test and apply innovative teaching methods, and a group of New York City students who had no problems questioning the importance and even the validity of their assigned research tasks.

“In order to respond to their continual questioning on the inner workings of our research and its tools, we were forced over the lifetime of the program to develop educational modules that explain how a numerical model simulates atmospheric processes or how a satellite measures atmospheric properties. Once the students gained a basic understanding of how the research tools worked, they were ready not only to analyze model and satellite data, but also to provide critical comments on model performance or the quality of satellite retrievals. In addition, the students’ questioning of the relevance of their research activities led us to address the societal impacts of our science. Through ICP we began building collaborations with economists and public health researchers and looking at issues like the relationships between aerosol emissions and asthma occurrence or between the strength of storms and their economic impact. Those projects not only captivated the students’ interest and released their ingenuity, but are also starting to produce important interdisciplinary results related to the impacts of climate change.

“In retrospect, the benefits that I received through my own ICP experience appear to be equal to if not greater than the students and teachers who have used the program as a springboard to advance academically and professionally. This is why I am saddened by the fact that despite the program’s great success and national recognition, as of this year the ICP funding is eliminated and the program is effectively canceled.”

—GEORGE TSELIOUDIS, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y.

Jeff de La Beaujardière received the Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 10 December 2003, in San Francisco, California. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”



“Jeff de La Beaujardière received his B.A. in physics in 1985 from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1990 from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Captivated by the Web’s potential for information distribution, in 1994 he joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, first as a contractor and then as a civil servant. He is currently with the Geospatial Interoperability Office in NASA’s Earth Science Applications Division.

“From 1994 to 1998, Jeff was Webmaster of NASA’s Public Use of Remote Sensing Data Program, whose unofficial motto was ‘Data to the people.’ The Web site was a showcase for satellite images of hurricanes and other natural phenomena. He was also lead Web developer for the GLOBE Visualization project, which displays environmental data gathered and used by a worldwide network of students, teachers, and scientists.

“In 1998, when NASA was leading the effort to implement the Digital Earth program, Jeff championed interoperability standards as fundamental to realizing the Digital Earth vision. That program ended, but Jeff’s advocacy for open standards has had a lasting and positive effect in NASA and other agencies. Charles Falkenberg worked with the Web-based System for Terrestrial Environmental Research (WEBSTER), a NASA-funded Earth Science Information Partner (ESIP). The ESIPs and other NASA centers that work with Earth images are beginning to share data more easily, thanks in part to Jeff’s standards advocacy.

“Jeff has been much more than an advocate. He has provided leadership to the Geospatial Applications and Interoperability (GAI) Working Group of the U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee and to the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee. He has been an editor of OGC and ISO specification documents, as well as a contributor to test beds and pilot projects that produce and advance new open-standard interfaces. He is well liked for his honesty and humor; and like Charles Falkenberg, he is admired for his technical excellence, his willingness to take on challenges, and his determination ‘to do the right thing.’

“In 2002 and 2003, Jeff served as Portal Manager for Geospatial One-Stop, a federal electronic government initiative. He led a team of experts in defining the requirements, architecture, and competitive solicitation for a Portal based on open standards, and led an OGC interoperability initiative in developing and demonstrating a working implementation. This was a fast-paced, high-stakes effort involving many companies and agencies. The results of this initiative will be applied to a new Earth Science Gateway that will provide seamless access to information about our planet to scientists and the public.

“By playing a leading role in developing geospatial Web services, Dr. Jeff de La Beaujardière is contributing significantly to the interdisciplinary exchange of spatial information that is critical in environmental research, monitoring and education, and many other applications. He has contributed greatly ‘to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.’ It is most appropriate that he receive the Charles S. Falkenberg award.”

—DAVID SCHELL, Open GIS Consortium, Inc., Wayland, Mass.


“I am deeply honored and moved to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. I learned of it with mixed emotions given the tragic loss of young Charles and his family on September 11, 2001. For me, this award will serve as an inspiration in my future work and as a reminder that our time here is short and our loved ones are precious.

“Charles Falkenberg contributed ‘to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.’ I will carry on that legacy in his memory. I believe all of us, as members of the AGU, as people privileged to have received higher education, as scientists, professors, and government employees, and as citizens of this fragile planet, have an obligation to use our knowledge and the information we work with for the benefit of all living things, to help the public and the policy-makers understand the facts and the issues, and even to raise our voices in opposition to the misuse or willful disregard of scientific knowledge.

“NASA has some 80 Earth-observing instruments on 18 satellites generating more than 2 terabytes of data per day. This information can best be used for the public good if it is broadly accessible and usable. The mission of the Earth Science Applications division is to expand the societal and economic benefits of these data. We are working with other federal agencies on a dozen applications of national priority to make specific measurements and predictions directly usable by decision support systems and other policy tools. Part of my work with NASA’s Geospatial Interoperability Office is to ensure that instead of creating solutions that only work for one application we use open-standard protocols to disseminate Earth science information to all.

“When I first came to NASA, I worked on GLOBE, a science and education program that engages schoolchildren throughout the world to make measurements in the field, report their data online, and retrieve data and visualizations for further study. That project was very rewarding because it brought the students into hands-on contact with science and the planet and connected them to a global network of other schools performing the same experiments. Getting young people involved is critical to the future of our science and our planet.

“In closing, I would like to thank those who supported me in this award: Rob Raskin, from JPL; my citationist, David Schell, president of the Open GIS Consortium; Myra Bambacus and Horace Mitchell, of NASA; and Tom Pyke, the first director of GLOBE. I also wish to thank my colleagues from NASA, Digital Earth, and OGC with whom I have been privileged to work.”

—JEFF DE LA BEAUJARDIÈRE, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Greenbelt, Md.

The Charles S. Falkenberg Award was presented posthumously to Charles S. Falkenberg and was accepted by his mother, Mrs. William S. Falkenberg.



Charles Falkenberg was raised in the west, educated in the east, an American by birth, and a good citizen of the planet. Charles Falkenberg dedicated his career to the Earth and environmental sciences. Trained as a computer scientist, Charles focused on enabling practical applications of Earth science through visualization and information technology. He advanced methodologies and open approaches that have allowed the scientific community to exploit ever more successfully the vast array of satellite and field data that now characterize the study of our planet.

Charles began his professional career in software in the early 1980s, and by the end of that decade he had developed a driving interest in software engineering for scientific and environmental applications. His range of concern was extraordinary; in the mid-90s, he demonstrated the innovative features in the Distributed Ocean Data System to the astrophysical community! For the last decade, Charles applied his interest and technical expertise to a host of problems: from the Exxon Valdez oil spill data collection, through environmental impact study visualization tools, to data systems development for the Web-based System for Terrestrial Environmental Research as one of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners. This Partnership has been committed to the principle that society’s quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet are enhanced by regular use of scientifically sound Earth science information provided in a timely manner by a federation of partners collaborating to improve their collective services.

Charles enjoyed a wonderful sense of self and an ability to see what was needed to get the job, whatever the job may be, done. His insights during software development had a unique quality. They were always particularly clear, compelling, and relevant. They clarified the central issues; they were not tangential, but rather on target. They were often particularly timely and unusually foresighted. He had the ability to focus the technological or scientific issue on key items and then an ability to articulate those items well.”

Charles had an exceptional ability to collaborate and work effectively in a multidisciplinary research team environment. He was a wonderful team member as well as team leader. He listened carefully, spoke thoughtfully, and sought with infectious enthusiasm always to bring out the best in everyone. His touchstone for choice of action was ‘What is the right thing to do?”

Charles met every challenge with balanced judgment, with advanced technical expertise, with attention to all programmatic dimensions, and with a caring recognition that all scientific efforts are, in the end, human efforts.

Charles Falkenberg was committed to the clear expression to the public of scientific findings about the environment of the Earth and about the process that achieved those findings. His commitment both renews and reminds us of the extraordinary importance of our own acceptance of this, our public responsibility. We shall be forever grateful for his creative force in our joint endeavor to understand our planet, our Sun, and our universe, and to communicate this understanding to our fellow citizens of the planet.

Charles Falkenberg, his wife Leslie, and their daughters Zoe and Dana died in the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.”

—BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire, Durham

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]