Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Bahr, Duce, and Somerville Receive 2017 Ambassador Awards

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


Citation for Jean M. Bahr

Jean M. Bahr, 2017 Ambassador Award recipient
Jean M. Bahr

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

—Jean M. Bahr, University of Wisconsin–Madison


Citation for Robert A. Duce

Robert A. Duce, 2017 Ambassador Award recipient
Robert A. Duce

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Citation for Richard C. J. Somerville

Richard C. J. Somerville, 2017 Ambassador Award recipient
Richard C. J. Somerville

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Citation: AGU (2017), Bahr, Duce, and Somerville receive 2017 Ambassador Awards, Eos, 98, Published on 28 December 2017.
© 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0