Marshall Shepherd is one of the most seasoned, most versatile, most dedicated, and most impactful climate communicators of our time. He effortlessly weaves his mastery of climate science with heartfelt care for all people, a finely honed moral compass, and a true passion for climate communication. As a decorated scholar in the atmospheric sciences, his dedication to effective communication is particularly noteworthy and makes him a treasured role model for many scientists who seek to incorporate a focus on public engagement into their careers.
It is hard to know where to begin in extolling the breadth and depth of Marshall’s climate communication skill set. Broadcast TV—check. Popular science writing—check. Social media guru—check. Kid’s weather book—check. TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) sensation—check. Yet for all these external markers of unbridled success, he is one of the most unassuming, tempered, and resoundingly clear voices speaking about the science of climate change and the important choices we face as a society. Whereas most climate scientists struggle through on-camera appearances, Marshall’s talents are on full display during his frequent TV appearances. Through countless appearances on CNN, ABC, NBC, and Fox, he displays a knack for the sound bite while staying true to the science. To watch a single interview by Marshall is to watch a master class in climate communication. Another area of climate communication worthy of particular mention is Marshall’s Twitter account (>44,000 followers at present), which is a stroll through the day-to-day reactions and thoughts of a meteorologist and climate scientist, only lightly edited. His approach makes him a trusted source to many—personable, accessible, and always respectful.
Many know Marshall as the smooth-talking meteorologist on the Weather Channel or the must-follow climate science account on Twitter or the insightful, funny, and humble TED speaker. And he is all those things. But what most don’t see is that Marshall is deeply woven into the fabric of communities across Atlanta through a dizzying array of smaller appearances that escape the public eye. He is ever present in K–12 classrooms, science fairs, rotary clubs, and the like—wherever the public is in need of an honest, fact-based, but respectful conversation about climate science. In doing so, he doesn’t shy away from raising awareness about the hurdles that members of underrepresented groups still face in science and society.
—Kim Cobb, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
It is with great honor and a sense of humility that I accept this tremendous honor. As I gaze at the names preceding mine on this prize, it reminds me that mentorship and inspiration are as important as the work that we do as scientists. I have been intrigued by the atmosphere since sixth grade. When I boldly declared that I wanted to be a meteorologist in elementary school, it was always with the intent of learning and understanding how our weather and climate system worked.
Through my experiences at Florida State University, NASA, and the University of Georgia, I have been able to teach, research, and share knowledge about processes that affect our water supply, food systems, national security, public health, and general well-being. Climate change represents a singular grand challenge of our time. If experts are not engaging with the public, policy makers, and stakeholders, then people with misinformation are happy to fill the void left behind by scientists. For this reason, I engage. I will continue to engage on behalf of my kids, personal family, and the collective family of humanity.
I want to thank my wife and kids for their partnership in my journey to do what I am blessed and called to do. I want to thank my mother, teachers, professors, colleagues, and even those that challenge the consensus basis of science. Each group aforementioned shapes and challenges me to be a better scientist and communicator. Thank you to AGU, my nominator, and the letter writers for seeing something in me worthy of this prize.
—J. Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia, Athens