Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Jobbágy, Lopes, and Reddy Receive 2018 Ambassador Awards

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

By

Citation for Esteban G. Jobbágy

Esteban G. Jobbágy, 2018 Ambassador Award winner
Esteban G. Jobbágy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Response

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

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

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

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

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

 

Citation for Rosaly M. C. Lopes

Rosaly M. C. Lopes, 2018 Ambassador Award winner
Rosaly M. C. Lopes

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

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

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

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

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

 

Response

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

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

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

 

Citation for Christopher M. Reddy

Christopher M. Reddy, 2018 Ambassador Award winner
Christopher M. Reddy

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

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

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

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

—David Valentine, University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Response

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

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

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

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

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

Citation: AGU (2019), Jobbágy, Lopes, and Reddy receive 2018 Ambassador Awards, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO113287. Published on 07 January 2019.
Text © 2019. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited.