Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Johnson, Lozier, Meltzer, and Oreskes Receive 2016 Ambassador Awards

Ashanti Johnson, M. Susan Lozier, Anne S. Meltzer, and Naomi Oreskes were awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for "outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool."

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Citation for Ashanti Johnson

Ashanti Johnson
Ashanti Johnson

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

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

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

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

Response

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

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

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

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

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

Citation for M. Susan Lozier

M. Susan Lozier
M. Susan Lozier

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

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

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

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

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

Response

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

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

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

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

Citation for Anne S. Meltzer

Anne S. Meltzer
Anne S. Meltzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response

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

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

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

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

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

Citation for Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes

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

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

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

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

—Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Response

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

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

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

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

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

—Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Citation: AGU (2016), Johnson, Lozier, Meltzer, and Oreskes receive 2016 Ambassador Awards, Eos, 97, https://doi.org/10.1029/2016EO064307. Published on 30 December 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0