Markus Reichstein, 2018 Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award recipient
Markus Reichstein

Markus Reichstein epitomizes the spirit, vision, and creativity of Piers Sellers more than any of the up-and-coming and qualified scientists in the world. Markus’s research focuses on the interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and the climate system by studying the response of vegetation, soils, and whole ecosystems to climate variability from local to global scales. Like Piers Sellers, his vision includes combining data-driven and system-oriented process-driven approaches. Research being conducting by Reichstein and his group is fulfilling our community’s, and Piers’s, dream of producing a data system that views the breathing of the Earth “everywhere and all of the time.”

Reichstein and his group have accomplished this monumental task by merging direct measurements of carbon fluxes from the continuous, long-term, but sparse, network of flux towers in the FLUXNET network with the spatially explicit, but inferred and intermittent, information produced by a constellation of satellites sensing the surface and by gap-filling in time and space with neural network and regression tree machine learning tools. This has led to the first direct data-driven estimates of global photosynthesis and evapotranspiration. In addition, and very complementary, he has been successfully pushing forward the development of soil concepts and models from a “dead soil” to a “living soil” paradigm for biogeochemical dynamics, which acknowledges the interactions between soil organic matter, soil microbes, and the soil matrix together with transport processes and abiotic factors.

He has also been leading several international research activities, such as a data-driven climate ecosystem model comparison study called FLUXCOM; the European CarboExtreme project, which examined how ecosystems are responding to extreme climate conditions; and global community efforts such as Extreme Events and Environments—from climate to society within Future Earth. Throughout his career he has also offered open services and data products to the research community. So, still in his relatively young career, Markus has already been broadly stimulating the scientific global environmental community and numerous early-career scientists just as Piers Sellers did during his active time.

—Dennis Baldocchi, University of California, Berkeley


Receiving this Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award is truly humbling, because even from a distance, Piers Sellers has been a scientific idol during my graduate studies. It is even more humbling being the second awardee after Jim Randerson, who also continues to inspire a lot of my thinking about global environmental change (GEC) research. Dennis, thanks a lot for having considered me here.

I would like to thank very much several mentors for being so crucial in my scientific development. It starts with Dr. Gabriele Broll, who during undergraduate studies and my diploma thesis taught me everything about soil and about scientific scrutiny, which I believe today is more important than ever. Then a truly inceptive experience has been the Hyytiälä Euroflux meeting in 1998, organized by Timo Vesala, where I had the chance to discuss my Ph.D. plans with Dennis Baldocchi, Riccardo Valentini, and my advisor John Tenhunen, who gave very complementary and inspiring perspectives on biosphere–atmosphere interactions. I vividly remember Dennis’s keynote lecture that so greatly transported the excitement about the richness of information contained in eddy covariance flux data. Then Steve Running, during my short-term research stay in Missoula in 2002 related to the NASA MODIS mission, “opened my eyes” to the global scale and the value of remote sensing for GEC science. Also, the informal and pure-science-driven attitude—maybe also typical for the AGU GEC community—has always made it a pleasure to interact. These stimulating interactions only became more intensive in almost regular follow-up visits in Baldocchi’s and Running’s labs in Berkeley and Missoula. In summary, I am grateful for all the support I have received by these individuals and AGU, in general, and hope I can pay back in many ways for the rapidly evolving GEC sciences.

—Markus Reichstein, Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany


(2018), Reichstein receives 2018 Piers J. Sellers Global Environmental Change Mid-Career Award, Eos, 99, Published on 09 November 2018.

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