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A Look Back at 2020 AAAS Award Winners: Meteorologist Honored for Public Engagement Efforts

J. Marshall Shepherd received the 2020 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science. | Neil Orman/AAAS

As a meteorology researcher and scientific community leader, J. Marshall Shepherd is busy. He directs the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, chairs the NASA Earth Science Advisory Committee, and is a former president of the American Meteorological Society.

In addition to juggling those responsibilities, Shepherd devotes an exceptional amount of energy to connecting with the public, writing a regular column for Forbes, hosting a Weather Channel podcast, and more. Last February, he received the 2020 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science from AAAS in honor of communication efforts that engage a wide audience on weather, climate, and the relationship between science and society.

“Dr. Shepherd is not only a world-class scientist, community servant, and role model, but he is an outstanding communicator,” wrote Jack Kaye, associate director for research in NASA’s Earth Science Division, in an award nomination letter. “Few scientists put as much time and effort into communicating with a broad set of audiences as Dr. Shepherd.”

As a senior contributor to Forbes, Shepherd writes columns that often reach hundreds of thousands of readers. Topics that he has covered include a potential decline in the quality of weather forecasts due to a global helium shortage, proposed budget cuts to Alaska’s state university system, and the obstacles women face in pursuing STEM careers.

In 2000, writing for a younger audience, Shepherd co-authored “Dr. Fred’s Weather Watch,” a “how-to book for junior meteorologists.” In addition to fun facts and simple explanations of meteorological concepts, the book offers children guidance on building a homemade weather station.

Shepherd also hosts the Weather Channel’s weekly Weather Geeks podcast and is a regular guest on mainstream broadcast outlets, such as CNN and CBS. From 2012 to 2015, he contributed scientific guidance to What We Know, a AAAS initiative aimed at communicating the realities of climate change and appropriate responses to it. A TED Talk on what shapes people’s perceptions and misperceptions about science that Shepherd recorded in 2018 has received more than 2.5 million views.

AAAS will announce the winner of the 2021 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science during the 187th AAAS Annual Meeting, to take place virtually Feb. 8-11. Register for the meeting today.




Adam D. Cohen

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