J. Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist whose diverse communication efforts engage a wide audience on weather, climate, and the relationship between science and society, will receive the 2020 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
As the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, chair of the NASA Earth Science Advisory Committee, and former president of the American Meteorological Society, Shepherd’s prowess as a researcher and leader are well known within the scientific community. Yet he also devotes an exceptional amount of energy to connecting with public audiences by writing a regular column for Forbes, hosting a Weather Channel podcast, engaging with his local community, and more.
“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 the 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 on weather and climate, and commenting on the scientific enterprise as a whole. Recent subjects that he has tackled 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 with regard to pursuing science and math degrees and entering the STEM workforce. Page-view data show that many of these articles reach hundreds of thousands of readers.
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 weekly Weather Geeks podcast, which The Weather Channel founded in 2018. Prior to the podcast’s launch, he had hosted a TV show on the network for five years. Along with guests who work in politics, academia and the private sector, Shepherd delivers stories related to weather and the science behind it. He maintains a dialogue with the podcast’s more than 17,000 Twitter followers and with the more than 47,000 followers of his own Twitter account.