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ESIP Community Celebrates 2023 Award Winners

ESIP Community Celebrates 2023 Award Winners

The Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is an organization of organizations. There are no individual members, however, individuals and member organizations often step up as excellent data stewards, community organizers and enthusiastic volunteers. This year, ESIP recognizes a handful of people who do the work, build community, and go above and beyond.

2023 ESIP Award Winners

Each year, the ESIP  community  recognizes  the  outstanding  accomplishments, achievements and service of individuals spanning the Earth sciences, geoinformatics, data and computing. The awards are presented during the closing plenary at the 2023 January ESIP Meeting. 

“Our award winners are the catalysts, visionaries and inspiration who connect and uplift our community,” said Susan Shingledecker, executive director of ESIP. “We serve in a professional and career-building capacity for many ESIP participants. But all of our leaders — and everyone who joins in ESIP activities — are volunteers. We appreciate the chance to recognize people’s extra efforts!”

In the spirit of ESIP’s 2023 theme, “Opening Doors to Open Science,” this year’s awardees not only have crossed thresholds in their own careers, but hold open doors for others. 

Martha E. Maiden Award Honors Lifetime Achievement

Named for Martha E. Maiden, program executive for Earth Science Data Systems at NASA, the award honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership, dedication and a collaborative spirit in advancing the field of Earth science information.

The award goes to a familiar ESIP face: Robert (Bob) Downs, who also received the President’s Award in 2022. He represents an ESIP partner, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). Through the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN),  at the Columbia Climate School of Columbia University, where he has spent more than two decades, Downs is senior staff associate officer of research and senior digital archivist, and acting head of Cyberinfrastructure and Informatics Research and Development. Within ESIP, he participates in many Collaboration Areas and helps lead the Information Quality Cluster. 

As his primary nominator wrote, “Dr. Downs is certainly a great example of the collaborative spirit of ESIP.  He always contributes freely and openly to discussions.” All of his nominators are quick to point to the gracious generosity of Downs’ contributions to ESIP and beyond including the Research Data Alliance (RDA), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and American Geophysical Union (AGU). 

What I do: Help ensure that data is curated, open, preserved and reusable. That means I build connections between technical spheres and interdisciplinary communities.

Why I do it: My career has been dedicated to making data and information resources useful. The people generating and using that data continue to inspire me.

Robert R. Downs

Senior Digital Archivist, CIESIN, Columbia University

The President’s Award Honors Service

Selected by the ESIP President, this award recognizes a participant who has made significant, tangible contributions to ESIP.

“One of the most enjoyable roles of the ESIP President is to select the awardees for two of our most prestigious awards, the Catalyst Award and the President’s Award,” said ESIP President Ken Casey, Deputy Chief of the Data Stewardship Division in NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Casey announced the President’s Award winner: Jeff de La Beaujardière from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Known throughout ESIP as Jeff DLB, his work and contributions have been many, extending back as far as 2003. 

“As ESIP celebrates its 25th year,” Casey noted, “it is an honor to recognize one of the individuals who has been so dedicated to the organization throughout that time.”

What I do: Manage an organization that develops and operates several data repositories containing petabytes of climate model outputs and Earth observations, accessible by on-premise HPC to enable data analysis and visualization.

Why I do it: Since 1995 I have focused on public access to scientific data, which should be discoverable, accessible, documented, interoperable, citable, curated for long-term preservation and reusable not only by the original creator but by the broader scientific community and external users and decision-makers.

Jeff de La Beaujardière

Director, Information Systems Division, NCAR Computational and Information Systems Lab

Action is Inspired Catalyst Awardees

Given to participants who have brought about positive change in ESIP and inspired other members to take action and recognizes exceptional volunteer efforts. The Catalyst Award winner, Kathe Todd-Brown from the University of Florida, leads the Soil Ontology and Informatics Cluster. She also organized a three-part workshop on bridging soil data and informatics last year and regularly participates in ESIP extras like session design training, bystander implicit bias training and review committees.

“Kathe is one of whose people who, upon finding ESIP just a few years ago, jumped in with both feet,” Casey said, who selects the Catalyst Award as ESIP’s President.  “As a leader, she is extremely organized and does a great job documenting and sharing recordings and notes afterwards. Kathe is truly motivated by community.”

What I do: I lead the Soil Ontology and Informatics Cluster. We pull together interdisciplinary scientists to review streamlined soil knowledge systems. 

Why I do it: Soils are complex. Likewise, our taxonomy and methodologies vary, which present challenges for carbon storage, ag impacts and natural disaster risks.

Kathe Todd-Brown

Computational Biogeochemist, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment, University of Florida

Falkenberg Award 

The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is a joint award through the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP). The award recognizes an early to mid-career scientist who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.

Presented to Angelia Seyfferth from the University of Delaware, the award is part of the AGU Fall Meeting Awards Ceremony. Seyfferth will present at the 2023 July ESIP Meeting in Burlington, Vermont.

What I do: Explore soil biogeochemical processes that dictate contaminant and nutrient cycling and uptake by plants. 

Why I do it: Plant foods can contain contaminants. We use basic science to find holistic solutions that can benefit society on a local-to-global scale.

Angelia Seyfferth

Associate Professor of Biogeochemistry and Plant-Soil Interactions, University of Delaware


This post was written by Allison Mills with edits from all the award winners and communications staff, Reba Liddy from ESSIE and Elisabeth Sydor from CIESEN.

ESIP stands for Earth Science Information Partners and is a community of partner organizations and volunteers. We work together to meet environmental data challenges and look for opportunities to expand, improve, and innovate across Earth science disciplines.

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