Nelson Institute professor and affiliate receive top atmospheric science award

November 9, 2020

Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies & Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Tracey Holloway and Nelson Institute affiliate and director of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies  Tristan L’Ecuyer will receive the American Geophysical Union (AGU)  Ascent Award during the AGU fall meeting in December 2020. Holloway and L’Ecuyer are two of only five mid-career scientists from around the world who will receive this major award for their excellence in research and leadership in atmospheric science. Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the only institution to have two faculty honored with this award in the same year.  

"The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been at the forefront of earth observation for generations,” said Nelson Institute Dean, Paul Robbins. “Holloway and L'Ecuyer are superlative scholars in a powerful tradition and the Nelson Institute couldn't be more proud of supporting an unheard of two AGU Ascent awardees."

The AGU is among the top organizations for Earth and space science, with more than 130,000 members worldwide. Through publications and networking opportunities, AGU furthers the exchange of scientific knowledge and promotes scientific best practices. The AGU Ascent Award is given annually to atmospheric and climate scientists who received their PhD within the last 8 to 20 years.

"It is an honor to be recognized by AGU for our group's efforts to promote the use of satellite observations in climate research,” said L’Ecuyer, who is being honored for his influential work in this area. “It is exciting to see a growing appreciation for the value of satellite data for understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change."

Likewise, Holloway, who works at the intersection of air quality, energy, climate, and public health, is being acknowledged for her research work as well as her role in outside organizations that support advancement of the Earth sciences. Holloway is widely recognized for her role within the Nelson Institute’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE). She is a leader in connecting advanced models and data with real-world decision-making and has led NASA’s national NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team since 2016 as they work to link satellite data with professional air quality and public health communities.

“I view research as a team sport,” says Holloway. “I work with an amazing group of students and staff, including lots of undergraduates, bringing skills from programming and statistics to communication and graphic design.”  

Outside of research, Holloway has been a leader in supporting diversity in science. She co-founded the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN), widely recognized as a leading organization to support the advancement of women in the earth sciences. Holloway served as the first president of ESWN, and designed its largest public outreach initiative, Science-A-Thon. Science-A-Thon engages hundreds of scientists from around the world sharing photos of their work on social media to highlight STEM careers and diverse role models. Holloway also shared that her role with ESWN played a major role in AGU’s decision to select her as an AGU Ascent Award recipient.

Additionally, Holloway leads engagement for Nelson’s Energy Analysis and Policy (EAP) graduate certificate program. By building partnerships with employers and alumni, Holloway supports professional development and networking for students in the EAP program, and efforts to grow the program to serve more students and highlight UW-Madison’s leadership in graduate energy education.

“The Nelson Institute has been a wonderful place to build my career,” Holloway said. “Many scientists feel torn between pursuing research and broader community engagement. But in Nelson, I’ve always felt supported to advance science and outreach hand-in-hand."