UArizona Expert on Climate Science and Policy Selected as AAAS Fellow
Gregg Garfin joins a roster of nearly 500 AAAS members honored for their lifetime efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.

By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
Dec. 2, 2020

Gregg Garfin, a University of Arizona expert on climate science and policy, has been elected a 2020 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

Garfin joins a roster of nearly 500 AAAS members who have earned the lifetime distinction. He is being recognized for his work linking fundamental climate and paleoclimate science to climate services and decision making, through climate assessment, knowledge exchange and the development of translational ecology.

Garfin has worked for the last 20 years to bridge the science-society interface through dialogues between scientists and decision-makers and collaborative climate and environment research projects.

His research focuses on adaptation to a changing climate, climate variability and drought, especially in southwestern United States and northern Mexico. He was co-lead author of the Southwest chapter of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The congressionally mandated report is written every four years to help inform decision-makers and other stakeholders by providing a thorough examination of the effects of climate change on the United States. Decision-makers include utility and natural resource managers, public health officials and emergency planners.

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Gregg Garfin speaking at conference
Gregg Garfin speaking at the Water for Food Global Conference in 2014. Courtesy of Gregg Garfin

"It is a tremendous privilege to receive this award," Garfin said. "Being named a AAAS Fellow is beyond anything that I expected in my career. I have been fortunate, several times, to be in the right place at the right time and to have the support of senior colleagues. For every scientist like me, who is fortunate enough to receive an award, there are many others deserving a similar honor."

Garfin's titles and affiliations reflect his accomplishments in building networks and working across disciplines and institutions. He is an associate professor and associate extension specialist in the UArizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment, where he directs the Water, Society & Policy Master of Science degree program. He also serves as the deputy director for science translation and outreach at the Arizona Institutes for Resilience.

Garfin is also university director of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, a partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey and a consortium of Southwest universities that is dedicated to providing scientific information, tools and techniques that land, water, wildlife and cultural resource managers can apply to anticipate, monitor and adapt to climate change impacts in the southwestern United States.  

Garfin's recent projects include the development of a partnership to address the public health risks of extreme heat in the U.S.-Mexico border region, an assessment of National Park Service cultural resource vulnerability to climate extremes and an investigation of best practices for assessing the costs of floods in North America.

According to Garfin, the demand for scientists working at the interface between research and decision-making far exceeds the supply. Those who work at this interface are exceedingly dedicated and find satisfaction in the application of science in decision-making, he said.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child," he said. "Substitute 'science-society researcher' for 'child' and there's no better village than the University of Arizona in which to find the encouragement of institutions, like Cooperative Extension, or colleagues across many disciplines to do this work."


A rosette pins in gold and blue, colors symbolizing science and engineering
The newly elected AAAS Fellows will receive rosette pins in gold and blue, colors symbolizing science and engineering. AAAS

AAAS Fellows are elected each year by their peers serving on the Council of AAAS, the organization's member-run governing body. The title recognizes important contributions to STEM disciplines, including research, leadership in a given field, teaching and mentoring, fostering collaborations, and advancing public understanding of science.

A virtual induction ceremony for the 489 newly elected Fellows will take place on Feb. 13, the Saturday following the AAAS Annual Meeting. The honorees will receive, by mail, official certificates and rosette pins in gold and blue – colors symbolizing science and engineering.

In order to be considered for the rank of Fellow, a AAAS member must be nominated by three previously elected Fellows, the steering group of a AAAS section, or the organization's CEO. Nominations go through a two-step review process, with steering groups reviewing nominations in their section and the AAAS Council voting on the final list.

The tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Since then, the recognition has gone to thousands of distinguished scientists, such as inventor Thomas Edison, elected in 1878, sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois (1905), anthropologist Margaret Mead (1934), computer scientist Grace Hopper (1963), physicist Steven Chu (2000) and astronaut Ellen Ochoa (2012). The 2020 group contains members of each of the 24 sections of AAAS.

The full list of 2020 Fellows is available on the AAAS website and is published in the Nov. 27 issue of the association's journal, Science.


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Daniel Stolte

Science Writer, University Communications