Anne S. Meltzer

Lehigh University

2016 Ambassador Award Winner

Anne S. Meltzer  was awarded the 2016 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


For 2 decades, Anne S. Meltzer has been a leader in developing -community–driven science initiatives and in ensuring that community priorities guide organizations such as the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).

Dr. Meltzer’s leadership was key in shaping a groundswell of community interest into the National Science Foundation (NSF) -EarthScope facility and science program. She helped to develop the concept for the USArray—a rolling transportable array of broadband seismic stations that spanned the contiguous United States and is now in Alaska, plus permanent stations and targeted temporary arrays—and she played an important role in building consensus and crafting the plan for the EarthScope facility (funded by Congress at $200 million) that also included the Plate Boundary Observatory and the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (-SAFOD) San Andreas drilling project. Dr. Meltzer coordinated the USArray Steering Committee (1999–2002), was a key member of the -EarthScope Executive Committee, and chaired the IRIS Board of Directors during this critical period.

Dr. Meltzer has continued as a leader within -EarthScope and IRIS on the EarthScope Science and Education Committee (2002–2005) and as chair of the -EarthScope Program Committee (2005–2008), chair of the -EarthScope Facility Management Review (2011), chair of the IRIS -USArray Advisory Committee (2012–2013), and chair (since 2014) of the IRIS Board of Directors. She was an early proponent of -EarthScope–related education and outreach, which, through vibrant programs and the work of many people, has carried this science to thousands of students, teachers, and members of the public. Scores of undergraduates were recruited to help locate sites for transportable array stations, and Dr. Meltzer herself coordinated the student siting effort in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

Dr. Meltzer has worked to expand seismological expertise in developing countries, through research collaborations in Pakistan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Chile and as white paper author and founding chair of the IRIS Committee for International Development Seismology (2008–2011). One highlight was the 2011 NSF -Pan–American Advanced Studies Institute in Ecuador, a -2-week immersion in seismology for over 30 students and young faculty. Dr. Meltzer also played a pivotal role in a May 2015 workshop in Chile that gathered more than 100 researchers to discuss best practices for modern geophysical networks and led a 2016 IRIS seismometer deployment to record aftershocks of a damaging earthquake in Ecuador.

In summary, Dr. Meltzer’s work has enabled hundreds of researchers worldwide to excel scientifically and thousands of students and members of the public to be inspired by the Earth sciences.

—Karen M. Fischer, Brown University, Providence, R.I.


I am honored to receive an AGU Ambassador Award and am grateful to Karen Fischer and other colleagues for nominating me. It is rewarding to have been in a position to help advance community initiatives at various points in my career.

Science is first and foremost a human endeavor, and academic consortia like IRIS have demonstrated that working together, we can achieve remarkable scientific advances. What started as a vision for shared facilities for collection and curation of seismic and other geophysical data, built on principles of open access to data and engagement of individuals across a spectrum of institutions in the United States and abroad, has built a community of scientists with global reach and impact.

The community of scientists who first conceived of -USArray, PBO, and -SAFOD, in partnership with funding agencies like the NSF and USGS, brought -EarthScope from spark to ignition and transformed the Earth sciences. As a multi-decadal infrastructure and science program, -EarthScope has provided insights into Earth structure and dynamics on a continental scale, engaged a new generation of Earth scientists who easily work with big data and as part of interdisciplinary teams, and sparked the imagination of the next generation of scientists by directly engaging the public in the largest Earth science experiment conducted to date. New community initiatives like subduction zone observatories have the potential to do the same while contributing to the science behind hazards related to earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides around the Pacific Rim and the Caribbean.

I have benefited from being a member of a diverse scientific community and the shared resources managed by IRIS. Community resources and collaborations with colleagues have allowed me and my students to pursue research in some of the most phenomenal places in the world in terms of Earth processes and sheer beauty, and to meet and get to know the most remarkable and culturally diverse people. We have been welcomed and received support everywhere we have worked and in turn have tried to give back in kind by supporting the communities who supported us and by collaborating with our colleagues abroad to build capacity in their countries. Many geoscientists working internationally, in ways both small and large, do the same. By building capacity at home and abroad, we extend the community of scientists studying our planet, how it works, and our relationship to it.

—Anne S. Meltzer, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.