Jarvis Moyers

2011 Edward A. Flinn III Award Winner

Jarvis L. Moyers received the Edward A. Flinn III Award posthumously at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 7 December 2011 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors “individuals who personify the Union’s motto ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.”


Preparing this citation was something of a bittersweet honor, but a task certainly made easier by the fact that Jarvis R. Moyers is so clearly an outstanding choice for the Edward A. Flinn III Award. Jarvis was involved with atmospheric science for more than 4 decades, since 1970, when he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. His research there pioneered the field of reactive halogen chemistry in the troposphere, which has become something of a “cottage industry” today, and his research was among the first to show the importance of understanding the composition of airborne particles as a function of size.

From this early exposure to a new, exciting, and dynamic field, Jarvis became a significant “forcing factor” that propelled atmospheric sciences forward into its central position in geosciences today. At the time Jarvis first joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1976 as a rotator in the Research Applied to National Needs (RANN) program, the field of atmospheric sciences was in its infancy. Exciting new discoveries and hypotheses were emerging, including those that ultimately led to the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to F. Rowland, M. Molina, and P. Crutzen. However, growing and sustaining the field beyond this nascent stage over the next decades required the wisdom to see beyond the problems that were of immediate or near-term interest, as well as to appreciate the interconnectedness of different parts of the environment. In addition, it was critical to have leadership that encouraged and facilitated research and researchers from disparate backgrounds and interests to develop and pursue creative new ideas, singly in some cases, or, in others, to merge forces in addressing broad problems. It was atmospheric science’s good fortune that Jarvis returned to NSF in 1983, first as program director for atmospheric chemistry, then head of the Lower Atmosphere Research section, head of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)/Facilities section, director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, and then acting assistant director for geosciences.

It was at NSF that Jarvis came to play a central role in “facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities” in a very subtle, selfless, and understated manner that was “typical Jarvis.” Examples of the results of his efforts that have left a permanent mark on atmospheric sciences abound:

Jarvis was a major force in the development of the Global Tropospheric Chemistry Program in the mid-1980s, the first comprehensive approach to understanding chemistry and interconnected cycles on a global scale. Jarvis, in collaboration with his colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, organized several groundbreaking workshops on this topic that set a research agenda that has driven tropospheric chemistry research for 3 decades. For example, these workshops formed the basis of many extensive field campaigns that elucidated not only new atmospheric processes but also the importance of treating the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere as an integrated system. As a result, Jarvis was a central figure in shaping and implementing the multidisciplinary, multiagency U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.

Jarvis played a key role in facilitating interagency support for rapid scientific responses to unique atmospheric situations, such as the Antarctic ozone hole and the Kuwaiti oil well fires in 1991, where it was critical to mobilize scientific field resources on a time scale probably not seen—or attempted—previously. In the case of the ozone hole, this provided policy makers with critical data that formed the basis of the success of the Montreal Protocol. These precedents set the stage for enabling rapid response to more recent unexpected events, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Jarvis has been described as a “sage” in a complex maze of federal science funding, able through his quiet, thoughtful, and commonsense approach to pull together people and programs from different agencies to support interdisciplinary science. The clear result was that the “whole was much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Jarvis was an important voice for and key supporter of the development of critical infrastructure needed to advance the field. For example, he oversaw development of the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research, a heavily utilized facility for atmospheric studies that has produced some exciting new insights in atmospheric processes.

Jarvis had the vision and patience to encourage research on some really difficult problems that were not going to be solved easily or quickly. These included such areas as heterogeneous chemistry on surfaces, which later proved to be key to understanding the Antarctic ozone hole, and the development of techniques to measure highly reactive, short-lifetime species such as the OH radical. His wisdom in encouraging what might have seemed at the time to be “blue sky” research of single investigators along with large, collaborative field campaigns advanced the field in ways that would not have happened without his leadership.

A long-lasting legacy is Jarvis’s impact on the atmospheric sciences research workforce. His one-on-one quiet mentoring of the “youngsters” in the field is well known, and he got enormous pleasure out of seeing young scientists succeed. He was a supporter of diversity in the sciences long before this issue was seriously considered. This has resulted in atmospheric sciences having one of the highest fractions of underrepresented groups involved in the science, particularly women. One of us (Barbara Finlayson-­Pitts) used to joke that an advantage of being a woman in science was that there were no crowds in the ladies’ room during breaks. Happily, this is no longer the case in atmospheric sciences, and one of the significant factors was Jarvis’s encouragement to many young scientists at the critical early stages of their careers.

On a bigger platform, Jarvis also played key roles in the development, support, and continuation of programs such as the Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) program at NCAR and the Research Experiences for Undergraduates to provide summer internships to students. While Jarvis thought big, he remembered that great scientists start small. For example, he was one of the first enthusiastic supporters of the Atmospheric Chemistry Conference for Emerging Senior Scientists (ACCESS) program and worked hard to help it to become a reality. ACCESS is a meeting of 25 recently minted (or soon-to-be-minted) Ph.D.s for several days before the Gordon Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry. The attendees present their research, network with each other and representatives from U.S. science and funding agencies, and have guaranteed acceptance in the Gordon Conference. A significant portion of today’s coming “stars” in the field are graduates of ACCESS, and many will tell you it was a key event in their early career development.

Unfortunately, Jarvis passed away on 22 June 2011 after a valiant battle with lung cancer. Although he did not learn of the award before his passing, Joan, his life’s partner and wife of 44 years, and Kevin, his son, were able to attend the honors ceremony. He did have the opportunity to experience the respect, admiration, and affection of his colleagues in a gathering at NSF on 8 July 2010. He enthusiastically shared this experience with subsequent visitors to his office.

In short, Jarvis was the “best of the best,” both personally and professionally. Atmospheric sciences will continue to feel his presence and benefit from his leadership, vision, and integrity for a very long time to come. He was a truly selfless enabler, supporter, mentor, and cheerleader for the field (and he would be totally embarrassed by this tribute!). His contributions were recognized in 2006 with the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for his “outstanding leadership and exemplary record of achievement in service to the nation’s science and engineering enterprise.” We speak for all of our atmospheric sciences colleagues when we say we feel very fortunate to have called him a colleague, a friend, and, most important, a spectacular human being who exemplifies the highest standards of the Edward A. Flinn III Award.

—Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine; and Robert A. Duce, Departments of Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, ­College Station