Robert A. Duce

Departments of Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University

2017 Ambassador Award Winner

Jean M. Bahr, Robert A. Duce, and Richard C. J. Somerville were awarded the 2017 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award is in recognition for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Robert A. Duce has made fundamental contributions to atmospheric transport of chemicals from the continents, their deposition to the ocean, and their impact on marine biogeochemistry and climate, with field and numerical studies in Antarctica, the Arctic, and all the world’s oceans. He has provided crucial leadership to the -atmospheric/​-oceanic sciences community nationally and internationally.

Professor Duce’s pioneer research has fundamentally altered the direction of research in the chemical interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans. His work contributed to many detailed investigations of the Chinese sources for mineral aerosol, as well as understanding of the importance of mineral matter as a reactant surface for heterogeneous chemical reactions in the atmosphere and in affecting the radiative properties of the atmosphere. He was the first to evaluate the importance of atmospheric input as a source of nutrients in the surface ocean, particularly for the element iron.

Dr. Duce has also given his time generously for leadership in the atmospheric and marine chemistry community. He has been a leader in the development of integrated and interdisciplinary -large-​-scale research programs in atmospheric chemistry. In 2016, he was appointed cochair (with Professor Barbara J. -Finlayson-​-Pitts of University of California, Irvine) of the Committee on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

His scientific contribution and leadership theme were echoed through the comments of several of his atmospheric chemistry colleagues, including Professor Paul Crutzen (1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner), who wrote, “Over the past 3 decades Bob has also been a highly effective organizer of major international research efforts, which always have led to great advances in scientific knowledge.” Professor Ralph J. Cicerone (former president of the National Academy of Sciences) stated, “And his considerable organizational skills and generosity in science have marked him as a leader in many national and international organizations that conduct and/or plan research programs in oceanography, atmospheric chemistry and climate.” Professor Mario J. Molina (1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner) commented that “not only are his numerous scientific achievements of very high quality, but he also has made extremely important contributions through his community service, as documented by the large number of committees he has served on.” In summary, Dr. Robert A. Duce excels in all criteria designated by AGU for the Ambassador Award.

—Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M University, College Station


It is, indeed, a great honor to receive the AGU Ambassador Award, and I sincerely thank my colleague at Texas A&M Renyi Zhang for his generous citation. I have been blessed to be able to learn from and interact with so many outstanding individuals in the ocean and atmospheric sciences for 60 years. Working at both the scientific and administrative interfaces between these two disciplines has been particularly exciting and rewarding. This award is really for the many colleagues over the years who have worked toward a fundamental understanding of the importance of the -air​-sea exchange of chemicals to marine and atmospheric biogeochemistry and climate. Pioneers like Peter Liss, Joseph Prospero, William Fitzgerald, Tim Jickells, Maria Kana-ki-dou, Mitsuo Uematsu, Tom Church, and many others have been central in the development of -global-​-scale interdisciplinary and international research efforts to address these issues. And as all of us in academia know, we ride largely on the coattails of our graduate students and postdocs, and I have been so fortunate to have had many outstanding ones.

As we look back, we reflect on those who made the greatest professional impact on our early academic careers. Jack Winchester, my major professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of the most upbeat and positive individuals I have ever met. He taught me that there are no failed experiments or measurements or studies. Every such event that turned out differently from what one expected is a positive learning experience. Al Woodcock was completely self-taught, and he rose to be a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In the latter years of his career, he moved to the University of Hawai‘i, where he taught me to look at and experience nature closely. He was the consummate natural scientist. John Knauss, the founding dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, had a major impact on my administrative career. John believed that one of his primary responsibilities as dean was to take as much administrative burden as possible off the faculty so they could focus on their research and teaching. And he did that remarkably well. I am particularly grateful to these three individuals for their impact on my life.

Finally, I thank my wife, Mary, and the rest of my wonderful family for having the love, patience, and forbearance that allowed me to do the things I love.

—Robert A. Duce, Department of Oceanography and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station