Tamara Shapiro Ledley

2013 Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award Winner

Tamara Shapiro Ledley received the 2013 Excellence in Geophysical Education Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors “a sustained commitment to excellence in geophysical education by a team, individual, or group.”


It gives me great pleasure to cite Tamara Shapiro Ledley for the AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Award “for her outstanding sustained leadership in Earth systems and climate change education.” Tamara has shown an ongoing commitment to bridging the scientific and educational communities to make geophysical science knowledge and data accessible and usable to teachers and students and by extension to all citizens. She works extensively with both the scientific and educational communities. She began her educational work in 1990 as the leader for weather and climate in my Teacher Research program at Rice University. She continued as the lead for atmospheric sciences in our projects Earth Today and Museums Teaching Planet Earth, which introduced her to the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP Federation). She has served many roles at ESIP, including creating the Standing Committee for Education and serving as vice president. ESIP recognized her many accomplishments with its President’s Award in 2012. At TERC her education and outreach efforts have blossomed. She was the lead author of the “Earth as a System” investigation of the GLOBE Teacher’s Guide. She was a member of the original Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) Data Access Working Group in 2001, where the idea for a cookbook-like resource to facilitate the use of Earth science data by teachers and students resulted in her leading the development of the “Earth Exploration Toolbook” (EET), which allows teachers to easily access and use real scientific data in the classroom. Her efforts were recognized with the EET being awarded Science Magazine’s Science Prize for Online Research in Education in 2011.

She has also been on the forefront of climate change education, serving on the AGU Committee for Global and Environmental Change, of which she was a member from its inception in 1993 through 1999 and chaired from 1995 to 1999. She chaired the panel to draft the initial AGU Position Statement on Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases, adopted in 1998, and was the lead author of a paper in Eos providing the supporting scientific information for that position statement at the level of the scientifically literate individual. Tamara is principal investigator of the National Science Foundation/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)/Department of Energy funded Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) project, which has created a rigorously reviewed collection of educational resources for grades 6–16 that facilitate students, teachers, and citizens becoming climate and energy literate. The CLEAN Collection has now been syndicated to NOAA’s Climate.gov portal. She also chairs the CLEAN Network (formerly the Climate Literacy Network), a professional diverse group of climate literacy stakeholders’ and has coordinated the many “Climate Literacy” sessions at the AGU Fall Meetings since 2011.

She has chaired pathbreaking committees, created online resources, published in AGU journals, and created major educational programs and is now serving as chair of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning at TERC. She has reached hundreds of teachers in person and more than 200,000 unique, returning visitors to her EET, EarthLabs, and CLEAN websites. It is clear that she clearly deserves this Excellence in Geophysical Education award.

—PATRICIA REIFF, Rice University, Houston, Texas


The meaning of “interdisciplinary” has evolved over my career. When I started my science research career, it meant bridging atmospheric and ocean science and embracing the science of the Earth system and its interacting components. Thus, I found a home at AGU submitting science abstracts to atmospheric science, oceanography, or hydrology sessions. In fact, my first research paper appeared in Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR)-Atmospheres, and a letter to the editor and response appeared in JGR-Oceans. It also meant getting scientists in these disciplines talking to each other. I organized a seminar series at Rice University under the umbrella of an Earth Systems Institute that included the Departments of Space Physics and Astronomy, Geology and Geophysics, Biology, and Hydrology. I also began working with Dr. Patricia Reiff, a space physicist with a passion for science education.

I worked with Pat on many science education projects. One demonstrating the interdisciplinary nature of science education was a teacher professional development program featuring the Sun. We covered disciplines ranging from the Sun as a star, as part of the solar system, to its roles in shaping weather and climate and in providing energy and shaping natural resources. I am forever grateful to Pat for involving me in science education.

On joining TERC, I began my own science education efforts focusing on bridging the science and educational communities. In this context, “interdisciplinary” broadened to include scientists, technologists, and educators collaborating to improve student learning. I thank Dan Barstow, Harold McWilliams, Mike Taber, Ben Domenico, LuAnn Dahlman, Susan Lynds, Carol Meyer, and the dedicated communities within and beyond Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), Digital Library for Earth System Education, National STEM Digital Library, and the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners for their collaboration in these efforts.

Through my work in climate and energy literacy, “interdisciplinary” has expanded to mean “interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary.” The social implications and impacts of climate change demand moving beyond Earth system components and scientist/educator collaborations. Climate and energy literacy is important for a broader range of professions like urban planners, architects, psychologists, economists, and government policy makers, making my work transdisciplinary. I now embrace this interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature by facilitating communication among stakeholders to share and leverage resources, information, and communities. I thank Mark McCaffrey, Frank Niepold, Anne Gold, Cathy Manduca, Sean Fox, Scott Carley, Don Duggan-Haas, Marian Grogan, Nick Haddad, Jeff Lockwood, Candace Dunlap, Susan Sullivan, Karen McNeal, Kathy Ellins, Julie Libarkin, Juliette Rooney­Varga, Sarah Hill, the CLEAN Network, and TERC for their support.

The arc of my career from interdisciplinary Earth system science to the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature of climate change reflects the growing importance of climate literacy. I appreciate AGU’s recognition of this through the high visibility of climate literacy at this meeting and in conveying this award. I also thank my family; my daughters, Miriam and Johanna; and my husband, Fred Ledley, whose interest, encouragement, support, and love have enabled me to achieve this honor. I deeply appreciate being recognized by the American Geophysical Union with the Excellence in Geophysical Education Award.