USask water scientist honored with prestigious international lifetime achievement award

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Credit: Steve Anderson

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan (USask) hydrologist Jay Famiglietti has been awarded the 2020 Hydrologic Sciences Award by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for outstanding contributions to the science of water over his career.

Famiglietti, executive director of USask’s Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS), has led development of novel remote sensing tools for hydrology and water security, particularly the capability to do remote sensing of groundwater using the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission.

These satellite remote sensing techniques and advanced computer models have made it possible to document how the water cycle and freshwater resources are affected by climate change and to map how water availability is changing globally. The models are used by major climate modelling labs across North America.

“Jay’s contributions to the GRACE satellite mission to assess groundwater resources from space is considered one of the major hydrologic discoveries of our time, transforming local hydrology to the continental scale,” said Scott Tyler, president of the AGU’s Hydrology Section.

“His analysis and models are giving water policy makers, often for first time, the data they need to accurately assess rates of groundwater depletion and to understand the impacts of over-exploitation of groundwater. He is an extremely worthy recipient of this distinguished award from his peers.”

Famiglietti, a faculty member in the USask School of Environment and Sustainability as well as in the Department of Geography and Planning, was recruited in 2018 from the U.S. where he had been Senior Water Scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It is incredibly humbling to be included in the same category as previous awardees,” said Famiglietti, who holds the Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing at USask.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve tried to do the science that draws attention to some of the world’s most urgent challenges in water security and global change.”

One of the world’s most cited hydrologists, Famiglietti’s work has been cited over 19,000 times. He regularly publishes in top journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Climate Change, and Nature Geoscience. With a very high h-index of 74 (Google Scholar), he was named a Highly Cited Researcher in 2019 (Clarivate Analytics).

Famiglietti also leads the USask Let’s Talk About Water science outreach initiative which involves a number of avenues for science communication including a film festival and competition, and a podcast which he hosts and which has just begun a second season.

Famiglietti was nominated by his peers for the Hydrologic Sciences Award. The AGU’s Hydrology Section, the largest of all of the AGU sections, has more than 7,500 members. Normally presented at the annual AGU meeting (which would have taken place in San Francisco this year), the award was presented this week to Famiglietti at a virtual event.

“It is so gratifying to see Jay win this prestigious award. The only negative is that I cannot give him a hug or high five and for all of us to be in San Francisco to celebrate this huge accomplishment,” said Jeff McDonnell, USask professor and past-chair of the AGU’s Hydrology Section.

“This award underscores why we were so eager to bring Jay to USask and how lucky we are to have a scientist of his prominence leading the Global Institute for Water Security.”

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In 2020, USask ranked first in Canada and 20th in the world for water resources research (Academic Ranking of World Universities).

For more information on this award, visit: https://eos.org/agu-news/2020-agu-section-awardees-and-named-lecturers

For more information on the Global Institute for Water Security, visit: https://water.usask.ca/

For more information on Let’s Talk About Water, visit: https://www.letstalkaboutwater.ca/

Media Contact
Victoria Dinh
[email protected]

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