When he accepted the position of state climatologist in 2000, Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor John Nielsen-Gammon knew it would involve the usual tasks of drawing up lots of charts and graphs and historical data. What he was not prepared for was the flood ““ so to speak — of media requests. Make that a never-ending torrential stream of interview requests.
Nielsen-Gammon has become one of the media’s favorite go-to guys when it comes to quick sound bites and story quotes, so much so that his daily calendar resembles that of a presidential candidate. He’ll do a morning interview with FOX News, followed by a live interview with a San Antonio radio station, followed by afternoon phone calls with The New York Times and USA Today, and before he leaves for the day, a quick Q-and-A with the Houston Chronicle.
And that’s just in the U.S. Once home, he often gets numerous calls from international outlets in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and others.
He figures he has given several hundred interviews in the last few months on the devastating Texas drought alone.
Thus, Nielsen-Gammon has been selected to receive the 2011 Newsmaker Image Award, presented by the Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M. The award is presented annually to an individual or group who has gone “the extra mile” in assisting Texas A&M with its media efforts and for helping to create a positive image of the university by demonstrating the highest ideals and goals.
“Dr. Nielsen-Gammon is dedicated to his students and also to serving the people of Texas in providing accurate information about our climate. He represents what Texas A&M is all about as a land-grant institution,” Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications, said in presenting the award.
“He clearly goes above and beyond with his efforts in dealing with numerous media outlets, speaking to them about various aspects of Texas weather. He is certainly a newsmaker for Texas A&M, and he is very deserving of this award.”
Nielsen-Gammon says he welcomes the opportunity to serve — to serve Texas A&M and the State of Texas.
“Part of my job as state climatologist is community outreach, and if that means speaking to the media, I will gladly do it,” Nielsen-Gammon explains. “I think it’s important that people get the information they need, whether it’s the general public or a major media outlet. Texas is going through one of its worst times in its history with this drought, so there is a real need for accurate information. I also do quite a bit of speaking to various groups, which again is part of our outreach efforts.”
For Nielsen-Gammon, studying the weather has been a passion since he was a seventh grader growing up near the California-Berkeley campus. Always interested in science, he got bit hard by the weather bug.
“I was always fascinated that in San Francisco, it could be 70 degrees but just a few miles to the east, it could easily be over 100 degrees,” he recalls. “I started to take my own measurements and make my own charts. I guess that’s where it all started.”
A few years later, he was off to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he earned three degrees. He joined Texas A&M in 1991 and has been active in teaching research ever since. In 2000, he was appointed by-then Gov. George W. Bush to be Texas State Climatologist, and in that role, he provides a wealth of data to whomever needs it ““ businesses, government agencies, educational groups or just the average Joe on the street.
He’s been honored with numerous teaching awards, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from The Association of Former Students and the Editor’s Award from the American Meteorological Society. Also, he has been named a Presidential Faculty Fellow by the National Science Foundation.
Previous winners of the Texas A&M Newsmaker Image Award include John Moroney, professor of economics; Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine; and Dean Bresciani, former vice president for Student Affairs. Also, group awards were presented to members of the College of Architecture’s Hazard Recovery and Reduction Center and to last year’s winners, which included five entities (Department of Oceanography, Texas Sea Grant College Program, Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University at Galveston) for their efforts in responding to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644