ORONO — University of Maine paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill is one of the inaugural recipients of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communication from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The awards recognize researchers and science journalists “who have developed creative, original work that addresses issues and advances in science, engineering and/or medicine for the general public,” according to the National Academies. Gill, associate professor of paleoecology and plant ecology with the UMaine School of Biology and Ecology and Climate Change Institute, received an award for the mid- to later career scientist category, which includes a $20,000 cash prize and additional networking and support for her science communication efforts.
In her profile on the awards website, the organization highlighted Gill’s outreach and advocacy on Twitter, her profile for which has garnered more than 100,000 followers; her columns in national publications such as The Washington Post and Nature; and her work on the Warm Regards podcast, which she co-created and co-hosted from March 2016 to March 2021. That podcast was one of five nominees for “Best Green Podcast” at the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards 2020 in Los Angeles.
“Gill is an engaging presenter who brings both passion and honesty to her communication,” the National Academies wrote about Gill on its website for the awards. “As a scientist, she has made a clear commitment to public outreach with a very effective and important voice in major social issues related to climate change.”
Gill studies past ecosystems, the impacts of climate change and extinction and the geographical distribution of living things through space and time. She has worked at UMaine since 2013, before which she was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University. Over the years, she has spoken about her research and several issues surrounding science, climate change and other relevant topics with media outlets worldwide.
The National Center for Science Education named Gill a 2020 Friend of the Planet in recognition of her efforts to advance people’s understanding of climate change through outreach and research. In 2018, she was a member of an international research team that took part in an expedition to Siberia to film “Lost Beasts of the Ice Age,” featured on Science Channel. Gill also was a finalist for the Portland Press Herald’s 2017 Mainers of the Year, particularly for helping start a conversation on Twitter that evolved into the March for Science on Earth Day at that time.
“We are at a critical moment in Earth’s history, where our choices today will decide the future of our climate, of millions of species and of humanity itself,” Gill says. “Scientists are on the front lines of these crises, as we work to understand our changing planet in real time. I believe scientists have a duty to use our voices to bear witness, to educate, to shape policy and to inspire action. That commitment underlies everything I do as a scientist, an educator and a science communicator. I’m honored to have that work recognized, and to be a part of such an inspiring cohort of amazing communicators.”