Much Deserved Award Presented to Dr. Jill Baron

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Every two years, the U.S. Geological Survey reviews top scientists for possible promotion to Senior Scientist (ST) - the highest level that a federal research scientist can achieve.

USGS recommendations for advancement to ST Scientist are subject to the availability of ST slots and Department of the Interior approval, as there are only 544 ST slots in the entire Federal government. Of those 544, the DOI only has 60 slots for ST scientists and there have only been three female ST Scientists in the past – ever! FORT ecologist Dr. Jill Baron was recently named ST Scientist, and is the fourth woman to receive this honor in the USGS! There are now three acting female ST scientists in the USGS: Jayne Belnap, Susan Haig and Jill Baron. It’s time to “toot some horns!”

Jill Baron at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dr. Baron first decided to become a scientist when inspired by her high school biology teacher. She wanted to, “work in nice places and use science to help protect them.” Jill has definitely achieved that goal and so many more.

In 2002, the U.S. Department of the Interior honored Dr. Baron with the Meritorious Service Award, the second highest Departmental award that can be granted to a career employee. Since then she has been diligently following her passion: studying atmospheric deposition and its effects on alpine lakes and surrounding ecosystems.

In early 2012, Dr. Baron was honored with two National Park Service (NPS) awards. She is the recipient of the 2012 NPS Intermountain Region Regional Director's Natural Resource Award for “research in air quality, nutrient cycling and climate change that applies locally and internationally, for work that has been instrumental in applying research findings to challenges in NPS management.” Dr. Baron received the 2011 Rocky Mountain National Park Stewardship Award “for cooperative efforts advancing the long-term protection of Rocky Mountain National Park.” In 2012, she was also elected President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the world’s largest professional society for the science of ecology.

Jill Baron by a rock slide in RMNP.
Jill Baron on a rock slide in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.

Dr. Baron is a principal investigator for the Western Mountain Initiative and founder of the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Earth System Science Analysis and Synthesis. The Western Mountain Initiative’s primary objective is to understand and predict the responses of Western mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change, emphasizing sensitivities, thresholds, and resilience. She is the founder and co-director of the Powell Center and says, “As an ecosystem ecologist I know the complex issues facing society can only be addressed through collaboration. The synthesis of ideas from many disciplines and experiences allows us to learn from each other, to develop a kind of collective intelligence that I think leads to faster breakthroughs in understanding. I have the most fun pulling together great teams so we can do that.”

To maintain her new status as a Senior Scientist, Jill’s future responsibilities will include producing more outstanding research and making new scientific contributions, maintaining her status and reputation as a thought leader in the community, continued collaborations and definition of her field of study, and the demonstration of integrity and character. She will be expected to achieve outstanding results, inspire and develop people, and lead innovation and positive change. She will be known as an ambassador for the USGS and DOI. As a member of the group of highest ranking scientists, she will be in some ways, one of the most visible scientists in the Federal Government. She is and will remain a role model and mentor for generations of scientists – especially women. She will set a standard for integrity and bring her experience and wisdom to the table by sharing her advice with the scientific community on various advisory boards and professional societies. 

Says David Hamilton, director of the Fort Collins Science Center where Dr. Baron is stationed, “Dr. Jill Baron has had a tremendous impact on her fields of science, on USGS program directions, and on the lives and careers of her fellow colleagues and graduate students. Her work on nitrogen biogeochemistry, mountain ecosystems, and adaptation to and effects of climate change is internationally recognized as innovative, groundbreaking, and authoritative. The quality, quantity, and depth of her published work serve as an impressive testament to Jill's creativity, scientific stature, work ethic, and dedication to science. All this coupled with her selfless collegiality and leadership for collaboration on a multitude of subjects are a testament to Jill's selection as a USGS Senior Scientist.” Congratulations Jill, we are all very proud and honored to work with you!

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