By Marielle Argueza
CSUMB and NASA scientist Forrest Melton received NASA’s Outstanding Public Service Medal. According to NASA, the medal is “awarded to any non-governmental person or a person who was not a government employee during the period in which the service was performed for sustained performance that embodies multiple contributions to projects , NASA programs or initiatives. ”
Since 2003, Melton, a principal investigator at CSU Monterey Bay and NASA, has worked for the Biospheric Sciences branch of NASA’s Ames Research Center, with the goal of developing better frameworks for the assimilation and application of data. Much of his work focuses on the management of natural resources, particularly evapotranspiration and agricultural water requirements.
His work has led to projects such as the Irrigation Management Support System by Satellite (SIMS), the Earth Observation and Forecasting System (TOPS), and the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX).
To receive the Medal for Outstanding Public Service, Melton had to meet several criteria, including that his sustained performance had significantly improved NASA deliverables, that his record of achievement set a benchmark for other non-governmental contributors to follow, that he made a substantial improvement to a NASA program producing high quality results or improvements, and that he had a lasting impact on the agency.
“I was really surprised and honored,” Melton said after winning the award. “I didn’t know I was nominated.
His work has a wide scope. It has been included in the National Climate Assessment for the United States and the Climate Explorer for the Climate Resilience Toolkit, both of which are conducted as part of the United States Global Change Research Program. His work was even included in the climate documentary Years of living dangerously.
But he is most proud of knowing who is able to use the tools that are produced from his work.
“The biggest highlight for me is that we are now providing data and information to agricultural producers and water managers across the West, like individual farmers, who not only have access to information but can start using it to help address the acute drought conditions and water management challenges we face in the West,” Melton said.
The specific citation for the medal, provided by the NASA Division Chief, reads: “For outstanding service to NASA and the nation in promoting innovative uses of Earth science observations from NASA to improve water management decisions.”
Susan Alexander, professor and chair of the Department of Applied Environmental Sciences, says her teaching and mentoring are equally exemplary.
“Forrest’s scientific leadership and accomplishments are impressive and significant. However, his commitment to CSUMB students and his passion for mentoring new scientists are equally impactful,” writes Alexander. “Forrest has guided dozens of students from their early research experiences to acceptance into top-tier doctoral programs and ultimately government jobs and tenure-track faculty positions. Her sincere commitment to students and her impact on their career advancement and professional development is a highlight of her work at CSUMB.