Influential Black Earth Scientists

Our list of influential Black Earth scientists is composed of leaders in the field who are paving the way for the next generation of Earth scientists. They are doing groundbreaking work in areas like hydrology, geochemistry, oceanography, education, and meteorology.

Influential Black Earth Scientists

Top Black Earth Scientists from the Last 30 Years

  1. J. Marshall Shepherd
  2. Paul Goodloe
  3. Charles E. Anderson
  4. Dawn Wright
  5. Thelma Glass
  6. Warren M. Washington
  7. Christopher Jackson
  8. Evan Forde
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According to the National Science Foundation, Earth science is the study of the Earth’s structure, properties, processes, and four and a half billion years of biotic evolution. Earth scientists may work as geoscientists, hydrologists, agricultural and food scientists, environmental scientists, and meteorologists, among others.

Historically speaking, diversity in the geosciences has been lacking. According to the American Geosciences Institute, the percentage of Black and African Americans working as environmental scientists and geoscientists fluctuated between 1% and 7.8% between 2005 and 2019. As such, the National Association of Black Geoscientists and the advocacy group Black in Geoscience exist to inform students about career opportunities within the geosciences and to encourage them to take advantage of scholarships, grants, and loans created specifically for minority students. The advocacy group Black in Geoscience’s goal is to aspire for equitable representation of Black Geoscientists and all scientists from historically underrepresented groups in STEM within science and society.

Scholars in the field of Earth science are working in areas such as academia, government, and the private sector. Areas of research include earthquake hazards, hydrogeology, hydrometerological extremes, and urban climate, to name a few. Influential Black Earth scientists are making incredibly important contributions to the field as well, including:

  • Rufus D. Catchings is working in the area of induced seismicity.
  • J. Marshall Shepherd is exploring the intersection of atmospheric sciences with society.
  • Dawn Wright, a geographer and oceanographer, is an authority on geographic information system technology. She is both a professor and a chief scientist for Esri, a company which is an international supplier of GIS software.

20 Influential Black Earth Scientists From the Last 30 Years

The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.

Influence is dynamic, therefore some of the Earth scientists listed are contemporary scholars while others may be more historical figures. In either case, according to our AI, these are the most cited and searched Black Earth scientists over the past 30 years.

Find out more about our Methodology.

This list is arranged alphabetically

  1. Hendratta Ali

    Hendratta Ali
    Hendratta Ali is a geoscientist who does work in hydrology, aqueous geochemistry, exploration geology and equity geoscience. Her home institution is the Department of Geosciences at Fort Hays State University. She was awarded the 2021 Geological Society of America Randolph Bromery award and Fort Hays State University President’s Distinguished Scholar Award. Ali is a native of Cameroon.
  2. Charles E. Anderson

    1919 - 1994 (75 years)
    Charles E. Anderson was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Meteorology. He was a dean at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Biography Higher education and army life Anderson was born August 13, 1919, in Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. His mother and father were from Mississippi. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry in 1941 from Lincoln University and received high accolades as he graduated third in his class. Lincoln University was also the place where he met his wife-to-be, Marjorie Anderson. Upon graduating, World War II had begun and enlisted in U.S. ...
  3. Estella Atekwana

    Estella Atekwana
    Estella Atekwana is a geophysicist studying biogeophysics and tectonophysics. She is currently Dean of the College of Letters and Science at University of California, Davis. She previously served as Dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of Delaware. She is also an adjunct professor at both the University of Waterloo and the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Before joining the University of Delaware in 2017, she was the Department Head of the Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University. She is a Regents Distinguished Professor and a...
  4. Ayodeji Babalola

    Ayodeji (Ayo) Babalola is a computational geophysicist, and machine learning and software engineer. Babalola received his master's and PhD in Geophysics from the University of Houston and is currently working toward his MS in Computer Science at Georgia Tech. Babalola has worked as a research geophysicist and software engineer for FracGeo, EarthSystems Technologies, Inc., and is currently a machine learning software engineer for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

  5. Randolph Bromery

    1926 - 2013 (87 years)
    Randolph Wilson Bromery was an American educator and geologist, and a former Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst . While Chancellor, Bromery established the W.E.B. Du Bois Archives at the University of Massachusetts, and was one of the initiators of the Five College Consortium. He was also President of the Geological Society of America, and has made numerous contributions as a geologist and academic. During World War II, he was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flying missions in Italy.
  6. Rufus D. Catchings

    Dr. Catchings has been a Research Geophysicst for the US Department of Interior's United States Geological Survey (USGS) since 1981. Catchings served as Chief Scientist for the Earthquake Hazards Team, 2005–2008. Dr. Catchings' scientific interests include seismic evaluation of the subsurface, particularly as it relates to earthquake and other hazards, groundwater and other resources, and tectonics. Catchings also develops seismic methodologies. He has conducted numerous studies and served as advisor for more than 60 local, state, federal, and international government agencies, and private organizations. He has served as research advisor for 15 M.S. and Ph.D. students. Catchings has more than 430 published works, including journal articles, reports, conference papers, and abstracts. Alma maters: Stanford University PhD in Geophysics, University of Wisconsin–Madison MS in Geophysics, and Appalachian State University BS in Geophysics.

  7. Roby Douilly

    Roby Douilly is Assistant Professor of Seismology at University of California, Riverside. Douilly was born and rasied in a subburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Experiencing the 2010 7.0 magnitute Haiti earthquake, Douilly decided to study geophysics. He found his opportunity at Purdue University, where he received his master's and PhD in Geophysics. He's written on seismology, tomography, Earthquake source mechanisms, and dynamic rupture modeling related to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. At UC Riverside, Douilly's research focuses on understanding the structure and dynamics of the Earth's crust through the use of seismic imaging techniques and on investigating the effects of fault geometry and background stress on earthquake rupture propagation using computational models.

  8. Evan Forde

    Evan Forde
    1952 - Present (70 years)

    Evan B. Forde is an American oceanographer at the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He was the first African-American scientist to perform research in a submersible. Forde is widely considered an expert on the formation of submarine canyons and his recent research uses satellite sensors to analyze atmospheric conditions related to hurricane formation.

  9. Mack Gipson

    Mack Gipson
    1931 - 1995 (64 years)
    Mack Gipson, Jr. was an American geologist who became the first African-American man to obtain a Ph.D. in Geology. The first African-American geologist to earn a PhD in the US was Marguerite Williams, who earned her degree in 1942. Dr. Gipson’s career spanned decades in the petroleum industry as well as decades in academia.
  10. Thelma Glass

    Thelma Glass
    1916 - 2012 (96 years)
    Thelma Glass was an American civil rights activist, noted for helping to organize the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, and a professor of geography. Biography Glass was born Thelma McWilliams in Mobile, Alabama, to a hotel cook and homemaker. She graduated from Dunbar High School and attended Alabama State University and Columbia University.
  11. Paul Goodloe

    1968 - Present (54 years)
    Paul Goodloe is an American television meteorologist, currently working for The Weather Channel . Goodloe has been with TWC since 1999. He currently co-anchors Weekend Recharge with Felicia Combs and is a field reporter.
  12. Robin Kelly

    Dr. Robin H. Kelly has studied and worked for , United States Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. She holds a PhD in Ecology from CSU Fort Collins. Since the mid 1990's she'd worked on nearly three dozen published research projects. Much of her focus is on grassland ecosystems, specifically shortgrass steppes, and crop rotation practices in South America.

  13. Christopher Jackson

    Christopher Jackson
    1977 - Present (45 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Tectono-Stratigraphic Evolution of Rift Basins, Salt Tectonics, Deep-water Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
    Christopher Jackson, is a professor of geology at Imperial College London. He earned a B.Sc and a Ph.D from the University of Manchester. Jackson's work has focused on the evolution of sedimentary basins through stratigraphic, structural, and geodynamic forces. His revolutionary work has earned him a reputation as the leading interpreter of geological and seismic data of his generation.

    He is perhaps best known for his work on Expedition Volcano, which was a BBC-produced documentary of extraordinary depth, investigating two of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. Along with fellow researchers and scientists, such as Xand Van Tulleken, Jackson explored the geology of the crater floors and even spent a week camping next to a lava lake 350m down. They were hoping to provide insights that would be useful for early warnings before volcanic activity, as well as to better understand how proximity to the volcano was impacting the lives of everyday people.

  14. Zelma Maine-Jackson

    Zelma Maine-Jackson, also known as Zelma Jackson-Maine, is an American hydrogeologist at the Washington Department of Ecology known for her long-term role in environmental remediation of nuclear waste at Hanford Site, for which she was covered in the Daughters of Hanford feature of Northwest Public Broadcasting in 2015.
  15. Folarin Kolawole

    Folarin Kolawole is an upstream structural geologist whose research involves field observation, subsurface geophysical imaging, and geomechanics to investigate the early stages of continental rifts and faults. An Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, he's studied rift evolution and interplate seismicity in various areas of the US, South America, and Africa. Specifically, Kolawale studies how new sedimentary bases form and discplace older basins, how industiral activities aggrevate ancient faults, interplate earthquakes. Education: Bachelor's in Technology from Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria, and MS in Geology and PhD in Geophysics from University of Oklahoma.

    Sources: Columbia Climate School, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Folarin Kolawole.

  16. J. Marshall Shepherd

    James Marshall Shepherd is an American meteorologist, professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Geography, director of the university’s atmospheric sciences program, and 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society . In 2020 he was awarded the AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science. In 2021, he was elected to the U. S. National Academy of Engineering.
  17. Anthony Osei Tutu

    Dr. Anthony Osei Tutu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Arizona. Tutu has conducted research and taught at The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, which is the national research center for Earth Sciences in Germany. He's also taught and conducted research at University of Potsdam and Regent University College of Science and Technology in Ghana. Education: BS in Geomatic Engineering at University of Science and Technology, Ghana; MS in Environmental and Geomatic Engineering from Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy; and PhD in Geophysics from University of Potsdam, Germany.

  18. Warren M. Washington

    Warren M. Washington
    1936 - Present (86 years)
    Warren Morton Washington is an American atmospheric scientist, a former chair of the National Science Board, and currently senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
  19. Lisa White

    Lisa D. White is an American geologist and Director of Education and Outreach at the University of California Museum of Paleontology. White is a former Professor of Geosciences and Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University. She was elected to the California Academy of Sciences in 2000 and as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2009. White was awarded her PhD in 1989 from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
  20. Marguerite Williams

    1895 - 1991 (96 years)
    Marguerite Thomas Williams was an American geologist. She was the first African American to earn a doctorate in geology in the United States. Early years and education Marguerite Thomas was the sixth of six children born to Henry C. and Clara E. Thomas. She attended Washington Normal School #2, now known as the University of the District of Columbia. She graduated from the two-year teacher-training program at the University of the District of Columbia in June 1916, with a scholarship to Howard University. Kelly Miller of Howard University delivered the address to the graduates and a song, wr...
  21. Dawn Wright

    Dawn Wright
    1961 - Present (61 years)
    Dawn Jeannine Wright is an American geographer and oceanographer. She is a leading authority in the application of geographic information system technology to the field of ocean and coastal science, and played a key role in creating the first GIS data model for the oceans. Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute . She has also been a professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University since 1995 and is a former Oregon Professor of the Year as named by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the ...

This list is far from exhaustive; if you have a suggestion for someone to add, please contact us.

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Key Associations for Black Earth Scientists

  • The American Geosciences Institute, whose mission is to represent and serve the geoscience community by providing collaborative leadership and information to connect Earth, science, and people.
  • The National Association of Black Geoscientists, as mentioned above, exists to inform students about career opportunities within the geosciences and to provide financial support to students pursuing degrees in Geology and Geophysics.
  • Black in Geoscience, whose mission is to acknowledge, amplify, and support the work of Black earth and planetary scientists from around the world.
  • The Association for Women Geoscientists encourages the participation of women in the geosciences, while also enhancing their professional growth.

For more the most famous Black scholars of the last 30 years, visit our Influential Black Scholars page. If you want more in Earth science, visit our Earth Sciences page to find more influential Earth scientists, top colleges and universities for Earth science, and more.

Other Influential Black Scholars by Academic Discipline

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