Press Release

University of Hawaii Professor G. Jeffrey Taylor Receives Carl Sagan Medal

By SpaceRef Editor
October 13, 2008
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Honolulu, HI – G. Jeffrey Taylor, Planetary Scientist at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is the 2008 recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science. The prize is named after Carl Sagan (1934-1996), a distinguished planetary scientist who, through public lectures, television, and books, contributed significantly to the public’s understanding of planetary science. The Sagan Medal is awarded by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society to recognize and honor outstanding contributions by active planetary scientists to the public’s understanding of, and enthusiasm for, planetary science. Taylor is the ninth recipient of the Sagan Medal and the first from the University of Hawaii.

Taylor is recognized for being both a successful researcher working at the cutting edge of planetary science and a sublime communicator in diverse professional, public, and educational forums. An HIGP faculty member since 1990, Taylor’s professional interests range from laboratory studies of rocks and meteorites to geologic field observations to remote sensing, all combined to understand planetary processes that operate on Earth, Moon, the planets, and asteroids. He is involved in planning future missions to the Moon and Mars, in the use of robotics for field geological studies, remote sensing mapping to understand planetary composition and geologic evolution, and developing methods to prospect for resources on the Moon and Mars. In addition, Taylor serves as associate director for space science for the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium and was Director, from 1998-2002, overseeing statewide K-14 educational programs in space science and exploration. He serves tirelessly at the university as academic advisor, teacher, mentor, and leader on a variety of teams and panels for NASA and the greater scientific community. Taylor’s achievements in scientific discoveries and publications are matched by his career-long, deep dedication to education and engaging the public in the excitement of science through workshops, public talks, and writing. “Jeff has had a long-term commitment to space education that, in the past, has included running teacher workshops in Hawaii, serving as the Director of the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, and in preparing interactive educational materials for compact discs,” says Peter Mouginis-Mark, Director of HIGP. “Thus it is particularly pleasing to see that he has won this award, named after that other great space science communicator, Carl Sagan.”

Taylor’s gift for science writing spans time, space, and audiences, including his novel, “Impact!”, coauthored with R. V. Fodor in 1979. Taylor’s first book for children, A Close Look at the Moon, was awarded the Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children in 1980 and was followed in 1983 by his second award- winning book for young readers, Volcanoes in Our Solar System. Taylor’s popular writing appears in Scientific American, Natural History, The Planetary Report, and Elements, among other publications. In addition, his opinions are sought by print and online science writers, and he appears frequently on radio and in television news and science documentaries. He has written an educational program on CD-ROM called Explore the Planets with Tasa Graphic Arts. Taylor’s educational products also include NASA classroom activities, a teacher’s guide on exploring the Moon, online hands-on activities (Exploring Planets in the Classroom:, and the exemplary online educational science journal Planetary Science Research Discoveries ( cofounded with HIGP colleague, Linda Martel. The PSRD website, now in its twelfth year, sheds light on the science questions that researchers are actively pursuing about our Solar System and explains how the answers are discovered and what they mean. Taylor’s ability to combine clear language and humor makes him one of the most enthusiastic and articulate voices in science today, very much in the tradition of Carl Sagan himself. “Jeff has made PSRD into the leading on-line resource for cogent, in-depth discussion of some of today’s most stimulating subjects in planetary science” says Mouginis- Mark. “It is the first place I turn to for informative analysis of current space science topics written in a sparkling and witty style.”

The Carl Sagan Medal was presented to Dr. Taylor during the DPS 2008 meeting on October 10-15 in Ithaca, New York.

Press Release written by Linda Martel, with edits from Edward Scott and Tara Hicks Johnson

For Interviews contact: G. Jeffrey Taylor, Professor, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1-(808) 956-3899,

SOEST Media Contact: Tara Hicks Johnson, 1-(808) 956-3151,

Medal Information: Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society

SpaceRef staff editor.