Input from the AMS Community on Geoscience and Human Health

Scientific discovery and innovation are central to the advancement of humanity. This is even more true now as the scale of human activities have grown to be large relative to the planet and the life-support services the Earth system provides. 

AMS is initiating a project to solicit and synthesize input from the AMS community on opportunities and challenges at the interface of health, geoscience, and the Earth system. This project is being conducted on an accelerated time frame in response to a solicitation from the National Science Foundation for rapid community input. We are particularly focused on developing new ideas from the AMS community on convergent, transformative, and applications-oriented (i.e., use-inspired) research that might be implemented immediately and show progress quickly (e.g., in a 2–3-yr time frame), while having positive impacts on both scientific advancement and societal applications of science over a much longer period. 

We have identified eight preliminary focus areas for discussion and anticipate the emergence of more opportunities for convergence throughout the crowdsourcing process. Our preliminary focus areas of convergence in health, geoscience, and the Earth system include: 

  1. Health and environmental co-benefits.
  2. Global change (including but not limited to climate change). Climate change is a crucial issue facing people and all life throughout the world. It is negatively impacting mental health of people everywhere.
  3. Pollution (air, water, soil). Global excess mortality from all ambient air pollution is estimated at 8.8 million/year. Pollution impacts both human health (e.g. cardiovascular and respiratory health) and environmental health (e.g., contribution to acidification and eutrophication, damage to crops and forests).
  4. Weather (routine and extreme). Extreme events pose multiple risks to individuals and communities, while even routine weather affects virtually every aspect of modern life and sector of the economy. 
  5. Nature’s contributions to people (biological systems, resources, and physical and mental health). Goods and services provided by biological systems include basic life support services such as relatively stable weather patterns and climate; fresh water; purification of air, water, and soil; flood and drought control; and pollinators for crops, among others.
  6. Infectious diseases and environmental variability and disruption. For example, environmental variability and change alters the prevalence and spread of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases as well as food and water-borne illnesses. 
  7. Co-benefits of convergent approaches to health, geoscience, and Earth system interaction (e.g., exercise-based transportation; sustainable communities; energy and health: air pollution and climate).
  8. Inclusion, equity, and justice in the geosciences and with the Earth system (psycho-social health connections). 
    1. Inclusion in advancement of health and geoscience (and the equity of inclusion).
    2. Equity in access to science and its benefits (service provision). For example, the AMS community has helped to identified that urban heat islands and flood risk is exacerbated by redlining practices.

Selected text from the request from NSF:

Geoscience and Human Health (GEO Health): Impacts and Mitigation of Impacts on Human Health Due to a Changing Natural Environment


Date: February 21, 2022


Preamble: The changing climate, increased pollution due a growing global population, and environmental disruption due to anthropogenic activities are having serious impacts on human health. As a result, humans are being exposed to new and changing patterns of disease and toxicity on land, at sea, and in the air. Geoscientists, from across all fields, have an opportunity to play leadership roles in ideating, implementing; designing use-inspired solutions; and building collaborations across the natural; physical; social; and medical sciences as well as involving impacted communities. both to help identify and also mitigate environmental changes and situations that contribute to increased human mortality and contagion.


Charge:  The charge to you, through the communities you represent, is to crowdsource ideas; topics; focus areas; and research and development roadmaps in the area of GEO Health, as well as identify required partnerships to tackle this issue.  Important will be identification of areas where important progress, outcomes, and/or high impact deliverable can be made within 2 to 3 years, although longer term investigations and strategies are also welcome. A critical element of this charge is a geo-community conversation on the value of the translation of research results to society and the economy to help us move forward through environmentally challenging conditions, while still protecting the environment and transforming the well-being and safety of people in addition to  driving prosperity, health, and national security.


Issues to be addressed:

  1. Identify the highest priority, most impactful, interdisciplinary/convergent challenges in GEO Health that can be addressed in the next 2 to 3 years.  Include a list of corresponding stakeholders, potential partners, and high impact deliverables to society and the economy. Do not limit your ideas to a single theme or topic. Longer terms topics are welcome and encouraged but should include what critical and impactful outcomes/products/concepts can be delivered in the 2–3-year timeframe.
  1. For each idea, create a roadmap to address the identified challenges and provide solutions. If possible provided timing of milestones and the delivery of high impacts results and technology. Indicate partnerships required to deliver on the promise.
  1. Provide ideas on the creation of an aggressive outreach/communications plan to inform the public and decision makers on the critical importance of geoscience to providing solutions, tools, utilities, and technologies to help overcome/address identified challenges/problems in environmental impacts on human health.
  1. Identify information, training, and other resources needed to embed a culture of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and translational research in GEO Health.