The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is scientific home to more than 200 researchers. Their collective body of work includes profound discoveries that span many decades and have strongly shaped our understanding of the planet. This year, five of Lamont’s outstanding scientists who study a range of planetary processes – from continental growth, magma formation, deglaciation, and ocean circulation to droughts and ocean acidification – received important honors from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
The AGU is the world’s largest Earth and space science society, with more than 60,000 members. Thus, recognition from this organization constitutes a substantial honor. This year the AGU named geochemist Sidney Hemming, Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Deputy Director for Education at Lamont, and climate scientist Richard Seager, Palisades Geophysical Institute Lamont Research Professor, to its prestigious roster of 2018 Fellows. No more than 0.1% of AGU members are elected Fellows in a given year.
Hemming is an isotope geochemist highly regarded for her studies of the history of deglaciation and ocean circulation from ice-rafted debris. Her research on understanding past environmental and climate changes has led her to take part in many oceanographic expeditions. Two years ago, Hemming served as co-chief scientist on an International Ocean Discovery Program expedition to obtain marine sediment cores from the seafloor around southern Africa. The goal of that expedition was to understand the history of the greater Agulhas Current during the past five million years and how it has been connected to southern African climate variations. Hemming received news of her fellowship this summer during a geological field trip to Botswana, Mozambique, and South Africa to sample sediments from the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers.
Seager is well known for his work on climate change and its impacts. Seager studies climate variability and change on time scales from seasons to millennia, with a particular focus on the causes of droughts and how climate change will impact global hydroclimate. One of his recent research findings has been the documentation an eastward shift of the boundary, approximately at the 100th meridian, between the humid eastern United States and the arid western plains, work that has brought attention and new understanding to an important aspect of climate change and its impacts on agriculture.
“Election to fellowship in AGU is highly competitive. This recognition of Sid and Richard indicates that a broad committee of their peers across all disciplines in Earth and space science has affirmed that their research contributions have been important advances of high scientific impact,” said Sean Solomon, Director of Lamont.
In addition, the AGU is awarding three Lamont scientists with section awards. Lamont Associate Director of Geochemistry and Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Steven Goldstein is to receive the Norman L. Bowen Award from the Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology Section. The Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Section is giving its Willi Dansgaard Award to Associate Professor Bärbel Hönisch and their Harry Elderfield Outstanding Paper Award to graduate student Kassandra Costa.
The Norman L. Bowen Award is given annually for outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry or petrology. Goldstein’s research involves using chemical and isotopic tracers to investigate deep Earth processes and climate change. His studies include the history of continental growth as well as magma formation processes at mid-ocean ridges, ocean islands, and island arcs. Previous recipients of this award have included Earth Institute Director and Lamont geochemist Alex Halliday and Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor Peter Kelemen. The Dansgaard Award is given in recognition of innovative interdisciplinary work, mentoring, and societal impact, and specifically recognizes significant contributions in the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section within 8-20 years post-degree. Dansgaard honorees show exceptional promise of continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology. Hönisch studies ocean acidification and particularly how marine ecosystems, productivity, and genetic diversity will respond to climate change.
“It is such a great honor to know my colleagues are thinking highly of my work, and I am humbled to follow the fantastic scientists that received the Dansgaard Award before me, including our own Jerry McManus,” said Hönisch. “Colleagues have often acknowledged the professional services I do, and it is such a joy to receive recognition for my scientific contributions as well. This is a first one for me.”
The AGU is presenting the Elderfield Award for the first time this year. Organization leaders say the honor is intended to promote excellence in the next generation of paleoceanographers and paleoclimatologists. Costa investigates the interface between climate, biogeochemistry, and the environment.
“The selection of our colleagues for these prestigious awards and honors recognizes their sustained and unique contributions to enlightening our understanding of the Earth and its atmosphere and oceans,” said AGU president-elect Robin Bell. Bell serves as Palisades Geophysical Institute Lamont Research Professor.
The awards are presented at the AGU Annual Fall meeting, which will be held December 10-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C