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2010 Awards: Citations, Replies

Richard Sibson (Wollaston Medal)

The winner of the Society’s senior medal this year is an internationally recognised structural geologist, who has revolutionised the understanding of faulting processes, earthquakes and fluid flow in the Earth’s crust. He has pioneered the integrated interpretation of fault zone structure in relation to earthquake rupture mechanisms and fluid behaviour and led the scientific integration of the seismological, geological and Earth resources research communities.

Richard (Rick) Sibson graduated from the University of Auckland in 1968, before taking up postgraduate study at Imperial College London, where he received his PhD in 1977. Appointed to a lectureship at Imperial in 1973, Rick moved to UC Santa Barbara in 1982 and then to the University of Otago in 1990, where he served as Head of Department for six years.

His work on an ancient fault zone transecting the islands of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland convinced him of the integral relationship between structural geology and seismology prompting him to build an important bridge between these two disciplines. Rick’s continued field observations of deformed rocks from exhumed fault zones and hydrothermal mineral deposits, together with his deep understanding of earthquake processes, mechanics and material science, have since formed the basis of a fundamental shift in our understanding of the relationship between seismogenic processes and fault zone rheology, as well as the origin of fault-hosted mineral deposits.

Rick’s research, particularly the outcomes of his productive time with the USGS at Menlo Park in 1981, has been the primary driver for progress in understanding the complexities and fundamental competition between brittle and ductile deformation and fault zone behaviour and fluid redistribution in the region of the Earth’s crust where earthquakes are generated. Rick’s unique development and application of frictional mechanics to fault reactivation in different tectonic regimes, has also defined the framework for understanding the long-lived activity of major crustal fault zones and provided detailed insights into the structural controls on basin history.

Rick’s work also helped define the scientific rationale and objectives of one of the most important drilling programmes ever undertaken in the Earth sciences – the NSF/USGS San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), and he has since contributed to the planning of a drilling programme on New Zealand’s Alpine fault.

Raising public awareness of earthquake hazard in the dynamic landscape surrounding the New Zealand plate boundary has also been integral to his mission. In addition, Rick’s research on the transient permeability generated by earthquake rupturing has revolutionised industry’s understanding of how fault-hosted hydrothermal mineralisation (particularly, gold) develops. Rick has convened eight successful high-level international conferences and in recent years has spoken widely on global oil depletion and its implications for the New Zealand economy.

Richard Sibson, your career has had a profound influence on both pure and applied geoscience during the last 30 years. It is my great pleasure now to present you with the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London.

Richard Sibson replied:

This year is the 175th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s earthquake - the 1835 Concepción earthquake in Chile - which, on February 27th, repeated in an M8.8 megathrust event. Once again, “the Earth, the very emblem of solidity…..moved beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid”. News of this award had a similar effect on me! I was humbled by the list of ‘Wollastonites’ which includes Charles Lyell, Robert Mallett, and Grove Karl Gilbert, all pioneers of earthquake science. Lyell, I revere in particular, because of his commentary on the great 1855 Wairarapa earthquake – “The geologist has rarely enjoyed so good an opportunity as that afforded him by this convulsion in New Zealand, of observing one of the steps by which those great displacements of the rocks called ‘faults’ may in the course of ages be brought about” - the first clear attribution of earthquakes to incremental fault movement.

Looking back, serendipity seems to have played such an important role. In 1969 I arrived at Imperial College and sat through John Ramsay’s wonderful flowing lectures, Neville Price’s ‘think of a number’ challenges, and Ernie Rutter’s algebraic rigour. All of it set me wondering whether anything fast and violent ever occurred in structural geology. At that time earthquakes were ‘fly-spots’ on maps and belonged to the ‘wiggle pickers’. Nonetheless, at the same time Nicolas Ambraseys and John Tchalenko in Civil Engineering were preparing detailed maps of an 80 km surface rupture in central Iran where 4 m of strike-slip had occurred in just a few seconds.

The choice of my PhD research arose through terror of the Alpine literature and an article by Peter Francis describing the ‘flinty crust phenomenon’ associated with the Outer Hebrides Thrust. Somehow I managed to persuade Janet Watson that ‘those awful rocks’ were worth studying. Demonstrating that the pseudotachylyte so widespread in the Hebridean gneisses represented paleoearthquakes was enormous fun, though the enduring message has been its comparative scarcity worldwide. A lectureship at Imperial College nurtured my teaching skills in the stimulating company of Neville Price, Ernie Rutter, John Cosgrove, Stan White, Barry Atkinson, and John Moore.

Work in the Outer Hebrides suggested that the base of the continental seismogenic zone might be controlled by the onset of crystal plasticity under greenschist facies conditions. In 1981 I seized the opportunity to compile microearthquake depth distributions at the USGS in Menlo Park, California. To Tom Hanks, Dave Hill, Bob Wallace, Bill Ellsworth, and many others I owe enormous debts for my seismological education, which continued on at UCSB. There followed instruction on fluid activity and mesozonal lode gold in the ductile roots of ancient fault zones in Archean Canada under the generous tutelage of Francois Robert and Howard Poulsen (GSC).

I am grateful beyond words to the Geological Society for this award, to my parents who let me fly free, to all my colleagues and students, and most importantly to my wife Francesca Ghisetti – best of companions. Thank you all very much indeed.

Bill Ruddiman (Lyell Medal)

The winner of this year’s Lyell Medal, Bill Ruddiman, has made major contributions to both the theory and practical assessment of long-term and abrupt climate changes during the Cenozoic. He has published prodigiously and written or edited several books, the most recent of which won the 2006 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science. His influence, it is no exaggeration to say, has been inspirational and revolutionary.

During the 1970s and early 80s Bill spearheaded research that reconstructed the state of the North Atlantic Ocean during the last glacial stage, and the transition to the present interglacial. This demonstrated the crucial effect of the changing position of the North Atlantic Polar Front on oceanic circulation, and atmospheric climate in the North Atlantic region - from which emerged our current ideas about meltwater forcing, and of the ocean conveyor, on abrupt climate change.

In the late 1980s, Bill turned to the role of mountain and plateau uplift in forcing climate change. He and his collaborators re-examined the evidence and made the proposal that a significant component of the Late Cenozoic cooling, and the increased differentiation of wet and dry climates on various continents, had been caused by uplift.

For several decades Bill has written prolifically on Milankovitch Theory, advancing a number of new ideas about feedback mechanisms. An important focus of this research was his analysis, with co-workers, of a major shift in the periodicity of northern hemisphere ice sheet cycles – revealing a transition from a dominant 41,000 year cycle ( in the Pliocene and early Pleistocene) to a strong 100,000 year cycle more recently. This work clearly suggested that these fundamental shifts in periodicity involved ice volume changes.

Arguably Bill’s most significant contribution to science, and perhaps his defining legacy, is his theory that humans began to alter the course of climate change as early as 8000 years ago. He has proposed a possible role of early agriculture in explaining this divergence from the natural norm. Bill’s identification of the key differences in early greenhouse gas trends between this and previous interglacials is an important new topic that is now beginning to be widely recognised and addressed. It is the focus of his book Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate, for which he was awarded the 2006 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award.

Bill Ruddiman, please accept the Lyell Medal of The Geological Society of London.

Bill Ruddiman replied:

Some scientists win geoscience awards like the Lyell Medal because they relish long hours in the lab and come up with important findings. Others are superb innovators of new techniques for measuring geo-bio-chemical proxies. Many excel at 'dirty boots' field work. Still others stay in climate-controlled labs and apply their numerical talents in creating models of processes at work in Earth's climate system. No one has ever suggested that a single one of these skills applies to me.

So why this award? The one area for which I give myself credit is coming up with credible new ideas. These ideas emerge from: the experience needed to spot interesting problems that seem unsolved; the skepticism to explore how and why the conventional answers are inadequate; the patience to wrestle with semi-plausible explanations long enough to narrow the possibilities to a fully plausible one; and the fortitude to resist being easily dissuaded by strong criticisms.

For me, new ideas have only come about once every decade or so, but that has been enough to keep me happily occupied (and funded!) for 45 years. I am most proud of the 2000's early anthropogenic hypothesis, and almost as proud of the 1980's-1990's idea that Tibetan uplift has been central to Cenozoic cooling. I think both ideas will outlive their critics.

I credit several colleagues for making my career enjoyable and productive: above all, John Kutzbach, who taught dozens of us in the COHMAP project about the wise use of climate models in understanding regional variations in Earth's response to orbital forcing; John Imbrie, who introduced dozens of us in the CLIMAP project to time-series analysis of orbital-scale climatic signals; Andy McIntyre, a colleague on polar-front work in the North Atlantic and subsequent efforts in the equatorial Atlantic; Tom Webb, co-leader of the COHMAP project; and the graduate students who broadened my horizons --- Maureen Raymo, Alan Mix, Peter deMenocal, Ned Pokras, and Glenn Jones. Maureen broadened my early work with John Kutzbach on the physical effects of Tibetan uplift in altering jet-stream and monsoon circulations by adding the crucial insight that increased chemical weathering of rock debris on Himalayan slopes caused by intensified monsoon rains would have led to long-term CO2 drawdown.

After 45 years in this field, I still love the basic challenge of paleoclimate science - trying to figure out how complicated things are interconnected.

Randall Parrish (Murchison Medal)

Randall Parrish, winner of this year’s Murchison Medal, trained as a geologist and geochronologist. In the 1980s he used a cyclotron to synthesize the isotope 205Pb and distributed this to 50 world laboratories. This generous act sparked an explosion of U-Pb dating and heralded major advances in techniques and applications.

Having built up the geochronology laboratory at the GSC in Ottawa into one of the leading U-Pb dating laboratories, he moved to the UK in 1996 and proceeded to fundamentally renew the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory (NIGL) at the BGS in Keyworth, making this facility a world leader in many areas of isotope geoscience.

Randy can be credited with an amazing number of “firsts” in his chosen field: the discovery of inherited monazite in granitic rocks, the first modern application of detrital single zircon dating to sediment provenance; his landmark paper on monazite U-Pb geochronology; the first use of monazite dating for precise timescale calibration and tandem U-Pb and Sm-Nd isotopes on single detrital monazite for provenance fingerprinting, several innovations of in situ U-Pb dating by microbeam sampling – the list of these achievements is both breathtaking and accompanied by innovative geological applications. Yet, his isotope research has reached far beyond geochronology, for example, by using U isotopes to demonstrate that while inhaled depleted uranium oxide (DU) may linger in the body for life, it is unlikely that Gulf War Illness was caused by DU exposure.

Randall Parrish is, in short, one of the world’s leading geochronologists, at the forefront of major innovations in U-Th-Pb geochronology and its applications. He has made fundamental contributions to tectonics by his fieldwork and tectonic syntheses with dozens of PhD students primarily in the Canadian Cordillera and the Himalaya, and has continuously produced major innovations in the application of mass spectrometry to earth and environmental science.

Aside from these scientific contributions he has led large research groups very successfully through inspirational and astute scientific leadership and management, and has embraced and encouraged the ethos of collaboration with the community of UK and international scientists to address major science problems and train young scientists for the future.

Randall Parrish, please accept the 2010 Murchison Medal of the Geological Society.

Randy Parrish replied:

It is a great privilege to have been chosen as 2010 Murchison medallist and to unexpectedly find myself in the company of very distinguished past winners.

I am very fortunate to have intersected many inspirational scientists as mentors, research colleagues and students, and had the company of many a mass spectrometer. My parents, brother and sister all played pivotal roles in encouraging me to do what I wanted. I got stuck into geology because of Peter Coney in Vermont during my B.A. during the period when plate tectonics was becoming a palatable model to most continental geologists. Like Peter, I was keen on understanding the complex response of the continents to plate dynamics, and I just couldn’t escape the attraction of working out the age and pace of geological events. I was then mentored during my MSc & PhD by Dick Armstrong in Vancouver, who truth be told, was one of the most intuitively gifted, influential and underappreciated isotope-oriented earth scientists of the latter 20th century. He showed me that you don’t need the fanciest lab or kit to make a huge impact, and that one can make a difference by being open-minded and adaptable, and talking to people in other science disciplines.

When I moved to Ottawa to work for the GSC, its leaders allowed me to risk resources to do unconventional things in geochronology, and work with many MSc and PhD students; two geochronology colleagues were crucial to me during this period – Tom Krogh and Chris Roddick, and the influence of Paul Hoffman, John Wheeler, Jim Monger, Kip Hodges and Simon Hanmer didn’t go amiss. With about 20 field seasons in the Cordillera, Canadian Shield and Himalaya I better understand how to holistically approach tectonic problems with isotopes and help students do the same. I seemed to have been given enough rope that I managed never to hang myself, or have any ghastly field incidents! In Ottawa I met my volcanologist-geochemist wife Caroline Edwards, who persuaded me nearly sight unseen that I should migrate to the UK. The last 14 years here have been enormously enriching and diverse scientifically in part because of collaboration with Gavin Foster, Nigel Harris, Mike Searle, Clare Warren, many UK PhD students I’ve worked with, Tony Fallick at SUERC (who has mentored me in ways he doesn’t realise), and my too-many-to-name colleagues at NIGL, NERC and Leicester.

Finally the support and banter of my wife, children Nina and David, and extended family and friends have been vital to my accomplishments. I very much appreciate this unexpected honour from the Geological Society.

Henry Posamentier (William Smith Medal)

The William Smith Medal is awarded for excellence in applied geology. For developing rigorous understanding of sedimentary successions, with direct impact on the successful exploration and production of hydrocarbons, there can be few more worthy recipients than Henry Posamentier. For his research has driven two of the great advances in understanding the rock record: sequence stratigraphy and seismic geomorphology.

A product of the US northeast, Henry studied in the City College of New York, moving to Syracuse for his Master’s and doctorate. After flirting briefly with academia, Henry built a career in the oil industry, starting in the seismic stratigraphy group at Exxon. Henry landed at the right place at the right time. The growing volume and quality of seismic data primed new insights into the evolution of stratigraphy, and its division into genetically related intervals.

This was seen as an inherently dynamic process, driven by fluctuating sea level - emphatically not Lyellian uniformitarianism, but something new that changed our view of sedimentary rocks. Henry was the lead author on a series of fundamental papers that put sequence stratigraphy on the map. After the annus mirabilis of 1988 when they were published, further significant contributions cemented sequence stratigraphy’s role as a fundamental tool for the interpretation of the sedimentary record, leading to successful exploration in deepwater clastic successions – the “new frontier”.

The advent of better data - high-quality 3D seismic data - also underpinned Henry’s second significant contribution. Seismic geomorphology is still young, but Henry is a pioneer. Henry has developed and promoted the use of seismic attribute maps to image depositional architectures so that the methods are now in routine use to trace out such hydrocarbon reservoirs as sandy submarine channels. Here, perhaps, the present is the key to the past, in that traces of ancient landscapes can be extracted from 3D data and interpreted just as one might interpret the modern sea floor or landscape.

Henry Posamentier, the oil and gas industry uses the approaches that you pioneered daily, to establish correlation frameworks and to characterise the geometry of hydrocarbon reservoirs. You are indeed a worthy recipient of the Society’s William Smith Medal for 2010.

Henry Posamentier replied:

I am highly honored, flattered, and humbled to receive the 2010 William Smith Medal. It is quite a thrill to be here in this hall in the shadow of giants and to be honored with a medal that bears the name of one of my heroes of geology making this very special, indeed.

This has been an amazing journey for me, starting from my early days growing up in New York City, my parents being new immigrants to the United States from Austria. To this day, people ask me how and why a chose a path of geology, given my upbringing in that urban jungle. It began for me much as it began for many a geologist – with a love of nature and love of the outdoors. It began simply, with geological field trips in the heart of New York City, and continued on to Alaska and many other parts of the globe. Along the way I have had many mentors, friends, and family to thank and acknowledge for all that they have taught me through the years. It all began with my first geology teacher, Simon Schaffel, to whom I will be eternally grateful for inspiring me with the thrill of geology. His unabashed love of geology was contagious and has never left me.

Many years later I had the good fortune of working with and being mentored by one of the giants in stratigraphy, Peter Vail. He was a role model for me in many ways, not the least of which was the way he encouraged and supported those he worked with, how he brought the best out of us all, and the way in which he created a climate of applied imagination and creativity. There were many others along the way in virtually every country I’ve lived and worked, who freely shared their insights and enthusiasm with me, but there is one other person to whom I owe an extra debt of gratitude. I could not have travelled the road I chose nearly as effectively had I not had the good fortune of having worked with David James, both a mentor and a lifelong friend, who with his patience and willingness to share his expertise in clastic facies depositional systems and stratigraphy, opened new worlds for me.

Lastly and most importantly, I thank my family for sharing this journey with me; it hasn’t always been easy for them. My wife, Ceri, has provided a strong family foundation despite our many moves and has always had a very unique way of keeping me grounded while providing unconditional love and support. My children, Joshua, Jordan, Michelle, Emma, and Rebecca, my true pillars of reality, I thank each of them for their unique brand of love and support.

Richard Curtis Selley (Coke Medal)

Our second Coke medal this year is awarded to one of the UK’s best known and most highly respected sedimentologists, Richard Curtis Selley, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Fellow of Imperial College London.

Dick Selley has made significant contributions to pure and applied geology, the latter mainly in petroleum geoscience, but also lately in “geoviticulture”. A true innovator, he helped to place sedimentology centre stage in hydrocarbon exploration, and has approached the geology of wine in a wholly new and above all practical way.

Dick, who is described by many as a “hero of the revolution” in sedimentology, through the 1960s and 70s published a series of papers diagnosing ancient sedimentary environments from Scotland, Arabia and Africa through studying their bedforms, structures, lithology and sequence. This research was synthesised in his book “Ancient Sedimentary Environments and their subsurface diagnosis” which has never been out of print since the first edition was published in 1970.

In his approach to geoviticulture, he has researched the effects of our ever-changing climate on the northern limit of viticulture. His studies are summarised in another excellent book, “The winelands of Britain, past present and prospective”, and have led directly to the establishment of one of the largest vineyards in Europe, at Denbies near his home town of Dorking.

Hundreds of petroleum geology students who have passed through his legendary MSc course in Petroleum Geology at Imperial owe his vivid teaching a huge debt. He has Chaired the Imperial College geology department, served as Vice President and Hon Secretary, Foreign & External Affairs, of this Society, chaired the External Relations Committee, Fellowship and Validation Committee, Professional Committee, and the Royal Society’s Earth Resources Committee. He has also found time to serve on the Council of the GA, the PESGB, the Science Council, the Council of the European Federation of Geologists and the Executive Committee of the European Association of Geological Societies and many more – the list seems endless. He has received the Society’s Murchison Fund and the Petroleum Group’s Silver Medal. Happily, Dick is not one to confuse this eminence with pomposity.

Dick Selley, you are a worthy winner of the Society’s Coke Medal and it gives me the greatest pleasure to award it to you now.

Dick Selley replied:

I thank Council for this award and you ma’am for your generous words. Medallists commonly look back gratefully to the mentors who guided them to the podium of the Geo-Oscars. I met my four main mentors when I joined Imperial College as a research student in 1961. Douglas Shearman was my research supervisor – I use the term loosely. Within two months I was co-opted to co-author a paper with John Sutton, Janet Watson and Doug Shearman, as great a trio of geo-godparents as anyone could desire. In that winter Dan Gill, the Professor of Oil Technology, gave me my first consulting assignment mapping a Millstone Grit anticline in the Pennines. The result was Hebden Bridge No. 1, the first of the many dry holes that punctuate my career. It was Professor Gill who sent me off into the oil industry to the deserts of Africa and Arabia, to the Arctic and to the North Sea in the glory days of the 1970’s. I was a member of Conoco’s team that found the Hutton, Lyell and Murchison fields, though every well that I sat was dry. Having acquired the sobriquet ‘dry hole Dick’ I returned to Imperial College.

This was when John Knill, a man to whom the Geological Society owes so much, established the Institution of Geologists to promote geology as a profession (The IoG in due course merged with this Society). When I was in the oil industry I saw the contempt with which geologists were regarded by engineers, lawyers and accountants. We were not seen as professionals, and did little to help ourselves by turning up at technical meetings shaggy and suntanned and looking as if we had just come off the beach or a building site. I was caught up by John Knill’s enthusiasm for promoting geology as a profession and have spent much time and attracted considerable academic obloquy for following his lead. The fourth mentor that I met when I arrived at IC in 1961 was Professor Sutton’s secretary. She typed my PhD thesis, married me and has alternately followed me around the Earth or stayed at home to bring up our family. She is the star of my four mentors.

So thank you once again for this Coke Medal – it’s the real thing.

Euan Neilson Kerr Clarkson (Coke Medal)

Euan Clarkson is a palaeontologist of international standing with a sustained and distinguished record of publication and teaching. He has authored some 110 papers and other publications, including a book that is widely regarded as the ‘standard’ palaeontological text for undergraduates.

Euan Clarkson has specialised in trilobites since his time as a research student at Cambridge University, where he was supervised by Martin Rudwick. He first distinguished himself via his influential studies of trilobite vision and ocular structures, which led to comparative studies of other living and fossil arthropods. He has since made a wide-ranging contribution to our knowledge of the palaeobiology, evolution and palaeoecology of trilobites.

It was while investigating the Carboniferous Granton Shrimp-Bed near Edinburgh that Euan made the very important discovery of the ‘conodont animal’. The biological affinities of conodonts, tooth-like phosphatic microfossils used as key markers in Palaeozoic biostratigraphy, had been a matter of keen debate for a century prior to Euan’s unearthing that they are part of the feeding apparatus of small eel-like chordates. Euan Clarkson has also made substantial contributions to Palaeozoic stratigraphy, especially in Scotland and Ireland.

As a teacher Euan is and has always been inspirational - both “remotely”, through his textbook Invertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution (which is used almost universally by British, European, North American and Australasian universities) and personally in his courses at Edinburgh. Indeed, legend has it that one of his undergraduate courses at Edinburgh at its peak attracted 120 students - of whom 30% were biologists!

Euan Clarkson is an unashamedly old-fashioned academic (as his interview ‘So you want to be a Professor’ on the Palaeontological Association website shows) but is better viewed as a fine all-round scientist. In modern university personnel parlance he has performed outstandingly in all three key-indicator areas of Teaching, Enabling and Research.

Euan Clarkson, you are indeed a worthy recipient of the Coke Medal of the Society.

Euan Clarkson replied:

It is a very real honour for me to be awarded one of the two Coke Medals for the year 2010, and most unexpected. I have many people whom I would like to thank; my biology teachers at school who took me out in the field to study rocks for the first time, and Oliver Bulman, Bertie Brighton and Martin Rudwick who stimulated my interests in geology and especially palaeontology when I was a student in Cambridge. My first love in geology was the Jurassic of the Cotswold Hills, near where I was living then, and I can only hope it remains such a delight to new generations as it was to me. Subsequently the late Sir Frederick Stewart, and Gordon Craig, gave me a permanent job at Edinburgh University in 1963 and also, along with Ken Walton and others, a fledgling knowledge of the magnificent geology of the Edinburgh district and southern Scotland. The study of these marvellous Ordovician to Carboniferous rocks, their fossils, sediments and tectonic setting, especially in the company of my colleague Brian Upton, has been an inspiration to me for nearly 50 years, but there were always the equally fascinating trilobites to return to.

My teaching colleagues at Edinburgh, and my research colleagues in Britain, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, Germany, Hungary, USA, China and Argentina have been infinitely stimulating and have expanded my perspectives immensely. And now, having returned to arthropod vision Dr Brigitte Schoenemann has explained to me all the physics I should have known about long ago! To all those who have supported me so greatly over the years, and those who proposed me for this honour, and to the Geological Society of London, I tender my warmest thanks.

Sara Russell (Bigsby Medal)

The Bigsby Medal of the Society goes this year to Professor Sara Russell of the Natural History Museum.

Sara Russell is a leading international figure in the field of meteoritics, whose research addresses fundamental questions concerning the formation of the solar system and planets. She has published 56 peer-reviewed papers, is a collaborator in a number of international research teams and contributes to various national and international working groups and bodies. She is also a strong communicator of science to the public.

Sara Russell has used a wide range of techniques to address the processes in the early solar system through the study of meteorites. Her research has enabled her to establish the relative formation times of different components of the solar nebula, and to test hypotheses concerning conditions within it. She has also used elemental geochemistry and mineralogy to understand the relationship between the different components of primitive meteorites, and to place constraints on their formation.

Sara Russell’s breadth of knowledge and ability to apply it across the spectrum of extra-terrestrial science has led to her being invited to serve on various national and international working groups and bodies. She has contributed to PPARC and NASA activities, is Chair of the Gordon Conference on the ‘Origins of Solar systems’, and has led a successful bid to establish an EU-funded Marie Curie Research Training Network, ‘Origins’, involving eight partners from the UK, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy, in investigation of early solar system processes using primitive meteorites and samples from the NASA Stardust mission.

Her research abilities are also recognised in the broader space science community, and has had the honour of having an asteroid named for her by the International Astronomical Union.

Sara Russell, please accept the Bigsby Medal of The Geological Society of London.

Sara Russell replied:

I am astonished, thrilled and honoured to be given this award. I am humbled to join the illustrious list of recipients who include many of my personal heroes.

I would like to mention how I ended up in the obscure field of meteoritics. My original career plan was to study Physics and to eventually go into Astrophysics. On my first evening as a Cambridge undergraduate reading Natural Sciences, my student mentor advised me to switch from Physics to Geology, because the geologists host better parties. I soon learnt that this fact was absolutely true, but perhaps more importantly, the Earth scientists had an infectious enthusiasm and dedication for their work that was truly inspirational. I did indeed switch to read Geology, and eventually found my vocation in studying meteorites, that allow me to use geological techniques on real rocks, but still to have my head a little in the clouds.

There are many people I would like to take this opportunity to thank. At Cambridge, Jim Long first introduced me to meteoritics and the joys of microanalysis. I would not have become the scientist I am today without the guidance of my PhD supervisor Colin Pillinger from the Open University, and my postdoctoral supervisors Gerry Wasserburg and Glenn MacPherson. At the Natural History Museum I am lucky to be surrounded by supportive and intellectually stimulating colleagues. Finally, I would like to thank the Geological Society for this entirely unexpected but wonderful award.

Peter Furneaux Friend (Prestwich Medal)

When Peter Friend began his career in the late 1950s, sedimentology was just emerging as a discipline. Peter was one of a small group of UK researchers, including John R L Allen and Harold Reading, who set it on the route to becoming a very significant part of modern geology.

Initially Peter’s contribution lay in studies of Devonian fluvial deposits, recognised and shared by his fellow ‘Friends of the Devonian’. Peter’s research students would work on everything from volcaniclastics to carbonates, but he remained mainly focused on fluvial systems, attending all of the first six congresses of fluvial sedimentology, at some of which he presented now standard ‘review’ papers. His studies of the Cenozoic in Spain led to insights into the geometry of fluvial sandstone bodies that led subsequently to modern ideas of fluvial architecture now fundamental to the interpretation of these successions in the subsurface.

Peter’s papers are some of the most significant in terms of understanding how fluvial channel bodies are arranged in stratigraphic successions – and setting the stage for contemporary concepts of how alluvial architecture is created. He also recognised the importance of considering fluvial systems at the large basin-wide scale, and their tectonic controls. This notion is now commonplace, but Peter was involved in the earliest stages of development of ideas in this area.

Throughout his career, Peter has acted as an ambassador for scientific cooperation and has encouraged other scientists to develop their own ideas and fields of study. He has shown generosity to younger researchers and colleagues. His research students includes academics of international renown, as well as many who have risen to the highest levels of industry. All those who have worked with Peter over his 50-year career at Cambridge speak warmly of his unerring enthusiasm; but it is his personal approach that is remembered, and which many who have worked with him aspire to emulate.

Peter Friend, it is my pleasure to award you the Prestwich Medal of the Society for 2010.

Peter Friend replied:

One of my retirement projects has involved preparing maps of the morphology of Britain, with the idea of helping the public to enjoy landscapes more. This has made me increasingly aware of the importance of the Tertiary and Quaternary in the creation of our landscapes. Joseph Prestwich was able to combine his travels for the family wine business with investigations of Cenozoic stratigraphy and human history, providing a fine example of the value of curiosity, wide interests and field work. I have been really fortunate to be able to follow this same approach so freely.

My general interests in landscapes arose from family excursions around our home in Scotland. As a school-boy member of the Edinburgh Geological Society, I met many famous and kindly geologists. I was delighted to discover the wide interests of Sir E.B.Bailey, the legendary Highland geologist, who, for example, guided us across the floor of a post-glacial lake near Edinburgh, advising us that we would not be detained there, even though we were in the grounds of what was then called a lunatic asylum.

As a student at Cambridge I became caught up in the excitement of studying the High Arctic bedrock of Spitsbergen, where my supervisor, W. Brian Harland, ran a programme of broad geological exploration for almost fifty years. Although I dabbled there in mapping the topography, in the study of the amazing Old Red Sandstone vertebrates and plants, as well as the tectonics and the sediments, I soon responded to the challenge of the new subject of Sedimentology and the foundation of the British Sedimentologists Research Group. Understanding sedimentation in space and time offered exciting challenges, and much opportunity for teaching and learning. For example, John Allen and I, with patient helpers, discovered how intriguing active sedimentation can be, as we followed a group of intertidal megaripples over an entire year on the strongly tidal and periodically stormy coast of present-day Norfolk.

I am hugely grateful that I have been able to follow such diverse interests in so many different places, helped by so many friends. Thank you to the Geological Society for doing so much to foster this approach.

Dorset & East Devon Coast World Heritage Site core team (R H Worth Prize)

The R H Worth Prize goes this year not to one person, but a group. Prof Denys Brunsden (former chair Dorset Coast Forum), Tim Badman (Dorset CC), Malcolm Turnbull (Dorset CC) and David Andrew (Devon CC) formed the core team that in 2001 achieved designation for the “Jurassic Coast” as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This has proved invaluable to informing and inspiring a vast range of people about geology and geomorphology.

The Jurassic Coast is the only “natural” world heritage site in England, and one of only two in the UK. It stands alongside 176 World Heritage Sites designated for their natural significance, alongside the Great Barrier Reef, the Sumatran rain forest, the Grand Canyon and the Galapagos Islands, and quite right too.

The possibility that the Dorset and East Devon coast might qualify for World Heritage status was first identified in the “Global Indicative List of Geological Sites” drawn up by UNESCO, IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and the IUGS (International Union of Geological Sciences). It was then raised at a meeting by Professor Denys Brunsden in 1994, where theidea was picked up by Dorset and Devon County Councils. Denys, Tim Badman, Malcolm Turnbull and David Andrew then actively moved the process forward with the increasing involvement of other local organisations. They are also representatives of a much bigger team of contributors who enabled the achievement of World Heritage listing.

‘World Heritage Site Proposal - a Statement of Intent by Dorset and Devon County Councils and the Dorset Coast Forum’ was published in 1998 and sent to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for inclusion in the Government’s Tentative List for UNESCO. The rest is history.

The work of gaining this UNESCO designation has resulted in continuing benefits for the public, amateur geologists and the wider geological community. Denys Brunsden, receiving the award on behalf of the team; it gives me great pleasure to recognise your joint achievement in the award of the R H Worth Prize, 2010.

Zoe Shipton (William Smith Fund)

The William Smith Fund goes this year to Dr Zoe Shipton of Glasgow University.

Zoe Shipton's research lies at the interface of structural geology and fluid flow, especially concerning CO2. She is at the forefront of using statistical methods to predict fault zone character in the subsurface using field and in situ studies to calibrate linked hydro-mechanical finite element modelling.

Upon completing her PhD in 1999, Zoe worked with Jim Evans at Utah State University developing her own research programme on fault growth and earthquake ruptures, fault zone permeability and deformation of high porosity sandstones. Since moving to Glasgow, Zoe has re-established the Department's reputation as a centre for structural geology. She has also developed collaboration with Midland Valley Exploration, to understand sources of interpretation uncertainty in geological models. Zoe's research has a strong multi-disciplinary collaboration with international researchers. Zoe has already supervised 12 PhD students with a 100% completion rate, and will be moving this July to take up a Research Professorship in the University of Strathclyde.

Zoe Shipton, the award of this Fund recognises not only your fundamental contribution to understanding fault localisation and growth, but also the importance of this work for developing underground CO2 storage.

Kirsty Penkman (Lyell Fund)

The Lyell Fund of the Society goes this year to Kirsty Penkman, of York University, who has almost single-handedly revived the role and reputation of ‘amino acid dating’ in the UK, demonstrating its true viability and potential.

This particular dating methodology received a bad press in the UK towards the end of the last century, when some of the assumptions it employed were called into question. Working closely with geologists, biologists and chemists, Kirsty has undertaken a root-and-branch review of the scientific principles and analytical procedures that underpin the technique. The results of her incisive and painstaking research have increased the confidence with which amino-acid chronology can now be applied to a range of stratigraphical and palaeontological questions.

Kirsty Penkman, you have achieved a huge amount and demonstrated an ability to work across disciplinary boundaries. Please accept the Lyell Fund of the Geological Society of London.

Margaret Wood (Distinguished Service Award)

The Distinguished Service Medal for 2010 goes to Margaret Wood.

Margaret originally trained as a geography teacher but became a Research Scientist at the University of Manchester, where she worked on Moon rocks and on apatite minerals as proxy for dental fluoride.

As Head of Humanities at the Kingsway School, Cheadle, she instigated a programme of geology fieldwork in Anglesey. As Area Geologist and National RIGS Coordinator, she was appointed to initiate the RIGS movement in Wales and has since been pivotal in raising public awareness of Earth science throughout the country.

Margaret created the Association of Welsh RIGS Groups in 1994, and commissioned many RIGS projects throughout Wales, including limestone pavements, MINESCAN (a survey of all metal mines in Wales), and many more. She also instigated the Welsh RIGS Forum programme, worked tirelessly as Facilitator for Earth Science Education Unit, chaired Gwynedd & Môn RIGS Group for 13 years, and the Association of Welsh RIGS Groups.

Margaret also helped obtain funding from the Welsh Assembly Government to set up a geoconservation audit for North West Wales that has since been adopted throughout Wales. She also masterminded the development and application process for Anglesey as a GeoPark - recognised since 2009 by the European Geopark Network and UNESCO Global Geopark Network.

Margaret Wood, it gives me great pleasure to award you the Distinguished Service Medal of The Geological Society of London.

Laura Robinson (President’s Award)

The third President’s Award for 2010 goes to Dr Laura Robinson, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Since 2006, Laura has been a Scientist, at Woods Hole. Prior to this she worked as post-doctoral Fellow in Geochemistry, California Institute of Technology, won the Comer Fellowship for Palaeoclimate Research, following her graduate studies at Oxford University. She has already won several other prestigious awards, including the 2003 Geochemistry Option Postdoctoral Scholarship, CalTech, the Vice Chancellor’s Award at the University of Oxford and the 2010 Marie Tharp Advance Fellowship at Columbia University.

Laura, you have already packed much into your young career, from collecting deep-sea corals from a submersible, to collecting samples in New Zealand, Antarctica, Chile, the Bahamas and Hawaii for geochemical analysis and conducting geological surveys in the Atacama Desert, Belize, New Zealand and Spitsbergen.

It is my great pleasure to reward the highly promising career start you have made with the President’s Award of The Geological Society of London.

Tom Dunkley Jones (President’s Award)

Our second President’s Award this year goes to Tom Dunkley Jones, who is Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College.

His research concerns understanding the evolution and controls on the Earth’s climate during the Paleogene period, with a particular focus on the interrelationships between the biologically mediated marine carbon cycle and global climate. His PhD, from the UCL Department of Earth Sciences, focused on the response of low-latitude coccolithophore communities to rapid global cooling across the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.

Tom sailed as a nannofossil palaeontologist on the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 320, one of two forming the “Pacific Equatorial Age Transect” or PEAT. This recovered a near-continuous record of equatorial Pacific oceanography from the start of the Eocene to the present.

Tom won the Palaeontological Association’s Sylvester Bradley Award in 2007 and The Micropalaeontolgoical Society's Charles Downie Award, 2010 for best paper based on PhD research.

Tom Gernon (President’s Award)

The President’s Awards, with which we begin this ceremony today, recognise outstanding talent in very early career geoscientists. These are in my personal gift – no committees, no voting, just me. So it gives me particular pleasure to make the first of this year’s three awards to Dr Tom Gernon, currently a permanent lecturer in Earth Science at the University of Southampton.

Tom’s potential was acknowledged early on, when he won the Young Scientist of the Year award for Ireland in 2000 and the European Young Scientist Alumni Prize. His dissertation map completed at University College Dublin won the Cunningham Prize of the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Tom moved to Bristol for his PhD, which was funded by De Beers and supervised by Professor Steve Sparks, Dr Mark Gilbertson in the Mechanical Engineering Department, and Dr Matthew Field from De Beers. The project was based on initial observations that suggested that pyroclastic deposits in kimberlite pipes might have been be fluidised. Tom carried out mapping at major mines in South Africa and Botswana, as well as experiments on fluidisation in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Tom’s outstanding research has fully realised his early promise and he has since taken up lectureships at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of Southampton.

Tom Gernon, it is my great pleasure to recognise your outstanding early achievements with this President’s Award of the Society.