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Global WarmingVetlesen Prize Ceremony Honors Two Distinguished Researchers in Earth Sciences

Vetlesen Prize Ceremony Honors Two Distinguished Researchers in Earth Sciences

Vetlesen Prize Ceremony Honors Two Distinguished Researchers in Earth Sciences

This yr, not one but two researchers were celebrated for his or her pioneering scientific achievements at a ceremony for the celebrated Vetlesen Prize held April 26 at Columbia University’s Low Library Rotunda. The event was introduced by Maurizio Morello, executive vp of the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, which created the prize, and emceed by Miles O’Brien, national correspondent for PBS NewsHour and the reporter, producer, and director behind the brand new film, Chasing Carbon Zero.

Two men and a woman in formal wear pose in front of a Vetlesen Prize backdrop

Vetlesen Prize winners David Kohlstedt and Anny Cazenave pose for a photograph with Miles O’Brien, the evening’s master of ceremonies. Photo credit: Lucas Hoeffel

Established in 1959, the Vetlesen Prize is considered one of the best honors within the earth sciences. At this yr’s celebration, it was presented to Anny Cazenave and David Kohlstedt “for scientific achievement leading to a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relations to the universe.” (Cazenave was the 2020 Vetlesen Prize recipient, but her ceremony was postponed until now resulting from COVID-19.) The researchers each received a gold medal and a $250,000 award to commemorate their accomplishments over the past several many years and were met with ample applause from the sharply dressed audience.

Earlier that day on the Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which administers the Vetlesen Prize, the 2 awardees gave lectures on their research journeys and the scientific questions which have propelled them forward of their careers. Cazenave gave a chat titled, “Present-day Sea Level Rise: The Role of Space Observations,” and Kohlstedt presented, “Living with Pressure: Adventures with Olivine & Beyond.”

Cazenave introduced the audience to considered one of the central questions in her current research: “How much will sea level rise, globally and regionally, over the following many years and beyond in response to ice sheet mass loss and ocean warming?” She detailed the primary time satellite altimetry was discussed in relation to oceanic measurements in a workshop by NASA back in 1969, and cataloged how much progress has been made in the sector and within the accuracy of space observations within the years since. The brand new challenge, Cazenave told the room, will likely be measuring sea level rise on the coastlines all over the world, which may have the biggest societal implications and where there are still many unknowns.

A formally dressed woman speaks at a podium

2020 Vetlesen Prize recipient Anny Cazenave accepts her award. Photo credit: Lucas Hoeffel

An emeritus scientist on the Laboratory of Space Geophysical and Oceanographic Studies in France and the previous director of earth sciences on the International Space Science Institute in Switzerland, Cazenave is an authority in space geodesy—the study of the Earth’s shape and other characteristics from space—and a pioneer in the sector of satellite altimetry. Her discoveries have improved our practical understanding of worldwide sea level rise and the way it has and can proceed to be affected by global warming.

While introducing the following recipient, Maureen Raymo, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School and the director and G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, described Kohlstedt’s laboratory research into the mechanics of the deep Earth as falling under “probably the most dangerous sector of experimental physics.” Raymo also noted that while he officially retired in 2019, Kohlstedt has not stopped working—an announcement he confirmed.

Man in tuxedo holds up a gold medal in a velvet lined box

David Kohlstedt holds up the 2023 Vetlesen Prize medal. Photo credit: Lucas Hoeffel

In his presentation, Kohlstedt discussed his pivotal transition from studying materials science to a storied profession in geophysics, and the numerous postdocs and mentors who supported him along the best way. Kohlstedt is currently an emeritus professor of earth sciences on the University of Minnesota. Formerly based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University, he has spent a few years performing experiments to review the Earth’s mantle by duplicating its high-pressure, high-temperature conditions within the lab and observing the outcomes on each atomic and scaled-up levels to provide insights for scenarios possible in the true world. His group’s findings have contributed to many key earth sciences disciplines, including structural geology, seismology, volcanology, and geophysics.

As Vetlesen Prize honorees, Cazenave’s and Kohlstedt’s names now perch atop a powerful and growing list of the good visionaries in earth sciences within the twentieth and twenty first centuries.


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