2019 Rip Rapp Archaeological Geology Award

Presented to Kathleen Nicoll

Kathleen Nicoll

Kathleen Nicoll
University of Utah


Citation by Brenda J. Buck, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas

It is my pleasure to enthusiastically provide this citation for Dr. Kathleen Nicoll, winner of the 2019 Geological Society of America Geoarchaeology Division Award. Dr. Nicoll is perhaps the only woman geoarchaeologist with tenure at an R-1 academic institution who regularly and continuously conducts field-based interdisciplinary research in the Near East and Africa. She does research in places that are geopolitically difficult, and are especially dangerous and hostile to women. Despite many challenges, Dr. Nicoll produces outstanding scholarship. Importantly, as one of the few women to persevere in this field, she contributes a much-needed, new, and unique outlook to the practice and interdisciplinary science of geoarchaeology. Like many women in science, she has overcome sexism, gender bias, harassment and assault in both the field and lab, while still performing and contributing. The fact that in the 36-year history of this award, Dr. Nicoll is only the second woman to be recognized, is in my opinion, clear evidence that formidable barriers persist for women and other minorities.

Dr. Nicoll specializes in geomorphology and hydroclimate change of arid lands in the context of human adaptation. She successfully executes projects in North and South Africa, the Middle East, and the USA. Her research involves extensive fieldwork, excavation and mapping. She uses cutting-edge analytical tools, and sometimes directs >2000 volunteers to collect data to answer scientific questions. Her published work is highly cited, relevant, and innovative. Dr. Nicoll is incredibly active in promoting international scientific conferences, serving on editorial boards, reviewing copious numbers of journal articles and student awards, and serving in leadership positions in several scientific societies.

Dr. Nicoll is extraordinarily dedicated to discovering new localities and publishing her observations. Her professional service and commitment to science communication via Geomorphology Rules is astounding; her public outreach on social media informs millions every week in >50 countries.  Under her leadership, the GSA Geoarchaeology Division was the first to be active on social media platforms. Dr. Nicoll’s sustained, thoughtful, and articulate representation online is one of our best vaccines available to combat ignorance. We need engaged superstars like Dr. Nicoll who actively educate and communicate with the public about the value of our work.

Dr. Nicoll is a highly valued scientist with an absolutely amazing record of research, education, mentoring, outreach and service -- especially to the GSA Geoarchaeology Division. Her worldwide impact is truly profound.


Response by Kathleen Nicoll

Thank you very much for the recognition of this award. I am grateful for the Geoarchaeology Division of the Geological Society of America for providing a valuable forum for discussing the interdisciplinary “dirt sciences” – they led the effort to promote archaeology in context of Quaternary sciences and geomorphology.  I very much appreciate the generous support of my family, friends, mentors and colleagues throughout my career-to-date. I was lucky to have learned a lot from opportunities afforded by my PhD supervisor, C. Vance Haynes (a former awardee!) as well as Vic Baker and Andy Cohen, just a few of the many amazing professors at the University of Arizona.

The bedrock of my success has always been my family -- parents who encouraged me to be outside, look at stars and to jump into puddles and make mudpies. I thank Drs Emily and John Nicoll for unwavering encouragement, books and sandboxes. Looking back, I can credit my parents for initiating my career in geoarchaeology when I pursued a science fair project modelling Stonehenge in the 6th grade. My interest in cultural history, environmental change and landscapes was catalyzed in middle school classrooms, and I am grateful to all the teachers who inspired me to become a scientist and educator – particularly Dr Linda Poole.

I am glad to be employed and doing research in a discipline that is interesting and challenging. Pursuing my desert studies and field-oriented, discovery-based projects in far-flung places over these many years has not been easy. I especially appreciate the loving kindness and enthusiasm of my partner, Rich Cote and my sister, Shelly Nicoll. Gratitudes to my colleagues who support me, including those who wrote letters for this nomination: Peter Clift, Andrea Zerboni, Laura Murphy, Matthew Suriano, Itzick Shai, Jaydee Dolinar. It is an honor to share this achievement with all my friends - especially Prof Brenda J. Buck, to whom I am profoundly grateful for providing this award citation on my behalf.