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Citation by Ren Thompson and Amy Gilmer
A pioneer in field interpretation of complex volcanic terranes for over fifty years, Peter W. Lipman has served the geologic community through integrated geologic mapping based interpretive studies of the western continental United States and Hawaii. His field mapping and study of silicic caldera systems in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona have informed our understanding of how these systems develop and evolve. Peter’s maps have had major societal implications for volcanic hazards, geothermal resources, and the formation of hydrothermal ore deposits. He has mapped numerous caldera systems in the Southern Rocky Mountain volcanic field and has established a benchmark for linking magmatic process studies and modeling to geologic map constraints. His associated interpretive publications are vast and demonstrate the commitment to honoring fundamental field observations. This mapping legacy has afforded tremendous opportunity for targeted research in volcanology, petrology, ore deposits, and tectonics.
Response by Peter W. Lipman
I’m deeply grateful to the Geological Society of America for the Florence Bascom Award, named for the first woman scientist hired by the U.S. Geological Survey; it recognizes the core element in my career-long efforts to explore volcanic-eruption and magma-generation processes. Among several other awards from the Geological Society, I will especially treasure this one. Ever since William Smith published his map of England 1815, geologic mapping has provided the critical foundation for any study of earth processes.
Marvelous new analytical techniques for the study of volcanic rocks have been developed during my scientific career of the past 60 years, including high-precision geochemistry by micro-analytical methods, isotope geochronology, paleomagnetic polarity measurements, and geophysical methods to image subsurface features, but none of these can be applied reliably for process-oriented research unless the stratigraphic sequence and structural relations among sampled units have been determined reliably. Geologic mapping of appropriate rocks units, at suitable scale, provides the prerequisite underpinning for any associated geochronologic, petrogenetic, or geophysical investigations. As recognized by this award, making a geologic map is not an end product but rather the essential basic framework for improved understanding of geologic processes and concepts.
Geologic mapping is not a routine exercise; it is an art as well as science. So much of the geologic record is concealed or lost to erosion; available time typically does not permit examination of every available outcrop. Insightful intuition can be an important supplement to observation. Obtaining reliable interpretations from field study is detective work; rather like recognizing the picture image in a jigsaw puzzle from which most of the pieces have been lost. But a special delight for me in mapping a new area, where much is unknown, has been being on one’s own in the mountains, with a map and notebook, hammer, handlens, and compass. So much can be learned, with only these minimal tools and most importantly a perceptive human brain. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to study volcanic rocks in ten states of the USA, as well as Japan, Russia, and Mexico, mostly in places of scenic delights as well as scientifically fascination. What a special privilege!
I grew up in an 18th C farmhouse in southern New England, where the only rocks to be seen were glacially transported boulders, many from the Canadian shield, that had long been used for stone walls at margins of long-abandoned farmland fields. I was totally unaware of earth sciences as a topic of any interest, until starting technical rock climbing at college with fellow undergrads like Eric Cheney, who were majoring in geology. These interactions provided an initial hint of a possible career that could combine strenuous physical and intense mental activity with travel to scenic parts of the world. Before a fascination with geology took hold, I had been heading toward an undergraduate degree in American history, and I still consider myself primarily a rock historian. My transformation into a competent field geologist began during a wonderful summer as assistant to USGS mineral-deposit researcher Ben Leonard, who taught the basic field methods I’ve used ever since. At Stanford University as Bill Dickinson’s first grad student, rather amazingly I was allowed to start dissertation research after only two quarters of graduate study. Classroom studies had seemed a necessary chore, but the three summer of mapping, entirely by backpack in the scientifically spectacular and roadless Trinity Alps of northwestern California, activated an enthusiasm for field-based research that has continued to the present.
My special thanks for this nomination to Ren Thompson and Amy Gilmer, delightfully bookended as the first and the most recent among USGS postdocs who have collaborated with me. Also, my deep appreciation to the many summer assistants who have provided support and friendship during mapping projects. These have included Olivier Bachmann, Russ Burmester, Chris Huber, David Johnston, Gary Lofgren, John Pallister, David Sawyer, and Andea Sibisa. My geologic map work would also have been of far less significance if it had not provided the framework for interpretive studies developed and published in collaboration with more than 130 coauthors at the USGS and academia during the past 60 years. To list just a few of my most insightful collaborators: Shigeo Aramaki, Phil Bethke, Bob Christiansen, Michelle Coombs, Greg Davis, Mike Dungan, Cary Gazis, Jon Hagstrum, Ken Hon, Clark Johnson, Slava Kovalenko, Bill McIntosh, Jack Lockwood, Jim Moore, Tom Steven, Patty Weston, and Matt Zimmerer. Finally, whatever I’ve accomplished geologically could not have happened without the unending support by Bev, my tolerant companion and wife for 59 years.