2021 GSA International Distinguished Career Award

Presented to John P. Grotzinger

John P. Grotzinger

John P. Grotzinger
California Institute of Technology


Citation by Douglas Burbank

John Grotzinger’s pioneering research has re-shaped our understanding of the evolution of both Earth and Mars. He has fundamentally changed how we conceptualize the suite of processes and conditions that shaped their early history. Initially focused on Precambrian sedimentary and geochemical records, Grotzinger elucidated the co-evolution of Earth’s early oceans, atmosphere, and evolving biosphere. His diverse research underpins current understanding of Precambrian carbon fluxes, oxygenation of our atmosphere, and critical precursor events to the Cambrian “explosion.” From 2006 to 2015, Grotzinger was the Chief Scientist for the Curiosity Rover mission on Mars. He recruited and guided an extraordinary research team throughout a stunningly successful exploration of the role and persistence of water and resultant depositional systems on the “Red Planet.” Combining his striking insights and scientific creativity with enthusiasm, energy, and eloquence, John Grotzinger has inspired and illuminated generations of geologists. Such game-changing accomplishments define a truly “Distinguished Career!”


Response by John P. Grotzinger

I am very grateful to receive this award that celebrates the importance of shared research across continents. Since the time I was first able to work with the Geological Survey of Canada in 1979 I have appreciated the benefits, and the privilege, that come with studying rocks in foreign settings and with foreign colleagues. Each of these led to substantial collaborations with local geologists. But, from these experiences I learned what Robert Louis Stevenson observed: that there are no foreign lands, only the traveler is foreign and so I am indebted to those who helped me and my students work in their lands, and to sustain productive international collaborations.