2022 GSA International Distinguished Career Award

Presented to Anke Friedrich

Anke Friedrich

Anke Friedrich
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich


Citation by Marjorie A. Chan

Dr. Anke Friedrich is endowed Professor and Ordinaria of Geology at the Department of Geo and Environmental Sciences of the Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich, Germany. With her home roots in Germany, over the last two decades she has been very active in GSA and was a founding member of the GSA International (GSAI) Committee, bringing new and innovative ideas to foster international collaboration.

There is no doubt that Dr. Friedrich is an established and internationally recognized scholar in tectonics, tectonic geomorphology, and global stratigraphy. Anke is already recognized as a GSA Fellow, and she has significant publications in dynamic topography, mantle flow, and crustal deformation in locations around the globe with numerous international collaborators. Her earlier work about the recognition that collision can be short-lived and about the reconciliation of discrepancies between geological and geodetic data continue to be regarded as landmarks by the community. The geodetic network that Anke oversaw as a CalTech postdoc over two decades ago, became the gold standard for future programs, including NSF’s massive Plate Boundary Observatory, spanning the western United States. Her efforts demonstrate creativity, imagination, energy, and enthusiasm in addressing fundamental problems in active tectonics that are also crucial for assessing natural hazards. More recently, her contributions have focused on the development of a new mapping approach that allows the quantification of vertical motion of the continents through unconformities and hiatus surfaces on the continental scale. As a by-product, she visualized the effects a rising mantle plume exerts on the Earth’s surface and recently proposed a stratigraphic framework to map such events. These kinds of activities are only possible with global cooperation and by building bridges between the subdisciplines of geology, such as theoretical geophysics and stratigraphy. Anke has proven herself to be a master of soliciting and maintaining international cooperation. Thus, now the discipline of global stratigraphy provides a robust theoretical framework for the stratigraphic sequences in the whole world. This is arguably one of the most important projects in geology in our days and has already borne useful fruits.

In her native Germany, Dr. Friedrich rapidly rose to full professor, which was extraordinary in the very traditional German system. Now at the best German university in geoscience, she has developed one of the nation’s top research groups that reflects her vision, strengths, and leadership. In her active and dynamic program, she oversees a significant group of scientists, technicians, and staff, to produce a strong and consistent professional publication record in top journals of her field, supported by research funding from German foundations. She has mentored over 10 PhD students and provides professional growth opportunities to encourage their success. Professor Friedrich is an accomplished field geologist and outstanding teacher, who employs succinct explanations and clever visualizations. She is able to quickly and memorably explain difficult concepts in field geology, tectonics, and sedimentary basins, and helps bring that sense of discovery for students as well as colleagues.

Dr. Friedrich served on GSAI’s board and was chair (2012-2014) and has continued as an active participant ever since its inception. In addition, she expanded the scope and developed the opportunity for over a dozen European students to attend GSA and GSA-hosted field trips at the 2015 GSA Annual meeting in Baltimore, MD. Anke has graciously hosted international visitors from the U.S. and other countries, such as Turkey, helping many experience the geology of Germany and the Alps. Dr. Friedrich also developed the idea of a GSAI Booth to publicize and attract new GSAI members since 2014. It is clear that she has been instrumental in making GSAI a success.

Anke’s scientific work covers areas of Europe, Canada, the U.S., Africa, Iran, Oman, and more. Although there are many scientists that work internationally, few build the community like Dr. Friedrich. Through her distinguished career of science and service, she has strengthened the inclusiveness of GSA as a whole. She fosters diversity, equity, inclusivity, and collaborative geological explorations across geopolitical boundaries, while adding her spirited intellectual curiosity, boundless enthusiasm, and charismatic leadership. Anke has always been exceptional at building bridges and making opportunities for others. This includes building cordial relations with GSA Divisions to promote international and GSA's globalization. Her positivity for removing barriers is what truly builds the international spirit of GSAI.

It is worth noting that Anke’s international spirit was evident even as an undergraduate student from Germany to the U.S., when in 1990 she was the most successful University of Utah woman skier in NCAA history with three individual NCAA titles in Slalom and Giant Slalom. She received the Utah Ski Team’s Outstanding Skier award in 1989 and 1990, and had worked to help build a strong, inclusive team culture in which everyone felt encouraged to succeed. This same spirit carried over to her geologic endeavors where she strives to make opportunities for many people to build team cohesion and confidence that enables those around her to experience success.

Anke Friedrich is a superb example of what international science should be and can be. Her encouragement of international collaboration is one of unparalleled impact and inspiration, and we honor her with the well-deserved 2022 GSA International Distinguished Career Award. Congratulations Anke!


Response by Anke Friedrich

To be recognized for connecting disciplines and people internationally means a lot to me. I am grateful to my colleagues, collaborators, and students who stimulate me to perform as friends or opponents. I am highly motivated by this award. The GSA International structure is unique because it enables global participation while embracing GSA's members across disciplines. Discipline and Section strait-jackets hamper GSA's global engagement. Therefore, we seek suitable formats by which GSA's international members feel welcome and engaged. Coincidentally, my geological research also links disciplines, and international student field trips across the western US desert and the Alps are enriching.