2022 Distinguished Geologic Career Award (MGPV Division)

Presented to Jane Selverstone

Jane Selverstone

Jane Selverstone
University of New Mexico


Citation by Zachary Sharp and Frank Spear

Jane Selverstone is a pioneer in the field of metamorphic petrology. Bringing together careful field work, detailed petrography, structural geology and sophisticated use of thermodynamics, she defines how research should be conducted. Her published works are beautifully-written with superb illustrations, presenting creative and cutting edge ideas that expand the research possibilities in petrology. She was instrumental in developing the thermodynamics for extracting quantitative P–T paths from chemical zoning in garnet with colleague Frank Spear. Her work in the Tauern Window was the first published P–T path based on these methods and was the seminal contribution in support of clockwise P–T evolution of orogenic metamorphic rocks.

A common theme in all of Jane’s research and her activities in general is consistent high quality. Whether playing violin in the Albuquerque symphony, or winning awards for her black and white photography or determining the chlorine isotope composition of a prograde metamorphic sequence, there can be no doubt that she would do it superbly. And everyone who has interacted with Jane knows what a kind and generous person she is. She has always been a great mentor to her students, a respected colleague at the University of New Mexico, an award-winning teacher, and an inspiration to young women scientists in STEM. It is always a special pleasure to work with Jane, whether in the field or in the geochemistry lab. Jane has worked on a broad range of research topics including geothermobarometry, fluid inclusion research in high-pressure metamorphic rocks, effects of deformation on metamorphic processes, discovering diamonds in the Alps, and most recently, and as she would say ‘unexpectedly’, technically challenging isotope geochemistry. She has unselfishly devoted much time in service to the Geological Society of America and is truly deserving of the MGPV Distinguished Geological Career Award.


Response by Jane Selverstone

Thank you, Frank and Zach, for those very kind words. I am profoundly honored to receive the MGPV Distinguished Geologic Career Award, particularly in a room full of others equally deserving of this recognition.

In addition to Frank Spear and Zach Sharp, I would like to express deep thanks to Jan Tullis and the late Peter Molnar for contributing to my nomination for this award. It is humbling and gratifying to have my career recognized by such an all-star cast, across such a range of disciplines. Thanks also to Lincoln Hollister, my undergraduate mentor and loyal supporter. Linc showed me how to read the histories of metamorphic rocks under the microscope. Frank, in turn, added thermodynamics to my arsenal during my incredibly stimulating years working with him at MIT. Peter taught me to keep an eye on the big picture, always. Jan took an interest in me at a time when there were few women in the geosciences; it was an honor to later spend a sabbatical with her, looking at how fluid composition affects rheology. Zach dragged me kicking and screaming into the stable isotope lab to document scales of fluid-rock interactions using chlorine isotopes.

Gerhard Franz and Giulio Morteani first introduced me to the geology of the Alps. I will always appreciate the fact that they urged me to come to the field before reading any Alpine literature, in order to see the rocks without any preconceived notions. Their friendship has been unwavering over the last four decades.

Gary Axen deserves special mention for our long and productive collaboration, combining structural and petrologic data from some of the ugliest metamorphic rocks on the planet to test hypotheses about the mechanical behavior of the crust.

Special thanks to all the students with whom I interacted over the years. It is hard to express in words the satisfaction and joy that came from working with you. I know that I let some of you flounder beyond your comfort levels, but I strongly believe that the best science comes from moments of discomfort. I would particularly like to mention Jaime Barnes, Kurt Steffen, the late Tim Wawrzyniec, Aaron Cavosie, and Alexis Ault. You challenged me relentlessly and kept me on my scientific toes.

Careers don’t come out of nowhere. Families matter. My parents encouraged me to read widely and deeply, allowed me to drop out of high school, and let me run wild among the rocks along the coast of Maine. My children, Ben and Sonia, think rocks are boring, but have been proud to have a professor for a mom. And my husband, David Gutzler, should win an award for his flexibility and patience over the years. I owe him so many brownie points that I will never get out of debt.

I will end with a quote from a poem by e.e. cummings that has guided me throughout my career: “I would rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance”. I have had the great good fortune to learn from many birds – human and geological – how to tell the stories encapsulated in metamorphic rocks. It’s been a fun ride.