2022 Laurence L. Sloss Award

Presented to Judith Totman Parrish

Judith Totman Parrish

Judith Totman Parrish
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Idaho


Citation by Stephen T. Hasiotis

Judith (Judy) Totman Parrish, Professor Emerita, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, is honored with the Sloss Award in recognition of her pioneering work in deep-time paleoclimatology, her leadership in science and education, and her extraordinary service to the Geological Society of America (GSA) and to our profession as a whole.

For nearly 45 years, Judy’s passion for her interdisciplinary approach to sedimentary geology has evolved through her career: beginning as a biologist, transforming into a geologist, applying her bio-geologic training as a research scientist to global paleoclimates, moving into public service as geologist for United States Geological Survey and then as a professor and dean in academia, as well as serving GSA. Judy’s distinguished career demonstrates that the journey to innovation, success, and leadership is replete with life-learning and formative experiences.

Judy’s interdisciplinary research comes from her diverse background in geology and biology, including paleontology, sedimentology, paleoceanography, and paleoclimatology. This breadth of education shaped her scientific career. Her first major interdisciplinary contribution was to model paleoclimate using the paleogeographic maps of the Paleomap Project and first principles of atmospheric dynamics to interpret paleoclimate and make predictions about future findings. Key to reconstructing deep-time paleoclimates was the interpretation of paleoenvironmental settings recorded by distinctive lithofacies, such as coals, evaporites, phosphorites, and organic-rich rocks. This fundamental research still serves as the basis for interpreting deep-time paleoclimate. Her research continued to evolve with study of the carbon cycle, upwelling and petroleum resources, and high-latitude Cretaceous climates, resulting in important contributions on Cretaceous facies at high latitudes integrating paleobotany and paleoclimatology. Judy also published several very significant articles in books on the distribution of siliceous rocks, on global paleogeography and paleoclimates of the Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary, and on paleo-upwelling and organic-rich rocks. Her pioneering research was summarized in the book, Interpreting Pre-Quaternary Climate from the Geologic Record, outlining her methodology and interpretations in reconstructing deep time climates. Judy has made an astounding number of contributions to GSA and to such scientific organizations as the AGI, NSF, and SEPM. She has chaired and organized symposia, served as reviewer for and editor of its journals, and has held numerous positions including president, past-president, and interim director. She was instrumental in several NSF initiatives in sedimentary geology, including the creation of STEPPE––Sedimentary Geology, Time, Environment, Paleontology, Paleoclimatology, and Energy––a program partly administered by the GSA. In addition to her research and academic pursuits, Judy found time to travel the world, build live-long friendships, become a pilot and own her own plane, and learn to ride and own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

I cannot think of a more worthy, distinguished, and active awardee that parallels the creative research in sedimentary geology and devoted service to GSA as was Professor Sloss himself. Congratulations to Judy on being named the 2022 recipient of the Laurence L. Sloss Award in recognition of her outstanding interdisciplinary contributions to the field of sedimentary geology.


Response by Judith Totman Parrish

Thank you, Steve, for your very kind words. I asked Steve Hasiotis, a long-time friend and colleague, to write my citation because the person who nominated me, Prof. Robert E. Garrison, passed away in in November, before learning his nomination was successful. I am grateful to Bob and the Sedimentary Geology Division for this honor and would like to share a bit about him. Bob was one of my mentors when I was a graduate student in Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz. He had unshakeable faith in my abilities, despite the fact that I transferred from the biology graduate program and knew nothing about Earth sciences except what I’d absorbed by osmosis from various outdoor experiences. Although my biology background prepared me somewhat for paleontology under my dissertation advisor, Léo Laporte, I had to scramble to learn enough Earth sciences to make sense of the fact that fossils, though once living, still must be interpreted in the geological context in which they are found. Bob’s courses made sure I understood sedimentary rocks, and his teaching influences me to this day. I took carbonate petrography from him, and my most recent work in the Navajo Sandstone has me using those very tools all these years later. Bob was an extraordinary geologist and an expert on marine microfossils and the geological effects of upwelling, and he indirectly launched my career in paleoclimatology, even though paleoclimatology was not the subject of my dissertation. When I arrived at the University of Chicago, Fred Ziegler told me he had been approached by Amoco to apply his Paleogeographic Atlas Project to the “paleolatitude of oil”, which on its face makes no sense. Fred asked me what I thought about that, and I said, “Sounds like you could do something with upwelling.” I was channeling Bob Garrison when I made that remark, and I went on to construct global paleoclimate models with the goal of predicting where upwelling zones occurred in the past. That was the start of my career in paleoclimatology, and I owe so much of that to Bob.

I would also like to express appreciation for the late Larry Sloss, for whom this award is named. I was fortunate to have met Larry a few times. He was a delightful person and I only wish everyone could have had the chance to meet him as well as know his work. It is truly an honor to be given an award in his name and to be in the company of some truly extraordinary geologists.

Steve mentioned my book, and some of you might even have seen it. I dedicated the book to sedimentary geologists and paleontologists because these fields were in some danger back then—retiring sedimentary geologists and paleontologists were not being replaced. Paleoclimatology is pretty much all about sedimentary geology and paleontology, plus a little bit of modeling, and I hoped to call attention to just how relevant those fields are, especially for testing climate models. I’m glad that the decline in these fields at the time seems to have reversed itself a bit. It is through the great work of people like Bob, Larry, the previous awardees, and all of you that we continue to be relevant to Earth sciences and all of humanity.