2022 Arthur L. Day Medal

Presented to Timothy W. Lyons

Timothy W. Lyons

Timothy W. Lyons
Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California


Citation by Kurt Konhauser

Tim Lyons is widely regarded as the world leader in developing and applying innovative paleoenvironmental proxies for tracking redox changes in the rock record, specifically when oxygen first appeared on Earth and how atmospheric oxygen levels fluctuated throughout the Precambrian. His research has also demonstrated that the present-day richness and diversity of life is the result of billions of years of gradual changes in biogeochemical cycles and biosphere evolution that incrementally transformed our planet’s surface conditions. In recent years, he and his team have aimed lessons learned from early Earth toward the search for life beyond our solar system. As an educator, Tim is known for his dedication, support, and mentorship of those at all career stages. Present and former students and postdocs are uniformly enthusiastic in their praise for his supervisory skills, his promotion of their achievements, and his ability to guide while letting them develop in their own direction.


Response by Timothy W. Lyons

I am incredibly honored to receive this award and deeply grateful to my nominator, Kurt Konhauser, along with Ariel Anbar, Roger Buick, and Andy Knoll for their support in that effort. All four have been colleagues for decades and epitomize the good fortune I’ve had in my collaborations and friendships.

And I am humbled when I look at the list of previous recipients, which includes many of my geochemical heroes, including my former graduate advisor, Bob Berner. Bob had a staggering ability to connect dots across all scales of observation. This, in combination with a special set of classmates at Yale, created a truly inspiring culture that thrived on big questions and elegant solutions.

It seems hard to imagine when looking back at decades of career that a few specific days could stand out. One was in my backyard in New Jersey as an eight-year-old wondering what a crumbling sandstone was in its former life. That moment planted an early seed nurtured by parents always willing to drive to a quarry or bankroll a summer on an icefield. I remember so well the day when Bob came to my office offering a trip to the Black Sea — and a few years later when Don Winston invited me to look at some very old rocks in Montana. Not long after came the news of my first NASA award and the realization that a purely fortuitous progression from modern stinky muds to their very ancient equivalents could lead to a search for life beyond our solar system.

More than anything, this award is a reminder of how truly fortunate I’ve been to work with so many outstanding colleagues, on and off the UCR campus, including a long list of highly accomplished students and postdocs. They are among my greatest source of pride and gratitude. Through it all, the unwavering support of my department, the campus, and most importantly my family made each step possible. Thank you.