2023 Distinguished Geologic Career Award (MGPV Division)

Presented to Katharine Venable Cashman

Katharine Venable Cashman

Katharine Venable Cashman
University of Bristol


Citation by Rebecca Lange

It is a great pleasure to introduce Kathy Cashman as the 2023 recipient of the MGPV Distinguished Geological Career Award. Over her accomplished career, Kathy has made several key contributions to the fields of volcanology and petrology, while at the same time training numerous graduate students, many of whom have gone on to have highly successful careers, highlighting her role as an inspiring mentor.

Kathy is perhaps best known for her pioneering methods to quantify the textures of volcanic deposits, connecting them to analog experiments, and thus showing how to extract rates of magma ascent, cooling, and degassing. These efforts have led to a deeper understanding as to why some magmas erupt effusively versus explosively. In addition, Kathy's insights have improved our understanding of how magmas ascend through the crust and the nature of their plumbing and storage architecture. Kathy's work is highly interdisciplinary, and she has been a leader in incorporating concepts and theory from the fields of material science, fluid dynamics, atmospheric science, ceramic engineering, hydrology, and geomorphology. In addition, she has consistently highlighted the incredible value of traditional Indigenous knowledge and oral traditions for unraveling eruption histories.

I have known and "talked rocks" with Kathy for more than 30 years, and I've read most of her papers. All of which leads me to suggest that there are four key qualities that have been foundational to her success. First, she is insatiably curious about the world around her, and is a voracious reader of an extremely broad scientific, historic, and artistic literature. Second, she is an exceptionally gifted writer and brings a remarkable clarity to complex, multidisciplinary topics. Third, she is fearless about asking and pursuing questions that she does not know the answer to. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Kathy is widely known for her enormous generosity, which takes on so many forms. One is with how freely she shares her original, often novel, ideas with her colleagues and especially her students. One reason why Kathy is so generous with her ideas is because she has so many of them! We are so fortunate, as her collective colleagues in MGPV, to have this opportunity today to celebrate her many gifts and contributions to our field.


Response by Katharine Venable Cashman

First and foremost, I would like to thank GSA, the MGPV division, my letter writers, my nominator and former student Heather Wright, and my citationist Becky Lange, for this wonderful honor. A career award is a time for reflection, for which I am also grateful; I hope that my acceptance speech and the associated presentation reflect this.

Serendipity is not unusual in directing volcanological careers, and in this regard mine is no exception. From my first experience with active volcanism on Mt. Erebus, Antarctica, to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which confirmed my career aspirations as volcanological, to the long-lasting eruption of Kilauea volcano, which for several decades provided an amazing field laboratory for lava flow studies, to the Iceland eruption that sent me to the UK, I have been lucky to pursue volcanological research up close, in the field, around the world, and in the company of an amazing group of volcanologists.

I can’t possibly name and thank all of the individuals who have helped me, taught me, collaborated and explored volcanoes with me along the way. Instead I will thank them in groups, acknowledging the spectrum of interactions that we all enjoy over the course of our careers. I will start by thanking my family.

Many of you know that I come from a family of Earth scientists: we now span four generations. Most influential, however, have been my older sisters Pat and Sue: both have PhDs in structural geology and have led long and accomplished academic careers. Although I tried to forge a different direction (English literature, botany), I eventually succumbed to allure of field geology and a geological career thanks to summers of field assisting and the inspirational teaching of Peter Coney.

My mentors have come in many forms. My professors pushed me to think independently while at the same time teaching me the joy of shared discovery that has formed the mainstay of my career. And friendships formed during my PhD years with Gordon Grant and Siggi Gislason have lasted a lifetime. For my passion for volcanology I thank those who have worked with me over the decades, sharing their cultures as well as their scientific knowledge.

Working with graduate students, however, has been the highlight of my career. I have learned as much from them as I have given and I thank them all. With students I have shared adventures in the field, challenges in the lab and the excitement of discovery as we have strived, in the words of the poet A.R. Ammons, “to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder”.

I end by calling out colleagues who I consider both friends and heroes, including Jim Kauahikaua and Maggie Mangan of the USGS; fluid dynamicists Michael Manga, Ross Griffiths and Alison Rust; physical volcanologists Dick Fiske, Guido Giordano, Mauro Rosi and Raffa Cioni; historian Caroline Williams, and Bristol colleagues Jon Blundy and Steve Sparks – to them I give my heartfelt thanks.