GSA Medals & Awards

Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal)

Michael Manga
Michael Manga
University of California at Berkeley

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Presented to Michael Manga

 Citation by Katharine V. Cashman

It is my great honor and pleasure to introduce Michael Manga as the recipient of the 2003 Donath Medal, presented by the Geological Society of America to a young scientist who has contributed "to geologic knowledge through original research that marks a major advance in earth sciences." Michael has met this criterion in several separate disciplines, all of which share the common theme of geological processes that involve fluids — volcanology, hydrogeology, geomorphology, and geodynamics. In each field, he illuminates the fundamental physics that underlies problems involving the dynamics of fluid movement through geological systems, including the movement of bubbles through liquid, magma through conduits, water through porous media, and diapirs through the mantle of Venus. Taken together, Michael's research combines mathematical elegance with an uncanny physical intuition that allows him to see the essence of a problem and, in the words of A.R. Ammons, to "fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder."

Michael was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. His first scientific publication, an illustrated account of "The Great Blue Heron," appeared in the Macoun Field Club's annual publication in 1980, and was soon followed by the "Reptile and Amphibian Crossword Puzzle" and the "Canadian Trees Word Search." He received a B.S. in geophysics from McGill in 1990, an S.M. in engineering sciences from Harvard in 1992, and a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard in 1994. At Harvard, Michael worked with Howard Stone in the field of low Reynolds number fluid mechanics, specifically on the motions of and interactions between bubbles rising through viscous fluids.

I first learned about Michael when he applied this work to one of my own areas of interest — bubbles in magmas. I remember that I first saw his name when I was responsible for assembling the VGP sessions for the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. At the time, I was working closely with Margaret Mangan on the behavior of bubbles in Hawaiian basalts. When I saw an abstract by M. Manga related to bubble dynamics in basaltic lava flows, I initially assumed that there was a typo, and I was surprised that Maggie had submitted an abstract without telling me! However, I soon realized my mistake, and, in what has become a pattern, that year at AGU I sat mesmerized while listening to the Harvard guy with the ponytail.

During his subsequent Miller Fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), Michael not only continued his work on bubbles in basalt but also applied this work to geodynamics (postglacial rebound, diapirs on Venus) and hydrogeology (drop dynamics in branched tubes) while developing new interests in high-pressure experimental petrology and the hydrology of spring-dominated streams. It was at this point that Michael interviewed at the University of Oregon, and overwhelmed all of us with a talk that not only served as a fluid mechanics tutorial and multimedia showcase, but also melded seemingly disparate research projects into a coherent whole. We couldn't hire him quickly enough!

During his academic tenure, first at the University of Oregon and now at UCB, Michael has both delved more deeply into his established areas of interest and continued to expand his research frontiers. I am most familiar with his work in volcanology and hydrogeology, fields that Michael has taught me are closely related, at least in central Oregon. His work on bubble-bubble interactions has expanded to include the development of elegant experimental, numerical, and theoretical constraints on the effect of both bubbles and crystals on the dynamics of magma flow. He and his students have also used crystal and bubble orientations preserved within volcanic rocks as strain (or strain rate) markers. Michael's combined interests of bubbles in lava and groundwater hydrology of spring-dominated streams led naturally to an investigation of the permeability of porous basalts and of the effects of bubbles on hydraulic conductivity of porous materials. His work on springs includes investigation of the time scales of groundwater flow, advective heat transfer related to groundwater movement, and estimates of the rates of CO2 degassing from the central Oregon Cascades. More recently, his research in this area has turned toward the response of streamflow to earthquakes. I list these areas of research not only to give you a sense of the problems that Michael addresses and to impress you with his phenomenal productivity, but also to illustrate his genius, which combines a profound physical intuition about fluid mechanics with the ability to see an important problem, simplify it to its essence, and solve it using a combination theoretical and computational analysis, analog experiments, and field observations.

Finally, a few words about Michael as a person. I have worked closely with Michael as a colleague, collaborator, co-supervisor of graduate students, and as a friend and I can honestly say that Michael is thoughtful, patient, and generous with his time (although we'll see how long that lasts with the birth of Miles to keep brother Max company!). He is a superb teacher, as evidenced by the Ersted teaching award that he received at the University of Oregon and by the Career Award that he received from the National Science Foundation. Michael is truly a rare academic who, in addition to being a talented and prolific researcher, is also a patient and inspirational teacher.

The sculptor Anne Truitt wrote that "there seems to be a law that the more conscious knowledge you develop, the more you can expand your consciousness." This statement encapsulates the excitement of Michael's science, where each step is amplified to reverberate through several disciplines. Mr. President, it is a privilege to present to you this brilliant scholar, outstanding teacher, and valued colleague for the Society's 2003 Donath Medal.

 top 2003 Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) - Response by Michael Manga

People often ask me what I do. I study geological fluid mechanics. The goal is to understand puzzling geological phenomena. This includes problems in volcanology, hydrology, geodynamics, and planetary science. I am particularly interested in finding the relationships between different systems. For example, how do hydrologic systems interact with earthquakes? Ideally, these connections also provide new insight into both systems at spatial and temporal scales that might otherwise be difficult to study.

People seldom ask why I do what I do. I suppose the hazards represented by volcanoes and earthquakes, or issues connected to groundwater, are sufficiently obvious to most people. Yet for me and many of my colleagues, we pursue these problems for the shear thrill of discovery. So I am truly honored that the Donath Medal Committee, and those who wrote letters of support on my behalf, provide professional recognition for simply having fun.

I cannot take credit for all the work and ideas that result in my receiving this medal. Because our contributions rely on peer review, I must also acknowledge the broader community of paper and proposal reviewers. They have granted me, admittedly often reluctantly, the chance to disseminate our work and to support new and sometimes risky ventures. In addition, the ability of young scientists like me to have enjoyable careers owes much to mentoring by colleagues, from an early age through the difficult leap from being a student to being a professor, as well as the support of peers, students and family. There are so many people to thank and I can't mention all of them, except one: my wife Susan.

Professors are also teachers, but I realize that I learn as much from my students as I hope they learn from me. My students also provide the inspiration for new research directions. Of course, the graduate students with whom I have worked did much of the actual work for which I am being recognized, and they have made our research adventures more satisfying than they might have been otherwise.

To conclude, I would like to qualify one of my earlier comments. It is a passion for discovery and understanding that drives my research and teaching. However, I am acutely aware of our responsibilities as earth scientists. We do, in fact, address many important problems and can contribute valuable knowledge, insight, and guidance. We also have a special training and experience in integrating a variety of fields and interpreting imprecise and incomplete data to draw conclusions about complicated systems. Here, Fred Donath's contributions to environmental education and awareness provide a superb model we can all strive to emulate. I am indeed fortunate to have had the opportunities to study the Earth. I can only hope that in the future, people besides me may feel equally fortunate that I studied the Earth.