GSA Medals & Awards

George P. Woollard Award

Lisa Tauxe
Lisa Tauxe
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego

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Presented to Lisa Tauxe

 Citation by Dennis V. Kent

Lisa Tauxe is a stellar researcher in earth magnetism. She also teaches, is an accomplished musician, has a family and is active in scientific and civic circles. She has authored or co-authored over 110 papers - including a poignant piece in Eos on juggling dual-careers in academia, nurtured more than a half-dozen PhD students, and hosted a steady stream of post-doctoral scholars. In the process, Lisa has established at Scripps one of the premier paleomagnetics research facilities in the world and herself as one of the preeminent workers in the field.

Her early work was in magnetostratigraphy. Lisa's first paper as a graduate student was a sole-authored contribution in Nature that dealt with a revision of the age of Mio­cene hominoids in Asia based on revised magnetostratigraphic correlations in the Siwaliks. Also as a graduate student she went out as the paleomagnetist on DSDP Leg 73 and produced a superb magnetostratigraphy for the Cenozoic. This record was key to the development of integrated magnetobiostrati­-graphic time scales and the data are still being used today. In East African continental rift sediments, she was able to confirm that Nick Shackleton got the age of the Brunhes/Matuyama boundary about right using orbital time scales and that the much-debated discrepancy in its age was due to a bias in the traditional potassium-argon dates. Her ongoing work in magnetostratigraphy has dealt with the precise age registry of important geologic levels, such as the Paleocene/Eocene and Oligocene/Miocene boundaries, for improved global correlation.

Lisa is also noted for her work on paleo-intensity, one of the most difficult parameters of the geomagnetic field to measure but critical to our understanding of its generation and long-term evolution. She followed two research avenues - relative paleointensity in sediments, where she was able to significantly improve data reliability by developing the rigorous psuedo-Thellier technique, and absolute determinations in igneous rocks, where she pioneered the use of submarine basalt glasses that turn out to be an ideal material for classical Thellier methods. Some important outcomes of this work are that the mean long-term value for Earth's field intensity may only be about one-half of what had been assumed and intriguingly, that there may be a dependency of the mean intensity on polarity interval length.

A major recent interest is TAFI, a collaborative project with geomagnetic theorists, such as her colleagues Cathy Constable and Catherine Johnson at Scripps, and experimentalists, such as Laurie Brown and Neil Opdyke, to obtain a precise and accurate description of the time-averaged geomagnetic field. We can expect that the geocentric axial dipole hypothesis, a central tenet of virtually all paleomagnetic studies, will finally be tested in detail.

Underlying all her efforts is a profound understanding of statistical methods that need to be employed to derive reliable and testable conclusions. She is a forceful advocate of techniques novel to our discipline, such as the boot-strap and  jack-knife, to estimate representative values and error limits on distributions ranging from susceptibility ellipsoids for determining magnetic fabrics to the widely used fold test for constraining age of magnetization. She is a proficient computer programmer and has made a whole package of useful software available in her recent principles and methods book as well as on her website.

On a more personal note, those of us who know Lisa are completely taken by the enthusiasm and joy with which see approaches scientific problems. We also know that she is very competitive so if you venture into her sphere of interest, you better get it right.

For her contributions to geophysics and to the scientific community, I am pleased to present Lisa Tauxe as the 2003 recipient of the Woollard Award.

 top 2003 George P. Woollard Award - Response by Lisa Tauxe

Receiving the Woollard Award was an unexpected pleasure. I have since learned a few things: how to pronounce it (WoollARD to rhyme with yard) and that it is named after a man known for his warmth and generosity dedicated to the use of geophysics to solve geological problems. I was tickled to find that past recipients include Rob van der Voo and Neil Opdyke, two men who have been both mentors and friends through-out my career. And I am also delighted to have Dennis Kent, this year's Day Medalist as a citationist.

I don't like the "shoulder standing" metaphor often used in acceptance speeches because it implies a lot of climbing over peoples backs. The process of growth in my case has been more like a long and intense conversation. I'm from the "Question Authority" generation, but my mentors and colleagues have always responded with grace, humor and remarkably good advice.

I have been very lucky throughout my life. My parents tolerated my "tom boy" ways and made it clear that girls could achieve whatever they were willing to work for. Growing up in Minnesota gave me a powerful urge to travel and to be outside, so when I took my first geology course on the advice of my brother, I discovered my calling. I've been hooked ever since.

In college, I pleaded with David Pilbeam, to let me go on his expedition to Pakistan. He let me go, somewhat reluctantly I think and it was one of those life changing events. It was there that I met Neil Opdyke, a story which I only tell after a few drinks. I became his student in grad student paradise, Lamont. My Lamont friends, especially my office mate, Brad Clement, enriched my life in countless ways. Dennis Kent graciously adopted me when Neil left Lamont for Florida and taught me what he could about how to do science. I also met my best friend, Hubert Staudigel, at Lamont and married him in Lamont's rose garden.

As I was finishing my thesis, it suddenly dawned on me that I would have to WORK for a living. The prospect terrified me. One day as I was perusing the want ads, I got a call from Hans Thierstein, inviting me to apply for a job at the "other" other oceanographic institution, Scripps. It was to build a paleomagnetics lab, a tremendous opportunity for someone as green as I was and I was just foolish enough to take it.

I have had many wonderful colleagues, students and post-docs at Scripps. Cathy Constable, Jeff Gee, Catherine Johnson, and Bob Parker have taught me most of what I know about geophysics and I am profoundly grateful for their friendship, help and support over the years.

It is with gratitude that I accept this award. Paleomagnetists occupy an odd corner of Earth science nestled between geology and geophysics, drawing on both to help understand how the Earth works. We are viewed at times with suspicion or amusement. It is therefore also with pride that I receive this award from the Geophysics Division of the Geological Society of America.