GSA Medals & Awards

George P. Woollard Award

Kenneth P. Kodama
Kenneth P. Kodama
Lehigh University

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Presented to Kenneth P. Kodama

 Citation by Lisa Tauxe

The Woollard Award was named after a man known for his warmth and generosity who was dedicated to the use of geophysics to solve geological problems. It is therefore fitting that this yearís recipient, Kenneth P. Kodama is not only a creative practitioner of geophysical applications to geology, but is also a warm and generous colleague, a loving husband and father of three wonderful children. It is my pleasure to introduce you to him.

Ken Kodamaís first publication co-authored with his thesis advisor Alan Cox, concerned the effects of deformation on the magnetization of sediment, a theme to which he has returned many times over the years. He has by now written dozens of articles on the general subject of deformation and the reliability of the paleomagnetic record.

Why is this theme worthy of such sustained interest? The assumption that rocks retain a faithful record of the magnetic field allows a tremendous variety of applications to geology from tectonic reconstructions, to characterization of the secular variation of the geomagnetic field. Without this assumption, many avenues of paleomagnetic research lead to the embarrassment of erroneous results. Kodamaís focus on the effect of deformation on the paleomagnetic record therefore sheds light on the very foundations of paleomagnetism and its utility to geology.

After the first, seminal publication of deformation in sedimentary rocks in 1978, nearly a decade passed before Ken returned to the subject. During this time, he published on a variety of topics including seismology, tectonics and paleo-geomagnetism. But starting in 1987 came a series of hard hitting papers written in collaboration with his many students that established first the experimental basis for compaction induced shallowing of the paleomagnetic inclination recorded in sediments, and then perfected a clever technique (first proposed by Mike Jackson) for actually FIXING the problem.

The ability to diagnose and then cure inclination shallowing is incredibly useful because shallow paleomagnetic directions have led to such hypotheses as the Baja British Columbia hypothesis whereby large chunks of western Canada are supposed to have originated at the latitude of Baja California, or that there was something very wrong with reconstructions of central China. Which of these many tectonic interpretations are REAL and which are artifacts of unreliable magnetic recording requires an independent means of assessing the paleomagnetic record and Ken has become the champion of an elegant rock magnetic approach. He has developed the idea into a robust and practical technique and applied it to a number of different debates involving unexpectedly shallow inclinations. Some studies have supported the claims of far traveled terranes (as in the Baja British Columbia debate) and some have been refuted (as in the Tarim basin of China), but the really nice thing about this approach is that the results are pretty much irrefutable. Kodamaís conclusions have stood the test of time and several have been confirmed using entirely independent methods since.

I donít want to suggest that Ken is a one trick cowboy by dwelling on the single theme of deformation and the reliability of paleomagnetic records — far from it. Ken has also written papers on a wide variety of topics including seismology, geochronology and most recently, limnology. But I do think that the persistence, concentration and tenacious focus on this issue is his greatest achievement and makes him an excellent choice for this yearís George P. Woollard Award.

 top 2006 George P. Woollard Award - Response by Kenneth P. Kodama

Thank you, Lisa, for your kind words and to the rest of the committee for nominating me for the George P. Woollard Award. I am truly honored to receive this award from the Geophysics Division of the Geological Society of America. We all do science because of our passion for its creative outlet, but to be recognized by our colleagues in this way is quite wonderful. I am particularly happy to have won this award, honoring contributions of geophysics to geology, because I fervently believe that good paleomagnetic results will be in harmony with good geologic results. That belief has been an important motivation throughout my career.

As Lisa mentioned in her citation, Iíve worked on the effects of deformation on the accuracy of sedimentary rock paleomagnetism over the years, but when I first came to Lehigh University in 1978, I didnít yet have a paleomagnetics lab. The first course I taught and some of my first research papers were about gravity and magnetics surveys. Itís particularly interesting that George P. Woollardís 1943 GSA Bulletin paper on a large gravity and magnetics survey of New Jersey and vicinity reached to Bethlehem, PA where Lehigh is located. And in that paper he pointed out that gravity lows in the area resulted from Precambrian gneiss thrust over lower Paleozoic limestones. That was the first field exercise I ran with my geophysics students, a gravity survey over a Precambrian gneiss thrust sheet outlier north of Bethlehem, so from the start of my career as a teacher and a researcher I have been indebted to George P. Woollard without realizing it, until now. My advisor, Allan Cox, was also important to me early on, not just because he lent me the spinner magnetometer that got my first lab going, but for his infectious enthusiasm for research.

As anyone knows who does scientific research, we all depend on our colleagues and our graduate students for the inspiration and feedback we need to do our work, to keep us going. As I think back to the work Iíve done over the years, the most enjoyable and exciting part has been working with many different people, and sharing the joy of discovery, even the setbacks that inevitably occur, with people who have similar values, who love to find out new things about the Earth.

Of course, I didnít get to this point working in a vacuum, I have worked with many great graduate students and colleagues, more than I can name here. I would like to mention, in particular, Gwen Anson, John Stamatakos, Gay Deamer, Wei Wei Sun, Xioadang Tan, and Yeon Kim, as contributing significantly to the work we did on inclination shallowing, and colleagues Bob Butler and Lisa Tauxe for their encouragement through the years. Finally, my family has been a great source of support, particularly my wife, Anna.

Thank you again, for this wonderful honor.