Dawn J. Wright

Dawn J. Wright
Environmental Systems Research Institute

2015 Bromery Award for Minorities

Presented to Dawn J. Wright

Citation by Suzanne O’Connell

Dawn Wright is a remarkable geoscientist and outstanding professor. She has sailed on the JOIDES Resolution and been taken to the depths of the ocean floor in submersible Alvin. She has been a professor of oceanography and geography at Oregon State University (OSU) and is currently the first women chief scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Such a distinguished position is no surprise to those who know Dr. Wright. In every aspect of her career she has distinguished herself.

She has been a leader in adapting Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to the marine environment for almost two decades. In particular she helped to developed the Arc Marine data model and is co-author of its accompanying book Arc Marine for a Blue Planet. It is almost impossible to find ocean GIS software that does not lead back to Dr. Wright. In her current position probably all new ocean GIS software will point directly back to her.

Dr. Wright earned a bachelors degree from Wheaton College (Ill.), a masters degree from Texas A&M and a Ph.D. from the University of California Santa Barbara. This was just the beginning of a remarkable career. She has moved ocean science in an important new direction and that she is an outstanding professor. Through her research she has made significant contributions to our understanding of the ocean floor, coastal mapping and fisheries. She has served on the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Boards and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2007, while a professor at OSU, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named her U.S. Professor of the Year for the State of Oregon. .

In her role as chief-scientist at ESRI she works with officials from government, industry, the academy and conservation organizations to understand how earth’s transformation can be monitored and quantified. Her voice and vision are powerful, her resume is outstanding. The Geological Society of America welcomes the opportunity to honor her with the Bromery Award.

top2015 Bromery Award for Minorities — Response by Dawn J. Wright

I am extremely humbled and honored to receive the Bromery award. I am even more grateful to learn about the amazing contributions of Bill Bromery, including his service as a Tuskegee airman, his work to secure a permanent archive of the writings of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Dubois, his PhD work as a geological oceanographer, his pioneering aeromagnetic mapping work in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and even his dedication to the saxophone as a lifelong student of jazz. Although I played the saxophone for only one year (in the sixth grade), my own path led also to the world of mapping and geological oceanography. As such, I am truly inspired and grateful for the foundation laid by Bill Bromery for the national mapping community, as well as for people of color in the geosciences.

Indeed as a science and as a society we do not want to miss out on the perspectives, the sensitivities, the experiences, and the skills of people of differing cultures and backgrounds. We need these to help guide our geosciences programs, our research, and our leadership at varying levels. I don't think I could express it more eloquently than 2011 Bromery Award winner A. Wesley Ward: "Unless diversity becomes more widespread throughout our ranks, it is geology that is disadvantaged, it is geology that will not be able to compete, and it is geology that is going to be left behind."

Of course, we know that in opening the geosciences to a more diverse cadre of peoples, it is often long-term effort. My own experiences began as a child fascinated with rocks and volcanoes under the ocean while growing up in Hawaii, extending to my late twenties as a seagoing marine technician on ten cruises of the Ocean Drilling Program, now known as the International Ocean Discovery Program (where I first met my great colleague and nominator Suzanne O'Connell), to my first dive in the Alvin submersible as a UCSB doctoral student, to a magical lecture at Oregon State University where I felt as though I was finally getting through to my students and making a contribution.

I would like to give very special thanks to my mother who has always modeled to me what a great human being should be, to my faculty and peer mentors at UCSB, to my colleagues in Geosciences and in the Association of Faculty for the Advancement of People of Color at Oregon State University, and to several passionate co-workers at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

Through this award, I am further inspired to embody the spirit of Bill and Cecile Bromery as I work with so many others, including Suzanne O’Connell, in creating a more inclusive geosciences community.

Thank you once again!