Around the Pier: Scripps Oceanographer Becomes a Gold Medalist

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An award named for an early patron of oceanography will be presented to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego physical oceanographer Russ Davis in July.

Davis, whose observational research and invention of scientific instruments is widely credited for transforming oceanography, will receive the 2007 Prince Albert I Gold Medal from the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO). The ceremony will take place July 4 during the 2007 General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) in Perugia, Italy.

Davis has advanced observational, as well as theoretical components of physical oceanography, according to the association. His accomplishments include a leading role in the development of autonomous Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangian Observer (SOLO) floats used in Argo, an array of instruments spread throughout the world’s oceans that make physical measurements at a coverage level never before possible. Davis also has been instrumental in developing the Spray glider, a programmable self-propelled craft containing a suite of measurement instruments that can collect data over long distances and at a variety of ocean depths.

The association cited Davis’s seminal contributions in research areas that range from fluid mechanics to ocean waves, turbulence and mixing, analysis methods for ocean observations, and climate variability and its impact on ecosystems.

“Davis has pioneered the development of autonomous platforms for in situ ocean observations. His contributions have been the scientific and technological catalyst for a revolution in ocean observations permitting systematic measurements to be made in remote and previously sparsely observed areas by the international Argo Programme,” the association said.

“This prestigious, well-deserved award recognizes Russ's pioneering role in developing the autonomous floats and gliders that are now revolutionizing the field of ocean observations,” said Scripps oceanographer Dean Roemmich, co-chairman of the Argo steering committee.

Davis said the achievements that earned him the honor should be viewed as a group effort.

“Previous winners Walter Munk, Klaus Wyrtki, and Fritz Schott are tremendously productive and influential physical oceanographers and to be listed among them is a flattering treat,” Davis said. “It is particularly gratifying that the citation mentions the impact of the autonomous vehicles that, through the Argo program, are making possible continuous observation of the ocean on a global basis. In this, I represent a huge team of people whose collaborative efforts have made this new approach to sampling possible.”

IAPSO, which includes former Scripps Director Roger Revelle as one of its past presidents, is one of seven associations of the IUGG, which in turn is constituted within the International Council for Science (ICSU).  The association describes its prime goal as “promoting the study of scientific problems relating to the oceans and the interactions taking place at the sea floor, coastal, and atmospheric boundaries insofar as such research is conducted by the use of mathematics, physics, and chemistry.”

The award is named for Prince Albert I of Monaco, who established the IUGG in 1919 and is widely credited for his role in developing the field of oceanography. Prince Albert had an early interest in the sea and entered into a naval career as a young man, serving in both the French and Spanish navies. The results of seagoing science expeditions that made their way to an exhibition in the Paris Museum inspired Prince Albert in 1884 to devote his time and resources to oceanography. Over the next 30 years he financed the construction or acquisition of a series of four vessels that he used for oceanographic cruises.

Prince Albert's last voyage ended in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I, but he retained a strong interest in international cooperation. In 1900, he granted his patronage to the establishment of the short-lived International Marine Association, which ended meetings after 1904. After the end of the war, he sought to establish a new international organization, which would become the IUGG.

— Robert Monroe

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