Scripps Scientists Recognized by American Geophysical Union

Helen Amanda Fricker and Lynn Russell named AGU Fellows; Richard Somerville to receive AGU Ambassador Award

This year the American Geophysical Union (AGU) will be honoring two scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego during the AGU Fall Meeting in December. Geophysicist David Sandwell will be the recipient of the AGU 2018 Charles A. Whitten Medal and Oceanographer Joris Gieskes will be honored as an AGU Fellow.

The Charles A. Whitten Medal is a prestigious medal awarded to one recipient every two years. The medal is given in recognition for “outstanding achievement in research on the form and dynamics of the Earth and planets.”

Sandwell is a professor of geophysics at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps where he studies geological structures of deep-ocean basins using satellites and ships. He is currently researching undersea plate tectonics of uncharted areas of the remote oceans as well as the earthquake cycle along the San Andreas Fault System. Aside from research and teaching, Sandwell also dedicates his time as an advisor to NASA and the National Research Council on geophysical initiatives.

“Space geodesy has blossomed during my career so we now have tools such as GPS, radar interferometry, and satellite altimetry to study all types of Earth processes such as plate tectonics, ocean currents, and the changes in the cryosphere,” said Sandwell. “I thank the previous generation of geodesists for developing and refining these tools. Many of these pioneers were recipients of the Whitten Medal including my first advisor Bill Kaula and research mentor Byron Tapley. I’m honored to receive this award and hope I can improve the tools for the next generation.”

The medal was first established in 1984 to honor Charles A. Whitten, a geodetic scientist who was a former AGU section president. Whitten was the first recipient of the medal.

Each year AGU conducts a lengthy and selective process in order to name that year’s class of AGU Fellows. This year’s round of nominees was even larger than the last, and among the many accomplished scientists that were chosen was Gieskes.

AGU’s goal is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. The Fellows program recognizes AGU members who have made exceptional contributions to Earth and space sciences as valued by their peers. Gieskes is one of 62 researchers selected from 247 nominations that were submitted from around the world.

Gieskes is a professor emeritus of oceanography with the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps where he shares a commitment to collaborative, interdisciplinary science. He began his career at Scripps studying thermodynamics but later developed a strong interest for the Deep Sea Drilling Project and the Ocean Drilling Program, international cooperative efforts to explore and study the composition and structure of the Earth’s ocean basins. His research interests specifically focus on the chemistry of methane seeps and the geochemistry of interstitial waters in marine sediments.

“I was very happy to receive the good news from the American Geophysical Union,” said Gieskes. “It has been an interesting experience to be at Scripps for over fifty years. I have had great interactions with staff, scientists, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates. Long live low temperature geochemistry!”

Sandwell and Gieskes as well as other AGU honorees will be recognized at the AGU Honors Ceremony and Banquet during the the organization’s Fall Meeting, taking place Dec. 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

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