Long exposure of ice on beach at sunset

Willi Dansgaard Award

Information on the Award

The Willi Dansgaard Award is presented annually and recognizes significant contributions to the fields of paleoceanography or paleoclimatology from a mid-career scientist within eight to 20 years of receiving their Ph.D. Notable contributions can include the honoree’s high research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments, such as mentoring, or positive societal impact. This award also serves to acknowledge the awardee’s exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

Named in honor of Dr. Willi Dansgaard, a paleoclimate pioneer, especially regarding modern water isotope studies, this award is presented at the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section event during the AGU Fall Meeting.

Glacier and ice next to sea ice

Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the Willi Dansgaard Award will receive the following benefits with the honor:

  • 1

    Award certificate

  • 2

    Recognition in Eos

  • 3

    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

  • 4

    Complimentary meeting registration the year the award is presented

  • 5

    An invitation to present a talk in the general session for the section at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year.

Eligibility

To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • The nominee is required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must be primarily or secondarily affiliated with the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section.
  • The nominee must be within eight to 20 years of receiving their Ph.D. or the highest equivalent terminal degree. Exceptions to this requirement for unusual circumstances may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the committee.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section leadership;
    • Dansgaard Mid-Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Nominators are required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section leadership;
    • Dansgaard Mid-Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology section leadership;
    • Dansgaard Mid-Career Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the award committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.

Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:

  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
  • A previous graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) and/or postdoctoral advisor, or postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
  • A former doctoral or graduate student, or a former postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter for a former advisor but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.

Green mountains on sandy beach, USA

Nomination Package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. The entire nomination package should be merged into one PDF file. We encourage you to watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our guide on how to submit a successful nomination.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria. It should include details about significant contributions to paleoceanography and paleoclimatology research, education, or outreach activities for the benefit of science, colleagues, and society at large. Nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • At least one, but no more than three, additional letters of support. The supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not currently or recently associated with the candidate’s institution of graduate education or employment.
  • Up to three published or in-press manuscripts that illustrate the candidate’s outstanding contributions.

Submission Process

Submissions are reviewed by the Dansgaard Award Committee. Nominations should be submitted online.
SUBMIT
Icebergs floating in water

Recipients

James M Russell

2020

Valerie Trouet received the 2019 Willi Dansgaard Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of “high research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments, such as mentoring, or positive societal impact” and “exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.”

 

Citation

It is my great pleasure to introduce Valerie Trouet as the 2019 AGU Willi Dansgaard Award recipient. Valerie began her research career at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium in 2004 and completed a postdoc at Pennsylvania State University and a research position at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. She is now an associate professor at the University of Arizona.

Valerie uses the environmental histories stored in long-lived trees to help answer some of the most pressing science questions in her field, involving a dizzying array of phenomena including atmospheric circulation, climate change, human history, wildfire, droughts, and tropical cyclones. Her productivity has been astounding, and her work is highly regarded. Many senior scholars in our discipline would be quite satisfied to have carried out as much insightful and impactful scholarship over the course of their entire careers as Valerie has undertaken in just the past decade. Highlights of her research include breakthrough papers on reconstructing movements of the jet stream and the Hadley circulation, climate impacts on society, and multiproxy paleoclimate approaches.

In addition to being a remarkable scientist, Valerie is a passionate and committed educator and science communicator. She has trained and mentored over a dozen postdocs and graduate students, several of whom are already carrying out groundbreaking research. Not content to confine herself to educating only within the classroom or laboratory, Valerie maintains an impressive schedule of invited presentations and media interactions and almost incredibly was able to write Tree Story, a popular book on tree rings, climate, and history!

She has also taken on a number of service and leadership duties for our discipline and in particular for the AGU community, where she serves as an editor for Geophysical Research Letters. Our discipline and AGU are very fortunate to have such an outstanding member, and she certainly merits recognition with the Dansgaard Award.

—Matthew Therrell, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Response

I thank Matthew Therrell for his generous words and the nomination. We’ve come a long way since that police station in Mozambique. I also thank my other nominators and the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology award committee for their support. I am honored to receive the 2019 AGU Dansgaard Award and to join the trailblazers in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology who have received it before me. As a tree ring scientist, I work on much shorter timescales than many other paleoclimatologists, but at high resolution, with high replication, and with absolute dating. The reliable annual rhythm of tree rings grounds my research and inspires me to explore what trees can tell us about climate history, ecosystem history, human history, and the links between them.

My research relies heavily on data gathered by others and contributed to public databases, such as NOAA’s paleoclimate database. Dendrochronological sampling, measuring, and cross-dating are sometimes frustrating, mostly fun—they are what attracted me to this field of science in the first place—but they are also hard work and time-consuming. I am very grateful to my fellow dendrochronologists (and other paleoclimatologists) who have shared their hard-earned data with the broader community. You are the giants whose shoulders so many of us stand on. I also thank my mentors, who taught me to think big while keeping a keen eye on detail. And I thank my colleagues—students, postdocs, and peers—for thinking, discussing, writing, and growing with me on this scientific adventure. Our trees are firmly rooted in the Earth, but the sky is the limit.

—Valerie Trouet, University of Arizona, Tucson

Bärbel Hönisch will receive the 2018 Willi Dansgaard Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award is given in recognition of the awardee’s “research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments (mentoring), societal impact, or other relevant contributions and to acknowledge that the awardee shows exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology.”

 

Citation

Motivated by the need to understand the contributions of anthropogenic carbon emissions to global warming and ocean acidification, Bärbel Hönisch has devoted most of her career to developing and applying geochemical proxies to reconstruct paleo ocean temperature, carbonate chemistry, and atmospheric pCO2. In particular, she and her students have led efforts to identify and quantify the physical and chemical influences on the partitioning of boron and its isotopes from seawater into biogenic carbonates, specifically foraminifera and corals. This work required years of painstaking laboratory-based culturing experiments of foraminifera involving the meticulous manipulation of carbonate system parameters, complemented by field-based studies of core top samples. The findings of this pioneering work now provide the basis for applying boron in fossil shells to reconstruct ocean pH.

Bärbel has also led the way in validating and applying results of the B calibration studies in reconstructing past ocean pH and pCO2 across climatically critical intervals of the Cenozoic. This includes investigations of Pleistocene glacial/interglacials and the mid-Pleistocene transition, the results of which support a high degree of sensitivity in climate and ice sheets to greenhouse gas forcing. She also extended the application of B isotopes to deeper time by reconstructing the long-term trend in seawater B isotopes (in benthic foraminifera), as well as applying the B proxies to the extreme greenhouse periods of the Eocene, most notably in quantifying the pH changes caused by ocean acidification during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. She also organized and led workshops focused on ocean acidification and the development of a community paleo-pCO2 database.

Bärbel has also taken on key leadership and editorial duties for the AGU oceanographic/paleoceanographic communities and has been recognized for her exemplary mentoring of students at Columbia University.

Bärbel Hönisch’s unwavering commitment to research, her collegiality and leadership, and her selfless community service merit recognition with the Dansgaard Award.

—James Zachos, University of California, Santa Cruz

Response

I thank Jim Zachos for his generous comments, as well as my other nominators and the AGU Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Award Committee for selecting me for the Dansgaard Award. I feel honored and humbled in view of the many excellent colleagues who are equally deserving of this recognition.

Joining the fields of paleoceanography and paleoclimatology has been one of the greatest experiences of my life—recognizing the role of small organisms in the global climate system, diving for planktic foraminifera in the open ocean, sailing across the seas, puzzling over information recorded in the laboratory today or thousands and millions of years back in time, and all that with colleagues and friends who are living and working in every corner of the planet. How privileged are we to call this work!

And yet none of this could be done single-handedly, and it is certainly not always easy. I feel spectacularly lucky to have worked and to continue to work with a brilliant group of students, postdocs, and colleagues at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and around the world, who share their ideas and expertise and raise challenging questions, who graciously accept my notorious edits and send me the same in return, who rejoice in successes, and who provide support when science (and life) gets difficult. Every challenge comes with new opportunities, creative solutions want to be found, new experiments are to be conducted, and all of this works best when we join our cumulative expertise and complement each other’s work. Despite all the knowledge that our field has accumulated already, there are so many more questions to answer and substantial discoveries to be made. I am greatly indebted to my students and collaborators for making this such a fantastic journey; it is a great honor to be a member of this remarkable community.

—Bärbel Hönisch, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Hubertus Fischer will receive the 2017 Dansgaard Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award is given in recognition of the awardee’s research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments (mentoring), societal impact, and other relevant contributions and to acknowledge that the awardee shows exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology.

 

Citation

I am pleased to introduce Hubertus Fischer as the Dansgaard Award winner, in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions and community leadership in ice core science.

Ice core pioneer Willi Dansgaard started in physics and expanded into chemistry, climate, and environmental sciences. Hubertus followed a similar path. He started in physics (University of Heidelberg, with side trips to Karlsruhe and Oregon). His postdoc at UC San Diego and a research position at the Alfred Wegener Institute expanded his range in climate and environment. Now a professor at the University of Bern, he focuses on the chemistry and physics of ice cores as archives of climate change and global biogeochemical systems.

Hubertus’s team has quantified changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases including their isotopes over timescales and with resolution previously impossible. Hubertus has also developed precise ice core records of chemical aerosol tracers that constrain changes in source and atmospheric circulation. His technical innovations include the use of new mass spectrometric techniques, continuous-flow ice melting, and ice sublimation analysis systems. He has shown that every Dansgaard-Oeschger event in Greenland had an Antarctic counterpart and has illuminated source budgets and exchange processes of greenhouse gases.

Hubertus is a generous community leader. A longtime steering committee member of EuroPICS and IPICS (European/International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences), he was recently elected cochair. He also cochaired the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP)/Future Earth project Past Global Changes (PAGES). He provided leadership for the European EPICA ice-coring project and the new “Oldest Ice Project,” which seeks to recover million-year-old ice from Antarctica.

Still accelerating at midcareer, Hubertus is among the world’s leaders in paleoclimatology, a community builder, and a warm and generous supporter of students and fellow researchers around the world. Willi Dansgaard would be thrilled to see his pioneering legacy carried on and expanded so elegantly by Hubertus.

—Alan C. Mix, Oregon State University, Corvallis

Response

It requires a kind personality like Alan Mix’s to be so generous with his praise for a scientist from the ice core mafia who comes from the other side of the Atlantic. All the more reason to thank Alan, the other supporters of my nomination, and the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology award committee for considering me worthy of this award. Having had the pleasure to meet Willi Dansgaard in person, I feel especially honored to be the first ice core scientist on this as yet short but exceptional list of Dansgaard awardees.

As Alan pointed out, much of my work is based on the development of new analytical techniques that allow us to measure new proxies and obtain isotopic information for a better quantification of past changes in biogeochemical cycles. Accordingly, much of the honor of this award goes to the excellent scientists and dedicated students in my group who have the patience I lack to bring these new methods to perfection and who do not give up on my overly optimistic ideas.

Paleoscience and ice core science are exciting fields not only because of the possibility to create new knowledge but also because of the opportunity to get to know so many inspiring colleagues in international projects, at conferences, and last but not least during exciting fieldwork on the polar ice sheets. Over many years, I have had the pleasure to be closely connected to IPICS and PAGES, meeting a huge crowd of brilliant paleoscientists. This has widened both my network and my horizon and has substantially influenced my work and my life. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage young and not so young paleoscientists to engage in PAGES, in order to push paleoscience forward, bridge disciplinary boundaries, and help mold future Dansgaard awardees.

—Hubertus Fischer, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Jerry McManus will receive the Dansgaard Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif., as selected by a Dansgaard Award selection committee. The award is given in recognition of the awardee’s research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments (mentoring), societal impact, and other relevant contributions and to acknowledge that the awardee shows exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology.

 

Citation

In the almost two decades since he received his Ph.D., Jerry McManus has led a global effort to understand the influence of past climate change on the world’s oceans. Of exceptional quality and quantity, Jerry’s research is essentially the marine complement of Willi Dansgaard’s groundbreaking work on ice cores, making Jerry truly an apt candidate for this particular award. Jerry has had an enormous influence on the field of paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, and his insights into the mechanisms of natural climate variability on orbital to millennial timescales are of great relevance to the understanding of current anthropogenic climate change.
Early in his career, Jerry used high-resolution geochemical and sedimentological data from the North Atlantic to show how the oceanography and circulation of this region were linked to atmospheric changes observed in ice cores. A powerful series of papers documented the behavior of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures as well as the pattern of iceberg and freshwater delivery to the region. Then, using an innovative application of the Protactinium/Thorium method, he published the first continuous record of deepwater export from the North Atlantic showing that major cooling events such as the Younger Dryas and Heinrich Event 1 were accompanied by a reduction in deepwater export out of the North Atlantic, confirming the links between climate variability at high latitudes and thermohaline circulation. Most recently, he and his students have published groundbreaking papers on Arctic and Atlantic Ocean circulation, migration of the inter-tropical convergence zone/tropical rain belts, and the role of iron fertilization in climate change.

Jerry McManus also has an impressive record of scientific collaboration and international leadership as well as mentorship of junior scientists, including advising over 20 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists. At Columbia University, Jerry has been recognized for his dedication to teaching, including Columbia University Best Faculty Teaching Awards at both the graduate and undergraduate level. In summary, Jerry has made seminal contributions to the study of the abrupt climatic changes that occurred during glacial periods, and he is a leading figure and international authority on the subjects of Heinrich/D-O events, Atlantic thermohaline circulation in the past, and interglacial climates. He is a widely sought after speaker and has an outstanding record of mentorship, teaching, and student training. I cannot think of a more perfect person to be awarded the Willi Dansgaard Award of the AGU.

—Maureen Raymo, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.

Response

Thank you to Mo Raymo for her support and gracious comments, and to the AGU Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology focus group award committee for this selection. I am honored to be considered, although I cannot think of a less perfect person to be awarded the AGU Dansgaard Award. It is certainly thrilling to join the search for climatic insights from clues in the past, yet it is humbling to be well aware of the excellent caliber of my many colleagues and even to be mentioned alongside that namesake pioneer of paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

Paleoceanography and paleoclimatology can be frustrating fields, limited by the quality and quantity of available archives, the persistent inverse problem and the nonunique nature of proxy reconstructions. Yet, they are at the same time truly exciting fields, offering and demonstrating the potential to yield crucial insights into the workings of the climate system and its various components. Past climate explorations are sufficiently established for many important questions to emerge, yet are recent enough in development to allow substantial, fundamental discoveries by even the newest of researchers. For my part, I have had the spectacular good fortune to be guided by inspiring mentors at LDEO and WHOI, to work alongside many brilliant colleagues around the world, and to play a supporting role in the efforts of extraordinary students and postdoctoral investigators. All of these interactions keep me going, amid the exciting realization that we are making real progress and important contributions, step by step, toward a better understanding of the natural world and the place of human beings within it. I look forward to the many great things that will continue to come from the fields of paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

—Jerry McManus, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.

Adina Paytan will receive the inaugural Dansgaard Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif., as selected by a Dansgaard Award selection committee. The award is given in recognition of the awardee's research impact, innovative interdisciplinary work, educational accomplishments (mentoring), societal impact, and other relevant contributions and to acknowledge that the awardee shows exceptional promise for continued leadership in paleoceanography or paleoclimatology.

 

Citation

It is my great pleasure to announce that Dr. Adina Paytan is the recipient of the 2015 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Dansgaard Award for an outstanding midcareer scientist. Dr. Paytan is a biogeochemist in the broadest sense. Her work encompasses both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and has wide breadth ranging from groundwater discharge into coastal systems, nutrient cycling, ocean acidification, and, in particular, paleoclimatology/paleoceanography. Highlights of her work include key advances on (1) present and past phosphate cycling in the ocean and coastal environments, (2) the use of marine barite in paleoproxy records of various oceanic processes, (3) isotopes as indicators of the interaction between weathering and ocean chemistry, and (4) the first continuous record of sulfur isotopes of seawater sulfate for the last 130 million years. Dr. Paytan has over 160 scientific publications in prestigious journals such as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Paleoceanography, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, and Geophysical Research Letters. She is the lead author in only 20% of her publications in order to promote her students and postdocs as first authors. Dr. Paytan devotes time to mentor students and early-career scientists. She has supervised over 20 advisees receiving graduate degrees and 12 postdocs between 2001 and 2015, and she currently advises 10 graduate students, 3 postdocs, and several undergraduate students. She has initiated innovative interdisciplinary collaborations and contributed to projects with scientists from a number of institutes throughout the world. In addition to being a leading scientific figure in our discipline, Dr. Paytan also finds time to contribute to substantial outreach, education, and professional service. She has served as editor or associate editor for several scientific journals, as well as on organizing committees for several scientific meetings. All in all, Dr. Paytan is a well-respected, prolific scientist and mentor who tirelessly promotes the professional growth and success of her students and colleagues and contributes to the leadership in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

—Figen Mekik, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Response

I would like to thank Bob Thunell, Tim Bralower, and Miriam Kastner for the nomination and support letters and Figen Mekik, Bill Anderson, and the AGU Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology focus group award committee for selecting me for this prestigious award. I also want to thank my many students and collaborators over the years, who through their hard work, enthusiasm, and sharing of ideas and knowledge were instrumental to my productivity and scientific accomplishments. They contributed greatly to my work and, most important, made it a fun and rewarding journey. Paleoceanography is a fascinating field of research; it is a humbling endeavor to try and read the pages of Earth’s history from indirect clues preserved in rocks, mud, and fossils. The “print” is not always clear and at times requires creative imagination and bold assumptions to be made. However, keeping true to the data and realizing the limitations of the records are key for moving forward toward gaining a better understanding of one of the most fascinating questions of all times: How does our planet work? This is a formidable task, and hence, it is a great honor to be a participant, along with the broader paleoceanographic community, in this grand challenge of understanding the processes and feedbacks operating in the Earth system and how they relate to global changes in climate and tectonics.

—Adina Paytan, University of California, Santa Cruz

Honors Contacts

AGU Staff Headshot Moore

Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

Graphic silhouette of a person

Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

AGU Staff Headshot Maymi

Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

Graphic silhouette of a person

Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]