Sunrise over grand canyon with river

Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award

Information on the Award

The Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award is presented annually and recognizes an outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes from an honoree within ten years of receiving their Ph.D. Notable contributions can be derived from an individual published paper or from multiple works.

Named in honor of Luna B. Leopold, who engaged with and nurtured early-career scientists throughout his distinguished career in hydrology and fluvial geomorphology, this award is presented during the AGU Fall Meeting.

Night view of river and mountains with starry night sky

Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award will receive the following benefits along with the honor:

  • 1

    Award certificate

  • 2

    Recognition in Eos

  • 3

    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year

  • 4

    Complimentary ticket to the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Section event that occurs during the AGU Fall Meeting in the award presentation year.


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

  • The nominee is not required to be an active AGU member.
  • The nominee must be within ten (10) years of receiving their Ph.D. or the highest equivalent terminal degree.
  • 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;
    • Leopold Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Nominators are not 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;
    • Leopold Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff.

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to are not required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • 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;
    • Leopold 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 (Please note: The only exception to this policy is that this restriction does not apply to early career awards from sections.):   

  • 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. (This restriction does not apply to this early career award)
  • 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. (This restriction does not apply to this early career award)
River with waterfalls over rocks

Nomination Package

Watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our how-to guide.

Your nomination package must contain the following files, which should each be no more than two pages in length.

  • A nomination letter that states how the nominee meets the selection criteria. 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.
  • Two to three additional letters of support. 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 copies of the nominee’s published or pre-published manuscripts that demonstrate the nominee’s quality of work in the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.

Submission Process

Nominations should be submitted online. Nominees are selected by the Earth And Planetary Surface Processes Awards Committee.

Rocky river flowing through forest



It is my great pleasure to introduce Prof. Seulgi Moon as the recipient of the 2022 Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award. In her short career, Prof. Moon has already made several seminal contributions to the current understanding of landscape evolution and surface processes on Earth and other solar system bodies. These contributions reflect her innovative integration of fundamental physics and chemistry, numerical modeling, and state-of-the-art laboratory techniques. First, she has elucidated local, regional, and global budgets of silica weathering. Second, she assessed the interactive and coupled effects of tectonics, climate, topography, and lithology on fluvial and glacial erosion and transport in active orogenic systems. Third, she quantified the impact of topography-induced stresses on physical weathering processes. The latter research subject is specifically relevant regarding current efforts to determine the nature and evolution of the critical zone that supports surface and near-surface biological activity on our planet. In addition to her work on the Earth, Prof. Moon has also made significant contributions to planetary studies including the formation of cold traps on (her namesake body) the Moon and fluvial fans on the Saturnian icy-satellite Titan. Her research also provides, for the first time, a quantitative linkage between engineering-based site parameters and attributes of morphological features. Finally, Prof. Moon and her colleagues developed a new Quaternary dating method using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) methods. Her exceptional mentoring record and her contribution to broadening the participation of students from underrepresented social groups illustrate her full dimension as a leader in the Earth and planetary science community. It is with all of the above achievements that I present to you this year’s recipient of the AGU Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award. —An Yin, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles


I am deeply honored to receive the Luna B. Leopold Early Career Award. This award will be a constant reminder for me to be like Luna B. Leopold, who was a quantitative, creative, and inspiring geomorphologist. As a young girl who grew up on a small farm in South Korea, I was fascinated by natural environments. I dreamed about becoming a scientist but never imagined I would receive this prestigious award. I would like to thank An Yin for the generous citation and Taylor Perron, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Kelin Whipple, and Bill Dietrich for supporting the nomination. Like Luna, I enjoyed collaborations with scientists from the diverse research fields of geomorphology, geochemistry, geophysics, hydrology, rock mechanics, and critical zone sciences. These collaborations allowed me to appreciate the beauty of interdisciplinary studies on Earth’s surface, seek a comprehensive understanding of surface and subsurface processes, and investigate measurable interactions and consequences of those processes in various landscapes. I share this award with my mentors, colleagues, and collaborators who contributed to my scientific growth. I would like to especially thank my graduate adviser, George Hilley, at Stanford University and postdoc adviser, Taylor Perron, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have significantly affected my career. George guided me through multiple research projects on weathering and erosion processes. He generously and patiently taught me how to develop testable scientific hypotheses, connect field observations to numerical models, and perform rigorous quantitative analysis. Taylor provided me with guidance, support, and inspiration to explore the connections among surface topography, subsurface stress, and bedrock fracturing. I am also grateful for my graduate advisers, YoungSook Huh at Seoul National University and Page Chamberlain at Stanford, who guided my research on chemical weathering in rivers during my early years. My mentors and colleagues helped broaden my research horizons. I would also like to thank Steve Holbrook and Cliff Riebe for guiding me through integrating geophysical and geomorphic techniques; Steve Martel for discussing rock mechanics; the critical zone community including Suzanne Anderson, Sue Brantley, Bill Dietrich, and Team Bedrock for field measurements and comprehensive analysis; and Brad Goodfellow, Diego Mas Ivars, Gen Li, Nathan Brown, and Eitan Shelef for insightful discussions. In the past years, my colleagues, postdocs, and students at the University of California, Los Angeles have provided me an intellectually vibrant environment. I would like to give thanks to An Yin, Kenzie Day, David Paige, Jonathan Mitchell, and others who introduced me to planetary surface studies. Last, I thank my friends and family for their continuing support. —Seulgi Moon, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles

Mathieu Gaetan Andre Lapotre

Jaap Nienhuis Headshot

Jaap Nienhuis


Joel S Scheingross


Jill Marshall will receive the 2018 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes a young scientist for “a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



I’m delighted to present Dr. Jill Marshall as the 2018 recipient of the Luna B. Leopold Award. Jill is a relentless scholar and fearless scientist boasting substantial contributions in soil geomorphology, paleoclimate and landscape evolution, cosmogenic nuclide modeling, topographic analysis, and mechanics of biota in the critical zone. From the outset of her academic career, Dr. Marshall has demonstrated her mastery of both big-picture questions that drive our discipline and methodological details paramount to her research endeavors. Jill thrives on collaboration. Those of us fortunate enough to have been drawn into her orbit have benefited tremendously from her conceptual intuition and her ability to identify study areas and methods to test new and compelling hypotheses. Jill is highly deserving of the Leopold Award, as, like Luna, she refuses to recognize potential barriers that might otherwise separate theoretical work and field observations.

For her M.S. degree, Jill mined soil science data to demonstrate that climate can explain soil clast size distributions that are key to hillslope–channel coupling. In her Ph.D., Jill challenged the notion of steady erosion in unglaciated landscapes and used a 50-kiloyear sedimentary archive to show strong coupling between paleoenvironmental trends and paleoerosion rates. By combining paleoclimate simulations with a frost weathering model, she highlighted the surprising extent of periglacial processes in unglaciated landscapes. More recently, Dr. Marshall is tackling the problem of how tree roots penetrate, fracture, and extricate bedrock in near-surface environments. This process is illustrated in countless textbook cartoons but has been essentially untouched in the scientific literature, until now. In summary, Jill is a shining example of the interdisciplinary and deeply skilled geoscientist that funding agencies and research institutions seek to train and employ. I’m eager to see her next suite of discoveries and the research directions that she defines for our field.

—Josh Roering, University of Oregon, Eugene


Thank you for the wonderful citation. I am profoundly honored to receive the Luna B. Leopold Award. It’s a testament to the extended science community that I’ve had the privilege of learning from. Together we’ve tested ideas that are bigger than any one of us.

I came to geomorphology sideways, starting at community colleges while working full-time. Hired at an environmental agency, I grappled with melding information from physical and biological systems across scales. While growing into river and watershed science, I began to intersect with Bill Dietrich and Tom Dunne. Their unstinting interest in my ideas and willingness to engage my curiosity sparked a desire to learn quantitative science, leading to a journey from theory to the field and back again. Importantly, I learned that good ideas should, and could, matter more than pedigree.

Leonard Sklar entrained me in the quest to tease apart controls on grain size distributions produced by hillslope processes. As we dug pits and I dug into decades of soil data, I stood intellectually and literally at the intersection of climate, tectonics, lithology, and soil production processes. I am deeply grateful to Leonard for setting no limits on how to approach a mostly unexplored problem. For my Ph.D., I traveled to the seemingly well characterized Oregon Coast Range, where Josh Roering encouraged roaming among topics and tools while modeling broad interests, kindness, and humility. As I roamed, I absorbed frameworks from disparate disciplines, ranging from paleoclimatology to forest ecology. This has served me well as I continue to explore the role of climate and rock properties on biotic and abiotic mechanisms that shape our Earth. I thank Bob Anderson, Bill Dietrich, and the Critical Zone Observatory community for invigorating postdoc mentoring; my Ph.D. lab mates; and those involved in nominating me, led by Jane Willenbring and Nicole Gasperini.

—Jill Marshall, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Isaac Larsen will receive the 2017 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes a young scientist for “a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



It is an honor to present Isaac Larsen as the recipient of the 2017 Luna B. Leopold Award. Isaac’s accomplishments span a ridiculously diverse array of basic and applied geomorphic problems, including postfire hydrology and erosion, landsliding and landscape evolution, soil production and weathering, and megaflood erosion. Consistent with Luna Leopold’s legacy and scientific approach, Isaac’s discoveries invariably incorporate fundamental observations that inform and advance theory on surface processes and landforms. During his Ph.D., Isaac incorporated landslides into an accounting of uplift and erosion in an active and well-studied region of the Himalayas. In the process, he mapped oodles of landslides and revisited how scaling relationships can be applied to soil and bedrock slope failures. His findings support the threshold slope conceptual model, a central theory of geomorphology that had never been definitively tested in a natural setting. Working in the Southern Alps in New Zealand, Isaac conducted several intense and physically demanding field campaigns to document remarkably rapid rates of soil production and weathering that challenge how we conceptualize feedbacks between physical and chemical denudation and critical zone evolution. For his postdoctoral research, Isaac considered how the Missoula Floods may have eroded iconic features like Moses Coulee. His calculations offer a mechanistic explanation for how progressive incision may be responsible for shaping portions of the Channeled Scablands, and this work motivates continued investigation of that remarkable landscape. In a relatively short amount of time, Isaac’s discoveries have established him as an intellectual leader in our field with skills for tackling problems relevant to human and geologic timescales, such as climate change, soil sustainability, and carbon cycling. His worthiness of the Leopold Award is unquestionable, and his contributions serve as inspiring examples of how process-based observations in geomorphology can be used to tackle big questions.

—Josh Roering, University of Oregon, Eugene


It is an exciting time to be a geomorphologist. The scientific approach ushered in by Luna Leopold and his colleagues continues to break new ground, spurred by the wealth of new tools that enable us to answer questions that could only be asked in decades past. Like Luna, I had the good fortune to work on a wide range of topics along my early career path. On that path, I had the pleasure to interact with numerous mentors who shaped the scientist I am today. Among those, I would like to thank the faculty at Carleton College for introducing me to the joy and challenge of interpreting the Earth; Jeff Strasser for an eye-opening summer of research in Alaska, where the seeds of an academic career were first planted; Jack Schmidt for instilling his unwavering commitment to scientific stewardship of Earth’s landscapes; Joel Pederson for introducing the challenge of grappling with landscape evolution on timescales beyond what I could observe; Lee MacDonald for steadfast support and brutally honest feedback that turned me into a writer; John Stone for unselfishly sharing his exhaustive knowledge of cosmogenic nuclides; Dave Montgomery for modeling a scientific worldview that I can only aspire to; and Mike Lamb for profoundly expanding my horizons with new landscapes and quantitative vision.

Thank you, Josh, for those kind words, and all who supported my nomination. Much of the research that brought on this award has involved colleagues from around the world, and I cherish the friendships with my many collaborators. Finally, I cannot thank my family enough for their love and support. I am humbled to be honored with the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award. I thank you all for joining me to celebrate Luna’s legacy and for making this an exciting time to be a geomorphologist.

—Isaac Larsen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Alison R. Duvall will receive the 2016 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



It is an honor to present Alison Duvall as the recipient of the Luna B. Leopold Award for 2016. Alison’s contributions have fundamentally advanced understanding of landscapes across a range of scales—from the width of bedrock channels, to the uplift of Tibet, quantitative analysis of landforms across strike-slip faults, and landslides in the Pacific Northwest. It is particularly appropriate for her to receive this award as one of the hallmarks of Leopold’s career was merging field observations and theory to develop insights into a wide range of geomorphological features and processes.

Alison played a key role in early efforts to understand controls on bedrock channel profiles, publishing one of the first papers that helped establish bedrock channel width as a degree of freedom in accommodating spatial variation in rock uplift and erodibility. She influenced thinking about the tectonic geomorphology of Tibet, establishing that faulting began in northeastern Tibet far earlier than previously believed and challenging models for the development of the plateau. She applied low-temperature detrital thermochronometry to rivers draining the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and found evidence for regionally synchronous late Miocene exhumation and uplift. In applying landscape evolution modeling to the quantitative analysis of strike-slip landforms, she developed methods for quantifying the topographic signature of the deformation of catchments along strike slip faults, opening up new ways of analyzing landscapes in tectonically active regions. She was a driving force behind using surface roughness to date Holocene landslides in area around the deadly Oso landslide, demonstrating how to rapidly assess risk in landslide-prone terrain. Alison has established herself as a researcher adept at field, laboratory, and modeling approaches across fluvial, tectonic, and hillslope geomorphology. She is a deserving recipient of an award that honors a scientist whose breadth and depth of interests continue to inspire.

—David R. Montgomery, University of Washington, Seattle


Thank you for the generous citation. I am deeply honored to receive the 2016 Luna B. Leopold Award and thrilled to join the list of esteemed scientists who received this award before me.

Looking back, I cringe a little recalling my master’s degree application. I think I checked almost every desired specialization—a classic mistake. Somehow, Doug Burbank and Eric Kirby looked past my greenness and took a chance on me. I am forever grateful that they did.

Through the next years, I sharpened my interests and learned much about rising mountains and the surface processes that act to shape them. But the greatest lesson they taught me was that it was okay, advantageous even, to cross disciplinary boundaries in order to chase big scientific questions.

And so I have.

Asking questions beyond a narrow subfield helped give me the confidence to say yes when Marin Clark offered me a Ph.D. tackling problems as heady and complex as the formation of the Tibetan Plateau. With Marin’s guidance, I gained a fuller appreciation for how what happens far below Earth’s surface affects the processes that we study above. She showed me how to meld geodynamics, tectonics, and geomorphology with a tool kit that stretches from the field to the lab to the equation on the back of a napkin.

Marin was also the first female geoscience mentor in my life. Her success and positive example influenced me profoundly as a young woman forging a path in a male-dominated profession.

Finally, I thank Greg Tucker for agreeing to take me as a postdoc, despite my glaring lack of modeling experience. His kindness, generosity, and landscape brilliance have contributed richly to my science and allowed me to interweave my core research pillars—rivers, hillslopes, and faults—using a single beautiful landscape model.

Thank you!

—Alison R. Duvall, University of Washington, Seattle

Vamsi Ganti will receive the 2015 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



It is an honor to present Vamsi Ganti as the recipient of the American Geophysical Union Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award for 2015. Vamsi has earned the Leopold Award for rigorous, creative work bridging stochastic and mechanistic approaches in geomorphology and hydrology. His starting point was stochastic hydrology, and his first major research contribution focused on so-called heavy-tail (power law) stochastic processes and what they mean for Earth surface behavior. Vamsi played a major role in understanding how power law distribution of transport step lengths in fractal landscapes leads to new fractional diffusion laws that change the way we think about erosional landscapes—the flux is no longer set by the local slope but instead is influenced by slopes elsewhere. This leads to replacement of ordinary integer-order derivatives in the diffusion equation with fractional-order derivatives and, in turn, to new solutions for the evolution of surface profiles with time. Moving to the opposite end of the source-sink system, Vamsi and colleagues showed that even though the physical geometry of stratigraphic recording (bed thickness) is dominated by “thin-tail” (exponential) statistics, the recording of time is thick tailed (power law), bounded by a time scale that is, on independent evidence, set by the avulsion frequency. He has also made important contributions on subjects ranging from controls on the shape of stratal boundaries to how backwater dynamics influences delta morphology.

Vamsi has already compiled a remarkable record of highly creative, quantitative research across a broad range of Earth surface dynamics. He has also been very deliberate—and not a little courageous—in leaving his comfort zone in mathematical statistics to develop a unique research style that is breaking down two of the major, and increasingly anachronistic, divides in the surface process world: between erosional and depositional systems and between stochastic and deterministic approaches. Although Vamsi’s starting point on the road linking mathematics with the Earth’s surface has been opposite to Luna Leopold’s, Vamsi has ended up at a point that I think nicely reflects the spirit of Leopold’s work. It is entirely fitting that he is the 2015 Leopold Award recipient.

—Chris Paola, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis


I thank the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group (EPSP) and the people who nominated me for this award. I am deeply honored to receive this award. During my short career, I have been incredibly lucky to be part of interdisciplinary research environments at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (at a time when the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics was in full flight), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and now Imperial College, which shaped my scientific outlook. I share this award with my collaborators, colleagues, and mentors—both past and present—who have contributed in various ways to my development as a scientist. Thank you to Bill Dietrich, Gary Parker, Sanjeev Gupta, Woody Fischer, Vaughan Voller, Kyle Straub, Brandon McElroy, Colin Stark, Paola Passalacqua, Roman DiBiase, and Joel Scheingross for support and insightful discussions.

I would like to, however, single out three people to whom I owe much of my scientific growth and development. Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, my Ph.D. adviser, patiently guided me through my early years in science and provided me with unparalleled freedom to pursue a diverse set of research problems. Chris Paola introduced and inspired me to the fascinating worlds of laboratory experiments and the sedimentary record and encouraged me to blend stochastic and deterministic approaches in geomorphology and sedimentology. Mike Lamb advised my postdoctoral work, and his creativity and simplicity in approach and diversity of topics have been instrumental in fostering my scientific growth. It was under Mike’s mentorship, I believe, when I made the transformation from being an engineer interested in Earth science problems to an Earth scientist who uses engineering and mathematical tools.

It is my pleasure to be a part of such an invigorating and vibrant community like EPSP. I look forward to many engaging and fun years of collaboration with my past and future colleagues. Thank you.

—Vamsi Ganti, Imperial College London, London

Giulio Mariotti received the 2014 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



We are pleased to honor Giulio Mariotti with the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award for ground-breaking experimental and theoretical work at the intersection of physical and biotic processes in coastal landscapes. Giulio is a geomorphologist who applies his considerable quantitative and observational skills to improve our understanding of Earth surface processes. While keeping a firm grasp on the detailed fluid and sediment dynamics of coastal systems, Giulio has been able to step back from the details and consider how best to pare a problem down to the simplest possible representations and/or observations to get at the underlying system controls and responses.

Through work in the field, the lab, and numerical modeling, Giulio has provided key insights into the interactions of coastal hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, and ecological processes. For example, with a simple dynamic model Giulio showed the existence of a threshold width for tidal flats bordering salt marshes. Once this threshold is exceeded, irreversible marsh erosion takes place even in the absence of sea level rise. He also determined through a series of laboratory experiments how wrinkle structures in siliciclastic deposits can be microbially induced, shedding light on the feedbacks between flow, sediment motion, and microbial growth.

Giulio’s creativity, quantitative skills, and productivity place him in the very top tier of young scientists in Earth and planetary surface processes who have followed in the footsteps of Luna Leopold.

—P. L. Wiberg, University of Virginia, Charlottesville


I would like to thank the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group for this award and for the trust they put I my capabilities. My academic achievements were made possible by my advisor, Sergio Fagherezzi, who distilled in me the art of observing processes and landforms in the field and translating them into mathematical models. I am also in debt to Taylor Perron and Tanja Bosak, who followed me during my off-the-beaten-path adventure in experimental microbial sedimentology.

I confess that when I started working on ecogeomorphology, I thought about biotic processes as an obstacle to the quantitative understanding of geomorphology. This was the view of a freshly graduated engineering student, with a lot of mathematical tools in his bag but with a quite narrow vision of nature. Luckily, interactions with scientists from different backgrounds—biologists, ecologists, paleontologists, and biochemists—taught me to look at life not as an inconvenience, but rather as an opportunity to give purpose to my geomorphology-based research. Such a change of view led my interest toward questions about the origin and evolution of life and the functioning and fate of modern coastal ecosystems.

There are plenty of biotic-driven questions relevant to society that can be addressed using the tools of geomorphology. My wish is to continue along this road, working with old and new colleagues who are the true catalysts for my work. Thanks to all of you.

—G. Mariotti, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston

Jeffrey A. Nittrouer received the 2013 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



Jeffrey Nittrouer has earned the 2013 Luna B. Leopold Award based on his research related to the most significant new discovery in fluvial morphology since the turn of the century, that is, for the identification of the lower Mississippi River as a mixed bedrock-alluvial stream, for his thorough quantification and elucidation of the dynamics of sand flow through it, and for his contributions to the use of Mississippi River sand as a tool for restoring lost land in the Mississippi delta wetlands.

—GARY PARKER, University of Illinois, Urbana


I am grateful for receiving the Luna B. Leopold Award from the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes (EPSP) focus group at AGU. I am thankful to the mentors and colleagues who played important roles in shaping my science over the past 10 years. Significant credit goes to three people in particular: David Mohrig, Gary Parker, and Mead Allison. These gentlemen patiently developed and honed my skills for observing, modeling, and theorizing about the physical processes that produce fluvial-deltaic morphology and stratigraphy. It was an incredible opportunity to have worked with such a diverse set of thinkers, who regularly pushed me to consider and pursue new ideas, preventing too much comfort with the scientific status quo. Their mentoring fostered an independent and creative focus that produced the science for which this award has been generously given.

At first glance, especially when standing on ground level, river deltas present themselves as boring if not inhospitable landscapes: Vegetation often obstructs a view of the flattest surfaces on Earth, there is very little dry land, distributary channels meander their way over endless swamp and wetlands, and fresh sediment deposits make traveling arduous. In reality, however, river deltas are among the most dynamic landscapes on the Earth’s surface. Vertical movement is established by subsidence and induced through sediment compaction, growth faulting, and geodynamics, whereby the rates of motion rival the fastest uplifting mountain ranges. Lateral mobility of channels means that delta sediments are routinely reworked, and proximity to ocean receiving basin renders delta morphology subject to the whims of sea level fluctuations. Relief is reserved only for the subaqueous channels and associated levees, and the pressure forces that drive fluid flow and sediment transport within these channels reshape coastal landscapes, on many time scales.

River deltas are critical for two scientific reasons. On these landscapes, active sediment accumulation produces an archive of dynamic climatic and tectonic signals, so that delta stratigraphy may be used to decipher past environmental conditions. A significant amount of progress has been made (and advances are forthcoming) by utilizing deltaic stratigraphy to decode planetary surface processes, on Earth as well as Mars. Second, modern river deltas host hundreds of millions of people worldwide due to bountiful resources and luxuriant ecosystems. Society is dependent on these delicate landscapes, and sustainability is critical for preserving the diverse cultures that have typified deltas for millennia. I am thankful for the opportunity to research these unique environments and contribute to the growing field of EPSP.

—JEFFREY A. NITTROUER, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Michael Lamb received the 2012 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



Mike Lamb is an accomplished field scientist, numerical modeler, and experimentalist who has established himself as a leader in the fields of geomorphology, sedimentology, marine geology, and planetary geology. His diversity of accomplishments and interests sets him apart from his peers. Mike has worked on net erosional and net depositional terrains in both terrestrial and submarine environments on Earth, as well as the surfaces of other planets and moons. His publication record is very substantial, and his research is rigorous and quantitative.

Mike’s work is groundbreaking and attests to a remarkable scientific range and creativity. Among his accomplishments is his demonstration that the critical Shields number increases significantly with increasing slope, even for very low slopes. Mike’s work on bedrock canyons shows that they are not solely produced by groundwater sapping, but also by surface runoff, which has direct implications for the interpretation of similar geomorphological features on Mars and Titan. His experimental and theoretical work on hyperpycnal flows is seminal and an important contribution to our understanding of the processes that control delivery of river sediment to coastlines and oceans. This work reveals the processes that link the terrestrial and marine realms with regard to sediment transport and deposition. Overall, the cumulative impact of this work extends well beyond geomorphology.

Mike is carrying on three of the most important threads of Luna Leopold’s research: a rigorous, quantitative approach, great scientific range, and creativity. This combination of traits is allowing Mike to quickly become a leader in his field and makes him a fitting recipient of the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award.

—PAUL MYROW, Department of Geology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs


It is my pleasure to be a part of the exciting community of Earth and planetary surface processes. In addition to the opportunities to participate in engaging and fundamental science, I enjoy our field because of collaborations with bright and fun people. In my short career I have had the pleasure to work with a number of colleagues, and I share this award with you.

A few people deserve particular mention for impacting my career. Chris Paola inspired me to the field of Earth and Planetary Surface Processes. Gary Parker pushed me to conduct my first independent project and introduced me to flume experiments. Jeff Parsons advised my master’s work. Bill Dietrich, my Ph.D. advisor, opened my eyes to fascinating problems and approaches in geomorphology. David Mohrig advised my postdoctoral work, and his cross-disciplinary science has been an inspiration since I was an undergraduate student. Alan Howard and Paul Myrow have been unofficial advisors who have generously guided me through a number of projects, including introducing me to Mars and the sedimentary record. In the past 4 years at Caltech, I have had the pleasure to work with Ryan Ewing, Ben Mackey, Phairot Chatanantavet, Roman ­DiBiase, Adam Booth, Vamsi Ganti, and Edwin Kite as postdocs. In addition, I thank graduate students Ajay Limaye, Joel Scheingross, Jeff Prancevic, and Mathieu Lapotre. Brian Fuller helped me build a new flume laboratory at Caltech. Thank you to John Grot­zinger, Woody Fischer, Ken Farley, Jean-Philippe Avouac, and the rest of the Caltech community for support and mentorship.

Thank you for this award.

—MICHAEL P. LAMB, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

J. Taylor Perron received the 2011 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5-9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



We are pleased to honor J. Taylor Perron with the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award. Taylor has provided important contributions in an impressive range of topics, from the role of life in controlling Earth’s topography to fluvial erosion on Titan and polar wander on Mars.

His work is unusually thoughtful and elegantly presented. It contains lessons for us all on how to do exemplary science.

An important aspect of his work is the utilization of sophisticated spectral methods to examine the emergence of regular spacing in geologically simple terrains, revealing fundamental lessons about the physics of Earth surface processes. The signal insight lies in the appeal to a geologically uniform substrate to reveal the theoretically expected regularity of basic erosional processes.

While undertaking his Ph.D. work at the University of California, Berkeley, Taylor also coauthored “The search for a topographic signature of life” in Nature with Bill Dietrich, which is now widely held as a cornerstone paper in the emerging area of ecogeomorpholgy.

He has, with various colleagues, contributed important work on remote sensing of landslides, on valley formation in several contexts, on hillslope development, and on analytical methods for surface Earth science. His expertise in remote sensing has most prominently been demonstrated in his work on the analysis of processes on Mars and on Titan and on planetary geophysics.

The superior quality of Taylor’s work is marked by the number of awards he already has gathered, including the Daly Fellowship, membership to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and a Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Chair. It is also signaled by his immediate success in gaining support from the U.S. National Science Foundation for his research.

—Alan D. Howard, University of Virginia, Charlottesville


Thank you. When I was a beginning graduate student, Bill Dietrich encouraged us to visit Luna Leopold at his home in the Berkeley Hills. Luna listened patiently while I explained the model I was developing, nodded politely, and said, “Very nice, very nice.” And then, leaning forward he said, “Now tell me this: What can you measure?” He was right, of course: The best problems often arise from a compelling observation that can eventually be compared with theory.

From that perspective, we who study surface processes are fortunate, partly because our data set—the surface itself—is eminently accessible but also because our ability to measure planetary surfaces is rapidly expanding. Laser surveys are producing topographic maps with unprecedented resolution at a quickening pace. We have maps of asteroids, images of river networks on an icy moon, hydrologic fluxes from gravity, and long-term erosion rates. We are acquiring the information to answer questions that have dangled since long before I contemplated a scientific career and to pose new questions about patterns that were previously unknown. It is a wonderful time to ask, What can you measure?

Yet many landscapes remain unexplored. The river networks on Titan are poorly resolved. Our knowledge of submarine landforms is spotty. And we have few windows onto landscapes from the geologic past.

I look forward to confronting these challenges and others alongside all of you. Of the many brilliant and generous colleagues I have encountered, I must single out a few to thank for their guidance and inspiration: Alan Howard, whose footprints encircle many good problems; my graduate advisors, Jim Kirchner and Bill Dietrich; my geophysics tutors, Jerry Mitrovica and Michael Manga; and Mike Lamb, Josh Roering, Jeremy Venditti, and Peter Huybers. And to all who contributed to this nomination: Thank you.

—J. Taylor Perron, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Douglas J. Jerolmack received the 2010 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, held 13–17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”



I am extremely happy to introduce Douglas J. Jerolmack as the first recipient of the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award. Doug’s signal contribution has been to show how concepts from nonlinear dynamics can be used to construct new kinds of predictive models of pattern formation on Earth and planetary surfaces.

During his graduate research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Doug developed a novel model for river dune dynamics. At the grain scale he advanced our understanding of eolian transport mechanics, while at a larger scale he contributed new ideas on channel pattern and fan formation; both approaches were extended to Mars to constrain paleoenvironmental conditions there. Doug continued at the same rapid pace throughout his postdoc at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, and during his first 3 years at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has jump-started his own highly productive research group. Highlights of his further work include showing how autogenic (internally generated) variability in landscapes can destroy high-frequency environmental signals and the quantification of how river channels fill space to build deltas.

Doug is carrying on two important threads of Luna Leopold’s research: a rigorous, quantitative approach and great range and creativity. Luna was also a wonderfully compelling ambassador for the science of landscapes. In this sense, it is fitting that Doug is the first recipient of the Leo­pold Award: He has energy to burn, speaks and writes effusively and clearly, and is capable of making landscape science come as alive for first-graders as for mathematicians and physicists. I have had the privilege of working with Doug since 2002, when he arrived at MIT as a new graduate student with a love for sediment ripples; I know that this award is richly deserved. I also know that we can expect from him many unexpected and significant contributions to Earth and planetary surface science in the years ahead.

— David C. Mohrig, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin


Thank you. I stepped into geomorphology at an amazing time, when the quantitative transformation initiated by Luna Leo­pold was hitting its stride. The past decade has witnessed the creation of the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics; our own journal and focus group within AGU; a division for surface processes within the U.S. National Science Foundation; and the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System. These efforts have been organized by many in this room today. Through the Gilbert Club, town hall meetings, and white papers, the very same people who helped transform the science of geomorphology have also galvanized the community. That you would recognize my work as contributing to this change is a deep honor.

I grew up on Brandywine Creek, in Pennsylvania, a stream made famous by Leo­pold’s pioneering work. As a naive graduate student I explained to David Mohrig my vague notions of uniting statistical physics with geomorphology (I knew nothing about either one). Fortunately, David is a patient man, and he slowly narrowed my focus toward fundamental problems. His infectious enthusiasm, coupled with a deep physical intuition and an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock music, showed me that it’s possible to be a great scientist and a likable person! Chris Paola, my postdoc advisor, challenged geologists’ preoccupation with fluid turbulence in sediment transport, helping to send me down a very fruitful path. David and Chris have been fountains of ideas, and they taught me that there is always more good than harm in being generous with them.

There are so many first-order problems waiting to be solved and so many enthusiastic young people—from a variety of backgrounds—who are joining our ranks and enriching geomorphology. I look forward to many fun years ahead of collaborating with my past mentors, students, and future colleagues. Thank you so much.

— Douglas J. Jerolmack, Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Honors Contacts

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Program Manager, Fellows

[email protected]