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Africa award for research excellence
in earth or ocean sciences

Information on the Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth or Ocean Sciences

The Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth or Ocean Sciences is given annually to an early career scientist from the African continent in recognition of significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth or ocean sciences.

Successful candidates will have the talent and drive necessary to excel in long careers in the Earth or ocean sciences. Expectations for this award includes significant original contributions to Earth or ocean science research in Africa, excellence in research, student mentorship, acting as the main driver of the science when working in collaborative teams, and outstanding service and outreach to society.

Established in 2015 by the generosity of Sunanda Basu, this award supports diversity in the Earth and space science community by recognizing excellence in research by African scientists and expanding opportunities for international collaboration on the African continent.

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Award benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our honorees. Recipients of the Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth or Ocean Sciences will receive an engraved award, as well as the following benefits:

  • 1
    $1,000 monetary prize
  • 2
    A three-year membership to AGU
  • 3
    Recognition in Eos
  • 4
    Recognition and invitation to present at AGU’s Fall Meeting during the award presentation year
  • 5
    Award winners are eligible for travel support and meeting registration for AGU Fall Meeting through the Lloyd V. Berkner Travel Fellowship Fund
  • 6
    Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at AGU’s 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. All individuals must be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

  • 1
    Nominee membership: The nominee is not required to be an active AGU member.
  • 2

    Nominees must be: (1) citizens or permanent residents of a country on the African continent, (2) within 10 years of receiving a Ph.D. from any institution, and (3) teaching, conducting research, or working on science-related issues at an African institution.

    PLEASE NOTE: Allowances to the 10-year eligibility requirement will be considered under AGU's Honors Program Career Stage Eligibility Requirement Allowance Policy. This policy grants allowances to the career stage eligibility requirement based on the following family or medical leave circumstances: childbirth; adoption; personal serious illness; primary caregiver of a person with a health condition, and any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, child, or parent of the employee is engaged in military service. Allowances for other extenuating circumstances not covered in the above examples (i.e., economic hardship, other career breaks, etc.) can also be considered.

  • 3
    Nominators must be active AGU members and in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy. Duplicate nominations for the same individual will not be accepted. However, one co-nominator is permitted (but not required) per nomination.
  • 4
    Supporters, or individuals who write letters of support for the nominee, are not required to be active AGU members but must be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.
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Nomination package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. For detailed information on the requirements, review the Union Awards, Medals and Prizes Frequently Asked Questions.

  • A nomination letter with one-sentence citation (150 characters or less). Letterhead stationery is preferred. Nominator’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required. The citation should appear at either the beginning or end of the nomination letter.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee. Include the candidate’s name, address and email, history of employment, degrees, research experience, honors, memberships, and service to the community through committee work, advisory boards, etc.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • Three letters of support not including the nomination letter. Letterhead is preferred. Supporter’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required.

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Criteria for a successful nomination

Successful candidates should show the talent and drive necessary to excel in long careers in the Earth or ocean sciences including through:

  • 1
    Significant original contributions to Earth or ocean science research in Africa
  • 2
    Demonstrated excellence in research in Earth or ocean sciences.
  • 3
    Student mentorship.
  • 4
    Being the main drivers of the science when working in collaborative teams.
  • 5
    Demonstrated outstanding service or outreach to society.
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Nominations are Open!

The nomination cycle for 2021 AGU Union awards, medals, and prizes is now open until 15 April. Nominate a colleague, peer or student today.

Submit
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Past Recipients

Ameha Atnafu Muluneh was awarded the 2020 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held virtually in December 2020. The award is given in recognition of “significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth or ocean sciences.

Andy Green was awarded the 2019 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Ocean Sciences at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of “significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth or ocean sciences.”

Citation

Dr. Andrew Green is an exceptional young marine geoscientist, actively engaged in placing the African continent’s marine geology in the international spotlight. His research career began when South African marine geology was at an all-time low because of a lack of academic expertise. He has, since his Ph.D. 10 years ago, become the hinge point behind the resurrection of South Africa’s status as an international member of the marine geology community. His research unit, the only such in Africa, is a vibrant and productive center that draws international collaboration and students from countries across the continent and abroad.

Dr. Green’s work has focused on examining coastal and shelf geomorphology and sedimentology in response to forcing induced by sea level change. His holistic treatment of shelf-coastal morphologic systems in the context of major changes in sea level has been novel and has confirmed the existence of meltwater pulses in SE African waters. Given the dense clustering of urban areas along the SE African coast, the detailed understanding of how past shorelines in the region responded to and were modified by high rates of sea level rise will be valuable data sets to adapt to and mitigate future sea level changes that are predicted to be as high as 2 meters by the end of the 21st century.

Dr. Green is a prolific scholar, producing significant research results in a part of the world that is comparatively poorly studied. To date, he has published 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 30 of these as first author and 23 as project leader of student-authored work. This emphasis on student-driven publication is a major boost to capacity development and skill training for young African scientists.

Dr. Green has significantly expanded African access to complex and expensive geophysical equipment and software. Considering that few universities in the world own their own bathymetric and seismic acquisition systems, he has positioned his team as the central touchpoint for research on the seafloor and coastlines of the continent. Dr. Green has a strong dedication to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban; he was appointed lecturer while still a Ph.D. student, promoted to tenured lecturer in 2010 and associate professor in 2016, and serves as the academic leader of the Geology Department. His passion to gain experience in various geophysical tools and reinvest it into the South African tertiary education sector led to him being named an African Fulbright scholar in 2018.

—John A. Goff, Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin

Response

I am deeply honored to have been awarded the 2019 AGU Africa Award for Research Excellence in Ocean Sciences. I would like to thank AGU for the award and for placing Africa in the spotlight. I am encouraged now, more than ever, to spread the good news of our wonderful continent. Much is yet to be done from this part of the world!

I am indebted to my nominator, John Goff. In 2005, John selflessly reached out to a young Ph.D. student, located on the far side of the planet, with much-needed inputs to his first scientific paper. That student was me, and that was where my career began.

Peter Ramsay employed me throughout my M.Sc. and Ph.D. Under Pete’s kind guidance, I was exposed to every facet of shelf geology possible. If there was a piece of equipment that could scan the seafloor, I saw it in action. Much of what I have learned was gleaned from Pete during the months spent sailing the Indian Ocean in the various rust buckets we called survey vessels.

Steve McCourt nurtured my early academic career. As the head of department, he was a source of unwavering support and advice. Steve taught me to think strategically and to seek the advantages amid the somewhat chaotic South African tertiary education system. My great collaborator and dear friend Andrew Cooper took me under his wing in the latter 8 years. The places visited, cold beers shared, papers written, and advice given will remain unmatched. Likewise, Burg Flemming has been an enthusiastic supporter and keen scientific sounding board. He too has provided me with many opportunities I think would not exist otherwise. Of course, I need to thank those who wrote letters of support for my nomination, Joe Kelley and Edward Anthony. I am deeply grateful.

Last, I thank my family. My parents supported my love affair with the ocean since I was a child. The many early-morning car rides to the beach, sunburns, and other injuries were all worth it. Your support has been the greatest gift. To my wife, Lauren, my greatest advocate, this is all meaningless without you. Last, I would like to dedicate this award to our yet unborn child. I hope this will prompt some of the changes needed for you to see the beaches and coasts of the world as we did as children.

—Andy Green, Geological Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai received the Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes an early-career scientist from the African continent “for completing significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth sciences.”

 

Citation

Carrying out innovative research in an environment without adequate infrastructure, ranging from electricity and Internet access to research equipment, could be challenging and demotivating. This has often been the story for most young geoscientists who studied and worked in Nigeria or most other sub-Saharan African countries. They have had to quit research, resolve to do only “desktop research” and teaching, or emigrate to a developed country. This, however, has not been the case with Dr. Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai. In spite of having studied in and currently working in Nigeria, he has chosen to defy the setbacks due to the lack of research facilities and resolved to work hard making use of available resources, mining collaborative opportunities when possible, and, above all, maximizing available learning opportunities. Dr. Aizebeokhai’s recognition with AGU’s Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences for his contributions in applying hydrogeophysical methods to solving groundwater and environmental challenges in Nigeria is highly deserved and serves as motivation not only for him but also for other young scientists defying the odds and tasking their innovation to solve societal challenges, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Aizebeokhai obtained his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in applied geophysics from the University of Ibadan and Covenant University, respectively, in Nigeria. During his doctoral research, he worked closely with Prof. Olayinka of the University of Ibadan and Dr. Singh at the Groundwater Research Group of the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, India, where he developed 2-D and 3-D field electrical resistivity designs for groundwater investigations in southwestern Nigeria. Since completing his Ph.D. in 2010, he has remained committed to his research on applying geophysical methods for hydrogeological, engineering, and other environmental investigations and has published over 30 scientific papers in both local and international journals. In addition to his research, he is deeply committed to teaching and capacity development for young geoscientists.

In recognition of his research excellence, demonstration of high self-motivation, and commitment to teaching, he was recently promoted from the position of a senior lecturer to a full professor at Covenant University. Prof. Aizebeokhai’s research, teaching, and service contributions show great potential for contributing to effective management of water and environmental resources in sub-Saharan Africa.

—Kennedy O. Doro, Science for Development Research and Teaching Initiative, Lagos, Nigeria

Response

I express my profound gratitude to AGU’s Honors and Recognition Committee for finding me worthy of the AGU Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Sciences. My sincere appreciation goes to my mentors, Prof. A. I. Olayinka of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, and Dr. V. S. Singh, Scientist Emeritus of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, India. They are the giants on whose shoulders I stand tall and strong; they taught me the art and science of near-surface geophysics. I thank Covenant University for giving me the platform to teach and conduct research in near-surface geophysics. I thank my students, who have always assisted in the field survey. I am grateful to my wife, Uyoyo Anita Aizebeokhai, for her encouragement and support over the years.

Each time I attend a Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Annual Meeting, when I consider the volume and quality of research work presented by geoscientists across the globe, my heart bleeds because only a handful of the presentations are from Africa. At the 2016 SEG Annual Meeting, for example, out of the several thousands of papers scheduled for presentation, I was the only Nigerian living in Nigeria who made a presentation; the other Nigerians who presented at that conference are living in the United States, Canada, or Europe. The situation is the same in most geoscience international conferences. This shows that Africa is not contributing much in terms of research output to the geoscience world. This may be due to a number of constraints that characterize the research climate in Africa; the most important constraints include inadequate research infrastructure, poor training in the art and science of research, lack of motivation due to poor research incentives from government and institutions, and poor funding. Most researchers in Africa either are not aware of existing funding opportunities or are unable to write competitive research grant proposals to fund research.

I have been faced with all of these challenges; apart from the fact that I was lucky to win a TWAS-CSIR Postgraduate Fellowship at NGRI in 2008 and an SEG Foundation Travel Grant in 2009, I have practically been funding my research from my salary. This naturally poses limitations to the kind of research I am able to conduct. My main motivation for research is born of a strong desire to help raise a new generation of geoscientists with the right paradigm in Africa.

—Ahzegbobor Philips Aizebeokhai, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria

Bruno Faria received the 2017 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The award honors an early-career scientist from the African continent for “completing significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth or ocean sciences.”

 

Citation

Dr. Bruno Faria from the National Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics in Mindelo, Cape Verde, is receiving the 2017 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science for his work to operate and maintain the seismic monitoring network of Cape Verde’s active volcanoes, leading to a successful prediction of the 2014 eruption of Fogo volcano, and for his broad collaborations with and assistance to foreign Earth, ocean, and atmospheric scientists working in Cape Verde.

Bruno received a B.Sc. from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and a Ph.D. from the Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010. His research concentrated on geophysical monitoring of volcanoes, particularly Fogo volcano in Cape Verde. He developed a volcano monitoring network initially deployed at the time of the 1995 eruption of Fogo to extend it to other areas of potential hazard due to local reports of earthquakes. There was no geophysical record of volcanic activity in the country, so the network provided the data needed to establish an alert level system for use by national civil protection authorities. On this and related topics, Bruno has published seven papers since 2003.

Bruno also made time to collaborate with foreign scientists working in Cape Verde involved in volcano and earthquake monitoring, helping them to deploy instruments of their own for research purposes that aided the national monitoring mission. He also worked to establish and operate an atmospheric chemistry monitoring station in Cape Verde, on the island of São Vicente. These efforts led to coauthorship of the published research results. Bruno also fostered scientific research in his country by acting as a national scientific liaison in a suite of research cruises. At present, Dr. Faria still plays a key role in Cape Verde’s volcano monitoring efforts and is dedicated to building up national monitoring infrastructure and raising the visibility of Cape Verde science in Africa and internationally.

—George Helffrich, Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo, Japan

Response

First, I would like to thank Dr. George Helffrich for his kind words and for my nomination. I would also like to thank all the colleagues who supported my nomination and the award committee members. I should stress that I am deeply honored and grateful to receive the 2017 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science.

At the beginning of my physics sciences studies at Université Catholique de Louvain, I used to dream about the geothermal prospection in Cape Verde, particularly in Fogo, where there is an active volcano. This led me to study—as a part-time study—volcanoes. Thus, at the end of my B.Sc. studies I had acquired some knowledge on how volcanoes work. Then the 1995 Fogo eruption happened. This was the end of my interest in geothermal exploration. Nevertheless, a new interest arose: the geophysical monitoring of volcanoes. Four years after the eruption, I had the great opportunity to collaborate with the first permanent monitoring geophysical network of Fogo volcano, a project led by Dr. João Fonseca. I started then a Ph.D. program, whose main goals were to understand the background seismic activity of Fogo volcano and to establish an alert level table for this volcano. Just 4 years after I finished it, the 2014 eruption of Fogo occurred, and my results were put to the test. Currently, all my attention and efforts are focused on a seismic crisis in Brava that began 2 years ago.

If my achievements have any merit, it is certainly because I was lucky to receive the contributions of so many people: Dr. V. Dehant, who gave me the good taste of the solid Earth geophysics; Dr. G. Helffrich, from whom I learned the fine structure of our planet and how to set up a seismic station correctly; Dr. S. Day, who tirelessly explained to me the structural geology of Fogo and how magma deforms the crust; Dr. João Fonseca, my Ph.D. adviser, whose -open--minded thinking quickly gave me the guidelines for the research in volcano geophysics; and my colleagues at my institute and, particularly, the former administration. My family and Claudia, my life partner, were also crucial, especially my father, who showed me the way of science since my childhood and has always supported me without pressuring me. I’m deeply grateful to all of them!

—Bruno Faria, National Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, Cape Verde

Musa Siphiwe Doctor Manzi received the 2016 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an ­early-­career scientist from the African continent for “completing significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Earth and space sciences.”

 

Citation

Dr. Musa Manzi is richly deserving of the AGU Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science. A close reading of Dr. Manzi’s published work in international journals reveals an original problem solver and interpretive thinker, and the strength of his academic curriculum vitae, together with his ongoing work, paints a clear picture of an emerging leader in the field of exploration geophysics. While conducting research on ­three-­dimensional seismic imaging of the South African crust, Musa has also thrown himself with committed enthusiasm and great skill into teaching not only seismological theory and applications but also field-based geophysical research to a growing group of international students.

Musa’s life story, seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome and subsequent achievements, makes him effectively peerless as an African scientist. However, one does not need to be aware of these aspects of his life and times to fully appreciate his scientific work.

Dr. Manzi advances techniques for resource identification and extraction while furthering the science of being able to do so safely, with the interest of the human workers in mind. As an example, we may cite a pair of papers published by Musa in 2012 in the journal Geophysics about seismic attributes, properties of the seismic wavefield that are measured as proxies for properties of the subsurface. In the first paper, new attributes are designed to evaluate ore resources (finding gold), and in the second, these are used to map conduits for water and methane (protecting miners). Sophisticated techniques of ­three-­dimensional wavefield processing are developed and deployed to produce some truly stunning interpreted images of the shallow subsurface. In each case, the skill of the processing routines is responsible for the remarkable quality of the images. In these papers, we see a master of ­exploration-­seismic imaging at play. Beyond seismology, they have been influencing other research endeavors, for example, into the deep subsurface microbiology of the Witwatersrand Basin. Joining these interdisciplinary studies with intellectual audacity and engaging leadership, Musa has now ventured into correlating ­three-­dimensional fracture networks with (a)biogenic gas compositions, microbiology, and subsurface-fracture fluid flow.

Although his rise from student to lecturer to senior researcher and director of the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand has been meteoric, Musa continues to find time for teaching science and mentoring: undergraduates and graduates, disadvantaged youth, precollege students (on Saturdays), and the beneficiaries of a number of charities that he founded and in which he maintains an active involvement.

—Frederik Simons, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

Response

I am very grateful to AGU and the members of the selection committee for this unexpected honor, which I receive with heartfelt gratitude and humility. Being a first recipient of the prestigious 2016 Africa Award for Research Excellence in Earth Science at this stage of my academic career is indeed great motivation and a tremendous honor. I will never forget the hour when I received that email from AGU informing me of the astounding news and how I literally burst into tears of joy and remained speechless at my office desk.

I have always been intrigued by science, involving a combination of physics, math, and geology ever since my undergraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. During my undergraduate years, I had the privilege of working as an assistant researcher for 3 years in physics research laboratories, including the High Pressure and Mossbauer laboratories, which provided me with an opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty of science. Furthermore, assisting Susan Webb during my vacation periods with many geophysical projects introduced me to the application of physics principles in Earth science, a crucial route that moved me from the physics department to the School of Geosciences for my fourth year in geophysics and then postgraduate studies. My most sincere thanks go to my geophysics lecturers, Susan Webb and Raymond Durrheim. Since my very first footsteps into geophysics, they have been inspiring and nourishing me.

I would also like to express my gratitude to my Ph.D. advisor and mentors, Kim Hein, Lewis Ashwal, and Roger Gibson, who were key personalities for my academic life. I was fortunate to be given by them the liberty to pursue my own interests and conduct independent research on various components of geophysics. I am truly grateful to Frederik Simons and Tullis Onstott for being kind enough to nominate me for this award. For one who grew up under extreme poverty in a rural village in South Africa, and who taught himself and his classmates physics and math because there were no teachers, such an honor is far from ­self-­evident and encourages me to continue on in developing the next generation of inspired and enthusiastic young African scientists. Without the love and support of my family and friends, the emotional toil of teaching and supervising postgraduate students while running many nonprofit organizations would have been unbearably onerous.

—Musa S. D. Manzi, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Honors Contacts

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Robert Rader

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7418 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Antonio Covington

Program Specialist, Section Awards and Lectures

202-777-7484 | [email protected]