Events / News

Climate Scientist awarded 2014 Wollaston Medal

Professor Maureen Raymo

Professor Maureen Raymo

Recently, our Awards for 2014 were announced, and we’re thrilled that the recipient of our most coveted medal, the Wollaston, is  Dr Maureen Raymo, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Raymo first made her mark with the ‘uplift-weathering hypothesis’, which suggests that rising mountain ranges can cool the Earth’s climate. Developed with her adviser, William Ruddiman, and coauthor Philip Froelich, the hypothesis continues to be researched – but her interest in climate science and geology began much earlier.

‘I grew up loving the oceans and the mountains’ she told me. ‘In college I discovered marine geology, the perfect field for me! By the end of my freshman year in college, in the late 70s, I was hooked on the study of long term climate change using deep sea sediments.’

Raymo went on to become a Research Professor at Boston University, where she worked on explaining the ebb and flow of ice ages between 3 million and 800,000 years ago, and why they were more frequent than they are today. Her research, published in Science in 2006, proposed that the Antarctic ice sheet was previously far more dynamic than generally supposed.

Raymo cites ‘the creative and interesting people I get to work with every day, and the friendships I’ve made over 30 years’ as the best part of her job.

‘I also appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to collaborate with scientists from around the world, working with them at sea, in the field, and over the internet.’

She is now Research Professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Raymo 1“Currently we are working on determining what the sea level was (and therefore ice volume) the last time the Earth had this much CO2 in the atmosphere– this was during a period three million years ago called the Pliocene.  We’ve discovered that traditional methods of reconstructing past sea levels from the geologic record failed to take into account large crustal movements caused by glacial isostasy and dynamic topography.  We are currently building a data base of shoreline observations from around the world with which we will be able to better constrain these effects.”

Dr. Raymo is the first female recipient of the Wollaston Medal in its 183 year history, and will be presented with the award at President’s Day on 4 June. In his nomination, James Scourse of Bangor University said ‘Maureen Raymo is a profoundly important figure in marine geology, paleoceanography, climate and Earth system science.

Her fundamental work and, notably, her ideas and creativity have set the agenda for three decades.’

Wollaston Medal.ashx

The Wollaston Medal

‘Winning this medal has been the highlight of my career!’ Dr. Raymo told me. She also passed on some advice for any aspiring scientists wanting to follow in her footsteps:

‘Chose a problem that fascinates you, read the historical literature, build a strong foundation in the basic sciences, nurture your sense of humor.’

  • President’s Day 2014 is taking place on 4 June at the Geological Society, Burlington House. Winners of the major medals will deliver short talks about their research during the afternoon – which are free to attend. To find out more, or book your place, visit http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/presidentsday2014

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