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Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal)

Brian K. Horton
Brian K. Horton
University of California, Los Angeles

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Presented to Brian K. Horton

 Citation by Raymond V. Ingersoll

Brian Horton is superbly qualified to be this year's recipient of the Donath Medal, awarded to this promising young scientist who has already contributed greatly to our understanding of the interplay of sedimentation and tectonics. His publications document and discuss sedimentation within a Cenozoic extensional basin of Nevada, Cenozoic history of crustal shortening and basin evolution in the Altiplano Plateau and retroarc foldthrust belt of the Bolivian Andes, feedback mechanisms among climate, erosion and tectonics, the significance of fluvial megafans, basin development and crustal thickening in Tibet, and the dynamics of coarse-grained sedimentation in the USA Cordilleran foreland. In addition, he is presently conducting field research in Iran! Brian gets around!

Born in California in 1970, Brian attended the University of New Mexico as an undergraduate, where he received his BS in 1992; he received his MS from Montana State University in 1994, and his PhD from the University of Arizona in 1998. Both his MS advisor Jim Schmitt and his PhD advisor Pete DeCelles testify that Brian was not only the best graduate student they have supervised, but the best that they have known! In both cases, Brian arrived at his graduate institutions with thesis topics fully in mind, and even developed his own funding, including an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. He went to Bolivia because it was the best place to combine detailed stratigraphic and structural analyses with regional tectonic controls in a frontier geologic setting. He developed the logistics and funding for his thesis project completely on his own.

Brian sets an example of rigorous interdisciplinary study of tectonics, structure, sedimentology and stratigraphy in order to solve fundamental problems through the integration of field work, laboratory analysis and regional synthesis of active tectonic settings. All of Brian's field work (and that of his students) combines rigorous and detailed measurements acquired over long field seasons under logistically difficult conditions. As a result, each of his publications includes a major contribution of data, as well as insightful analysis and synthesis. Brian's publications are characterized by the most exacting standards of documentation and analysis; they are sure to have long shelf lives.

Since coming to UCLA in 2001, Brian has attracted a growing group of excellent graduate students, as well as frequent visiting scientists and post-docs. He has imparted to all who work with him, from undergraduate students to senior collaborators, his intense belief in rigorous interdisciplinary studies to solve fundamental problems in sedimentation and tectonics.

Over the last eight years, Brian has achieved a leadership position among Andean geologists. He has worked throughout Bolivia, as well as in Peru and northern Argentina. His work has generated tens of kilometers of detailed stratigraphic sections, hundreds of petrographic modal analyses, several 40Ar/39Ar, palynological and fission-track ages, thousands of paleocurrent measurements, many kilometers of magnetostratigraphic sampling, regional mapping, and correlations of many stratigraphic units. For many years, the consensus literature has taken the onset of Andean orogenesis to be latest Oligocene or Miocene. Brian has demonstrated that the stratigraphic record of Bolivia indicates an earlier Paleogene onset for regional crustal shortening.

Brian is relentless in his pursuit of new problems, wherever they may lead him and his expanding group of students and coworkers. He has mastered whatever techniques and modeling methods are needed to answer important questions. He is adept at all aspects of traditional sedimentologic and stratigraphic analyses, as well as magnetostratigraphy, chronostratigraphy and thermochronology. It is unusual for a young scientist to exhibit both the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience which Brian demonstrates.

In summary, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to present the 2004 Donath Medalist, Brian K. Horton.

 top 2004 Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) - Response by Brian K. Horton

To receive the Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America is a sincere honor that I consider a measure of the current vibrant research by many people in the overlapping fields of tectonics, sedimentology, and structural geology. Important challenges remain in our understanding of the interplay among mountain building, climate, and sedimentary basin evolution, making today an exciting time to be involved in multidisciplinary research on diverse geological problems.

As a graduate student, I was fortunate enough to have interacted with many talented, dedicated scientists. Topping the list of mentors is Peter DeCelles at the University of Arizona, who set a high standard and led by example through creativity and rigorous data collection on an array of projects. Pete taught me to develop a healthy skepticism for the leading interpretations, whether on Andean orogenesis, alluvial fans, or the dynamics of foreland basins. At Montana State University, Jim Schmitt and Dave Lageson emphasized critical thinking, careful field investigations, and the value of digging intensely into existing literature. Several Arizona people were instrumental in helping me appreciate the geophysical constraints on regional deformation, notably Susan Beck, George Zandt, and Bob Butler. I am also indebted to the late Peter Coney for his inspired teaching, outstanding field trips, and infectious enthusiasm for the Andes and North American Cordillera. His example guides my teaching (although I remain a novice pipe-smoker), which culminated last summer in a course fieldtrip to Bolivia that would have brought a grin to Peter's face.

More recently, the remarkably diverse faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who span a tremendous range of the Earth and space sciences, have provided a stimulating environment. My citationist Ray Ingersoll, 1994 Donath medallist An Yin, Gary Axen, and other outstanding people generate an energized, collegial atmosphere while constantly motivating me and my students to strive for improved understanding of tectonic processes. Naturally this award only raises their expectations, but I welcome the challenge.

Because I spend extended periods in the field, often in international locations, I am particularly grateful to innumerable colleagues from South America, Asia, and the Middle East for sponsoring these expeditions and invariably kindling new perspectives on magnificent geological problems. Of course none of this research would be possible without financial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund.

To my parents, I would like to express my gratitude for their unwavering support over the years. I always take great pride in relating the latest field adventures to my dad, who inspired me with tales of motorcycling across the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. Last summer I had the privilege of showing him around the Bolivian Andes by tour bus, while he entertained a cadre of UCLA students.

My wife Danielle deserves the utmost thanks for her encouragement and understanding along the way. I still marvel at, and take inspiration from, her abilities and dedication in teaching science to young, junior-high minds.

In closing, I must mention the pivotal role of several early research opportunities. I am one of the early products of NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. As an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, I was able to conduct research on paleomagnetic and hydrogeologic REU projects with John Geissman and Michael Campana. Those experiences were crucial in my decision to pursue advanced degrees and a research-oriented career. Continued support through NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship program and Postdoctoral Fellowship program opened the door for new ventures. Finally, several research grants from GSA were instrumental in the completion of my graduate research projects. GSA continues to make a difference for many young scientists and it is a pleasure to be recognized by a society that regularly fosters student research. Thank you again for this honor.


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