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Find Your Science at GSA
21 July2010
GSA Release No. 10-36
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach
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Geological Society of America Announces Gold Medalists for 2010

Penrose, Arthur L. Day, and Donath (Young Scientist Award) Medalists
to give special lectures at GSA Annual Meeting in Denver

Boulder, CO, USA – The Geological Society of America will honor influential contributors to the geosciences at its 2010 Annual Meeting in Denver, CO, USA. Awards will be presented at the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center on Saturday, 30 October.

The Day and Donath Medalists, and a representative for the Penrose Medalist, are scheduled to give special half-hour lectures reflecting on their scientific careers on Sunday, 31 October. Members of the media are invited to attend.

The gold medal honorees demonstrate not only the highest standards of scientific achievement, but also passion and commitment to the betterment of the geoscience community.

Eric J. Essene, of the University of Michigan was awarded the 2010 Penrose Medal shortly before his death earlier this year.  Essene’s wife, Joyce Budai, will accept the Penrose Medal on his behalf. John W. Valley of the University of Wisconsin will give the Penrose Gold Medal Lecture in his honor.

“Essene’s contributions have improved significantly our understanding of the geologic processes involved in the formation and evolution of the continental crust,” said John Bowman, University of Utah, in nominating Essene for this award. Bruce Yardley, former head of the Department of Earth Sciences at Leeds, wrote in support of the nomination that “Eric Essene has been one of the most influential scientists in metamorphic petrology and mineralogy in the latter part of the 20th century, both through his own work and through that of his students.”

Essene’s contributions to students were also cited by Valley. “Eric… broadens their horizons, makes them think independently, and encourages them to tackle interdisciplinary problems,” Valley said.

Essene received a B.Sc. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He published 197 refereed papers during his career and was one of the most highly cited researchers in geoscience, according to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

George E. Gehrels of the University of Arizona will receive the prestigious Arthur L. Day Medal.

Over his 30-year career, Gehrels “has been a tireless force in developing and applying U-Th-Pb geochronology to a variety of tectonic problems worldwide,” said Peter DeCelles of the University of Arizona in nominating Gehrels for the medal.

Gehrels played a key role in developing one of the top laboratories in the world for U-Pb geochronology of detrital zircons. The Arizona LaserChron Center “has ignited a revolution in detrital provenance and chronostratigraphic studies aimed at determining amalgamation histories of continents and associated continental-scale sediment transport systems,” said DeCelles. Gehrels made this lab available to the global community through establishment of a National Science Foundation analytical center, and “the discoveries that have come from it are important research accomplishments that demonstrate the power of engaging the geoscience community in fundamental geochronology over a wide range of problems.”

Gehrels earned a B.S. in geology from the University of Arizona, an M.S. in geology from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in geology from the California Institute of Technology.

Dana L. Royer of Wesleyan University will receive the gold Donath Medal (endowed by Dr. and Mrs. Fred A. Donath) and a cash prize of $10,000. The award recognizes young scientists (aged 35 or younger) for outstanding original research marking a major advance in the earth sciences.

“Dana is a true innovator who successfully tackles extremely important questions in paleoclimatology and paleoecology, in part using paleobotanical proxies calibrated with a remarkable series of careful modern analog studies,” said Peter D. Wilf of Pennsylvania State University in nominating Royer for the honor. “He often connects the deep-time climate and CO2 record to the present day in highly societally-relevant ways that are widely cited in the ‘modern’ climate change literature.”

“Without Dana’s contributions we would know much less about Earth’s climate history and its great importance to today’s world,” Wilf said.

“In the rapidly developing field of plant paleoecology and ecophysiology, Dana Royer stands out in terms of innovation and sheer breadth and depth of knowledge. He is truly an emerging leader in the geological sciences,” said Leo Hickey, professor of geology and Curator of Paleobotany at Yale University, in supporting Royer’s nomination.

Royer earned a B.A. in geology and environmental studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in geology from Yale University.

Read more about the Penrose, Day, and Donath Medals at

See photos of GSA award recipients at Citations and responses from the 2010 GSA medal and award winners will be posted on this site in early November, after the GSA Annual Meeting.