GSA Geophysics Division


Citation for Lisa Tauxe, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
by Dennis Kent, Rutgers University

The George P. Woollard Award is given to an individual who has contributed in an outstanding manner to geology through the application of principals and techniques of geophysics.

Lisa Tauxe is a stellar researcher in earth magnetism. She also teaches, is an accomplished musician, has a family and is active in scientific and civic circles. She has authored or co-authored over 110 papers - including a poignant piece in Eos on juggling dual-careers in academia, nurtured more than a half-dozen PhD students, and hosted a steady stream of post-doctoral scholars. In the process, Lisa has established at Scripps one of the premier paleomagnetics research facilities in the world and herself as one of the preeminent workers in the field.

Her early work was in magnetostratigraphy.  Lisa's first paper as a graduate student was a sole-authored contribution in Nature that dealt with a revision of the age of Miocene hominoids in Asia based on revised magnetostratigraphic correlations in the Siwaliks. Also as a graduate student she went out as the paleomagnetist on DSDP Leg 73 and produced a superb magnetostratigraphy for the Cenozoic.  This record was key to the development of integrated magnetobiostratigraphic time scales and the data are still being used today. In East African continental rift sediments, she was able to confirm that Nick Shackleton got the age of the Brunhes/Matuyama boundary about right using orbital time scales and that the much-debated discrepancy in its age was due to a bias in the traditional potassium-argon dates.  Her ongoing work in magnetostratigraphy has dealt with the precise age registry of important geologic levels, such as the Paleocene/Eocene and Oligocene/Miocene boundaries, for improved global correlation.

 Lisa is also noted for her work on paleointensity, one of the most difficult parameters of the geomagnetic field to measure but critical to our understanding of its generation and long-term evolution.  She followed two research avenues - relative paleointensity in sediments, where she was able to significantly improve data reliability by developing the rigorous psuedo-Thellier technique, and absolute determinations in igneous rocks, where she pioneered the use of submarine basalt glasses that turn out to be an ideal material for classical Thellier methods.  Some important outcomes of this work are that the mean long-term value for Earth's field intensity may only be about one-half of what had been assumed and intriguingly, that there may be a dependency of the mean intensity on polarity interval length.  

A major recent interest is TAFI, a collaborative project with geomagnetic theorists, such as her colleagues Cathy Constable and Catherine Johnson at Scripps, and experimentalists, such as Laurie Brown and Neil Opdyke, to obtain a precise and accurate description of the time-averaged geomagnetic field. We can expect that the geocentric axial dipole hypothesis, a central tenet of virtually all paleomagnetic studies, will finally be tested in detail.   

Underlying all her efforts is a profound understanding of statistical methods that need to be employed to derive reliable and testable conclusions.  She is a forceful advocate of techniques novel to our discipline, such as the boot-strap and  jack-knife, to estimate representative values and error limits on distributions ranging from susceptibility ellipsoids for determining magnetic fabrics to the widely used fold test for constraining age of magnetization.  She is a proficient computer programmer and has made a whole package of useful software available in her recent principles and methods book as well as on her website.  

On a more personal note, those of us who know Lisa are completely taken by the enthusiasm and joy with which see approaches scientific problems. We also know that she is very competitive so if you venture into her sphere of interest, you better get it right.


  For her contributions to geophysics and to the scientific community, I am pleased to present Lisa Tauxe as the 2003 recipient of the Woollard Award.

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