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Welcome to the 2020 edition of the ESS Awards Program

Because of COVID19 and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, our annual awards ceremony cannot happen in person this year. But science and education march onward, not heedless, but more aware than ever of their importance to our democracy.

I have prepared a short version of the annual Chair's "speech" that normally begins the event.

I encourage you to read it, in honor of the students, faculty and staff who are being recognized, and to appreciate the fantastic opportunities provided by our generous donors.

We have had supporters from a century ago and from this past year, all of whom knew the enormous impact their gifts can have on the careers and lives of the recipients.

As a consequence, we are privileged to be able to distribute over $230,000 this year in awards, financial support for tuition, and research support.

We wish to recognize our donors and the legacy of their contributions. For those donors reading this, I hope that you can join us in person next year when life will return to some sense of normalcy.

We also wish to celebrate excellence. We have an amazing faculty, staff and student body on a national and international scale.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work that has already been done by our awards committee: Robert Holzworth, Cailey Condit, Jessica Badgeley and Lauren O'Neil, with the assistance of our student services staff, Noéll Bernard-Kingsley and Meghan Oxley, along with Scott Dakins, Michelle Barr, Nathan Briley and Ed Mulligan.

Almost all the awards are based on scholastic achievement, many cite character and promise as a criterion, some require applicants to demonstrate financial need, and a few specify a preference for a particular field of study.

These awards have a wide range of impacts. For some it is a critical contribution to their tuition. For others it will provide key field opportunities. For our graduate students it means being able to undertake research that could not be performed otherwise.

Please join me in (virtually) celebrating our students, staff and faculty achievements.

Eric Steig
Chair and Ben Rabinowitz Professor, Department of Earth and Space sciences

Earth and Space Sciences Special Awards


(Est. 03/2005 by Prof. Eric Cheney and many other donors)

This award honors a current student, alumnus/a, faculty or staff member in ESS for his or her exceptional contributions in support of either the Department's or the University's mission.

This award was established by Eric Cheney and is named after Julian Barksdale who arrived at the UW from Yale in 1936 and retired in 1973. He contributed greatly to the UW mission over a period of 40 years, including Chairman of the Faculty Senate, first Director of the A&S Honors Program, Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Geological Sciences, and several University Committees.

This award is very competitive due to the excellence of the many people that help this department function, and this year is no less competitive.

The award this year goes to:

  • Amy Wright

    Amy is a research scientist / engineer and primary seismic analyst for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) and has been part our department and for more than two decades. Every single seismic event recorded by PNSN since 2000 has been reviewed by Amy. Amy trains PNSN staff and students and plays a critical role in keeping PNSN data organized, useful, and current. Her nominators write that she is an absolutely essential person in this absolutely essential service that PNSN provides to our department, our community, and our nation.


Funds for this award come from the Robert G. and Nadine E. Bassett Fund.

Robert G. Bassett was born in Spokane, Washington in 1916. He moved to Seattle at the age of one and graduated from Franklin High School and entered UW in 1934. Extreme poverty and severe health problems during his first two years at UW forced him to abandon his studies and seek employment in the Cornucopia Gold Mine in Oregon. He persevered and completed his studies and graduated in 1945 from the University of Washington.

This year's award goes to:

  • Professor George Bergantz

    George joined ESS soon after earning his PhD from The Johns Hopkins University in Earth and Planetary Sciences (1988). His interests are in the quantitative treatment of geologic transport processes, particularly the physics of magmas and hydrothermal systems. George has long been a leader in our department in bridging the pedagogical divide that often characterizes the relationship between field-based geology and the mathematical approaches of geophysics. He teaches geomechanics at an advanced level, as well as a very popular introductory undergraduate course, "Living with Volcanoes". He is known as a demanding teacher, but his students recognize the value in this, and consistently express their appreciation. He has a unique ability to transfer his enthusiasm to his students, even when the subject may seem difficult. As one nominator wrote, he always arrives to class "in great spirits", contributing immeasurably to the learning environment.

ESS Undergraduate Student Awards


This special award is given to the undergraduate student(s) who has donated major amounts of time and effort to build a community within ESS and to make department life enjoyable and productive. This awardee represents the collegial spirit of the department. Along with a cash award, the Undergraduate Service Award winner has their name engraved on the perpetual award plaque. This year's award goes to:

  • Katie Hill

    It brings us great pleasure to select Katie Hill as the recipient of our ESS Undergraduate Service and feel this is a small step towards repaying the service that she has carried out for the ESS Department, College of the Environment, and UW more broadly. From one of her nominators: "One topic Hill is so incredibly passionate about is spreading the idea that undergraduates do not have to continue onto graduate school, especially directly out of UW. Being at a research institution surrounded by top-notch professors and graduate students every day can make academia seem like the only option, but Hill is here to help undergrads explore job opportunities they may have never heard of. From environmental consulting to exploration geology, she is the first point of contact for anyone nervous about the next steps."


Our other major undergraduate award is named in the memory of Douglas Merrill who was Professor emeritus Ron Merrill's brother. Douglas Merrill was tragically killed in a climbing accident on Mt. Stuart. Doug's colleagues and classmates at UW made a gift in his name. This is in fact our most prestigious award for a graduating senior. It is presented to the senior with an exceptional record of achievement. Along with the cash award, the awardee will have their named added to the list of former distinguished undergraduates from our dept.

This year the Douglas Merrill Prize for Excellence goes to…

  • Jonathan Rowe

    We are delighted to award Jon Rowe the Merrill Prize this year. Jon received multiple nominations from faculty who have come to know him for his exceptional scholarship, his dedication, and his passion for contributing to society. One of his nominators writes that "Jon's "enthusiasm for research is remarkable and he is one of those students professors dream of." Jon attended Kirkwood Community College in Iowa from 2017-2018 (GPA 4.0) before enrolling at UW. He will graduate from ESS with Departmental Honors this year. Jon's interest in geology began when he was in Hawaii with the U.S. Navy: "seeing the orange glow emanating from the Halema'uma'u caldera, I could not help but fall in love with geology." His undergraduate research work involved novel method development in organic chemistry. Jon will be pursuing a law career, building upon these experiences. He writes, "...while I would be happy to pursue a career investigating the ancient mysteries of our planet, I feel called to a career in environmental law. Society is continuously changing, for better or for worse. As an environmental lawyer, I will do my part to help shape this change in the coming decades."

Undergraduate Summer Field Course Tuition Scholarships

Although field camp does not happen in the field this year, we are pleased to still be able to support our students.


Funds from the Julian & Marajane Barksdale Endowed Support Fund will be used to provide scholarships to students going to field camp. This endowment was created by Tucker Barksdale in honor of his father Julian Barksdale, whose long career at UW we have already referred to, and Melody Barksdale. Tucker himself has a BS from the UW from the College of Forest Resources class of '73.

This year's Barksdale award goes to:

  • Katie Hill


This fund is to support activities of undergraduates in ESS including but not limited to Summer Course in Field Geology, research projects, travel to meetings or to field sites. The founding gift was made by Dr. Joe Vance. Joe officially retired in 1990, for a very long time after his so-called retirement he continued to contribute to the department.

This year's Vance awards go to:

  • Teresa Di Leonardo
  • Shana Edouard
  • Richard Anderson

Undergraduate Tuition Scholarships


This is our oldest fellowship. Livingston Wernecke (BS 1906) was a mining engineer who made his fortune in mining ventures in the Yukon. Ms. Wernecke established the scholarship in memory of her husband, giving a gift that is split between Geology and Mining Engineering (now Material Science) and is awarded to a meritorious student doing research in economic aspects of the earth sciences in the broadest sense.

This year's award goes to:

  • Richard Anderson


This is scholarship is endowed by Ms. Afton Crooks and it is intended to support in-state tuition for field camp or tuition during the academic year. This scholarship in memory of her husband, who was a student of J. Hoover Mackin, one of the most popular professors in the Department's history serving here between 1934 and 1962.

This award supports three quarters of (resident) undergraduate tuition during the next academic year.

This year's Woolley Crooks Scholarship is awarded to:

  • Ashika Capirala

ESS Graduate Student Awards


Award for Master's in Earth and Space Sciences, Applied Geosciences (MESSAGe) Students

This fund has been designed to support the MESSAGe graduate program – a very successful professional masters program led by Juliet Crider. These funds come from the Wilbert R. Danner Endowed Fund provides funding for students conducting Geologic Mapping in Washington State. The funds come from Dr. Danner, who was born in Morningside, Washington and attended UW receiving all of his degrees (BS through PhD) in Geology by 1957. He spent most of his life in Vancouver, Canada as a professor at the University of British Columbia dedicating much of his life to scouting, his geological research, and his university teaching position. He passed away in Vancouver BC in May 2012.

Four recipients will receive a cash award from these funds.

  • Cody Chausee
  • Dianna Jorgenson
  • Nichole Sarieddine
  • David Mackay


These research awards help support our graduate student's independent research program.


Tony's endowment was established in 2006 with gifts from family and friends to honor his memory. He died in a logging truck accident on the Olympic Peninsula in October 2005 while travelling to collect instruments and data concerning a "slow-slip" earthquake off the Washington coast. Anthony Qamar was the Washington state seismologist, and also a research associate professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the time of his death.

This year's Qamar research award goes to:

  • Erich Herzig - for his research on "Causes of large landslides on the Cedar River."


The name says it all! Selection based on academic merit.

  • Crystal Lambert, for her research on "Radiocarbon dating interglacial deposits from Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal lands."
  • Brody Hovatter, for his research on "Investigating Paleocene mammalian diversity and biogeography in the Western Interior of North America."


The Cowan Field Fund benefits undergraduate and graduate students participating in field activities in Earth and Space Sciences. Established in 2018 by ESS Professor Darrel Cowan, this is the first year the fund is being awarded.

This year's Cowan award goes to:

  • Emma Heitmann, for her research on the "Rise of the northern Colorado Plateau, USA: reconstruction of Paleogene surface elevation with clumped isotopes."


Graduate student research support. Selection based on academic merit and/or financial need.

  • Addien Wray, for his research on "A passive microbe-metal interface: Shewanella putrefaciens CN32 surface structure and U(VI) complexation."

ESS Graduate Student FELLOWSHIPS

All of these awards provide one quarter of fellowship to allow graduate students time to focus on their own research.


Robert Bassett's story is an old one reaching back 100 years ago. He was born in Spokane, Washington in 1916. He moved to Seattle and graduated from Franklin High School and entered UW in 1934. Extreme poverty and severe health problems during his first two years at UW forced him to abandon his studies and seek employment. In this endeavor he was help by two generous and patient men – the Dean of the College of Mines, Milnor Roberts, and Professor Goodspeed, Director of the UW Department of Geology. With their help and mentorship he became an assayer and junior engineer at the Cornucopia Gold Mine in the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon.

Robert Bassett worked in some of the largest mines of their day and finally, 11 years after entering the University of Washington, he graduated in 1945.

The purpose of this endowment is to provide support for the Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences to be distributed by the Chair of ESS to support teaching and research in the field of geology.

  • Paige Wilson, for her work regarding "Floral and Vegetation Changes Across the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary."


Jody Bourgeois was a professor in the Earth and Space Sciences Department from 1980 to 2016, the only woman to receive tenure in its first 100 years. She completed her undergraduate degree at Barnard College (the undergraduate women's division of Columbia University), and her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. She was hired at Washington into the "Harry Wheeler" stratigraphy position, which she augmented with courses and tutelage in depositional processes, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and interpretation of sedimentary structures. Her broadly-based field research, with students and colleagues, included sedimentary geology, basin analysis, tsunami studies and coastal morphotectonics. She has also written in the history of geology. She established this fund in 2009, which has also received generous contributions from her former students, family and friends.

The recipient of the Bourgeois fellowship is:

  • Susannah Morey, for her work on "Megaflood Sedimentology: insight into depositional processes of megafloods in the eastern Himalaya using U-Pb geochronology."


This fellowship is funded by a generous gift from Joe Vance and the intent of the fellowship is to support graduate students, preferably doing field work. The award may be used for tuition, living expenses, books, fees, travel, and field research and conference registration. As I mentioned earlier, Joe is an emeritus professor in our department. He received his BS and PhD (1957) from UW and was a member of the faculty from 1957 to 1990. He joins the ranks of the few whose careers at UW have spanned five decades.

The Vance fellowship recipience is:

  • Elizabeth Davis, for her research on "Dating a Columbia River estuary silt."


Funds for the Wheeler Fellowship are provided by friends, colleagues and students of Harry. Harry Wheeler taught at the Univ. of Nevada (Reno) from 1935 to 1948 and at UW from 1948 until his retirement in 1975. He was a world leader in physical stratigraphy, and pioneered the use of unconformity-bound sequences for regional and intra-continental correlations. Harry pioneered the distinction between lithostratigraphy and time-statigraphy, and today his area-time diagrams are now called Wheeler diagrams in his honor.

This year's recipient of the Wheeler Fellowship is….

  • Tianyi Huang, for his research regarding "A study on the potassium isotope fractionation during granitic magma differentiation."


These awards come from the Dorothy Stephen's fund which was created in 1981. Ms. Stephen's had no direct ties to the department but created the fund because of her love for geology. Such a pure motivation.

This year's Dorothy Stephens Fellowship goes to …...

  • Ariane Ducellier: "Data analysis of recordings of slow earthquakes."


Hans Peter Misch was a force of nature with eclectic skills He was born in Berlin in 1909. He was a watercolor painter, skiier, and serious mountaineer (think geology in the high Himalayas without REI sponsorship). Peter received his doctorate at age 23 from Göttingen University. With the rise of Hitler's persecution of the Jews, prior to WWII Peter took his family to China where he created a new life working with the Geological survey of China. After a complicated life path, he eventually arrived in our department in 1947 and was active until 1964. He supervised about 125 students in their Ph.D. and M.S. dissertations.

This year we are able to award two Misch Fellowships. They go to…..

  • Addien Wray: "A Thermodynamic Analysis of Microbial Surface Chemistry and Metabolic Strategies."
  • Brody Hovatter: "Investigating Paleocene mammalian diversity and biogeography in the Western Interior of North America."


The driving force behind this fellowship was Julian Barksdale, whose long career of service we mentioned previously, George Goodspeed who served in the department for nearly 40 years as an igneous petrologist and economic geologist.

The recipient of the Goodspeed fellowship is…..

  • Lindsey Davidge, for her work on "Improving paleoclimate reconstructions with higher- precision stable water- isotope records."


The Kenneth C. Robbins Fellowship which was made possible by a generous gift from Ken Robbins. Ken graduated from UW in 1950 in Civil Engineering and later returned to get a second degree in Geology in 1955.

The Marie Ferrel Endowment Fund was a bequest to support Geology students (as well as Music!)

The recipient of the Kenneth C. Robbins Fellowship and the Marie Ferrel Endowment is…

  • Megan Mueller, for her work into "An Investigation into Orogenesis in Rifted Terranes."


The Howard A. and Leila Coombs Scholarship was established in 1976 with a gift from Richard Fuller to honor Dr. Coombs to support students in geological sciences.

The Coombs Endowed Fellowship Fund was initiated by a gift from James Gualtieri to honor the memory of Howard Coombs, and selection is based on academic achievement.

The recipient of the Howard and Leila Coombs Scholarship and Fellowship is….

  • Andrew Shumway for his work on "Salty water in Martian soils."


This year's ESS Distinguished Scholar Fellowship is made possible by a generous bequest by the Estate of William Laval.

The recipient of this year's fellowship is…

  • Jana Meixnerova: "Isotope biosignatures of methane cycling in ancient rocks."

ESS Most Prestigious Graduate Student Awards


The Coombs Fellowship fund was initiated by a gift from James Gualtieri to honor the memory of Howard Coombs. Mr. Gualtieri was a MS (1966) student of Howard Coombs. Howard Coombs received his BS (1929), MS (1931), and Ph.D (1935) from UW and was on the faculty from 1935 to 1976 he was credited with more than 30 ascents of Mt Rainier and served as chairman of the UW Department of Geological Sciences from 1952 to 1969, overseeing the department's major period of growth.

The Coombs Fellowship is based on academic achievement and is primarily an award in recognition of excellence in teaching.

This year's recipient for the Coombs' excellence in Teaching Award is…..

  • Nicolas Cuozzo

    Nick arrived at UW in 2014, following a B.S in Environmental Science, Minor in Chemistry, from Northeastern. Nick has been selected for the Coombs award based on outstanding recommendations from multiple professors and evaluations from his students. He has been a teaching assistant in 16 quarters and has taught seven different ESS courses. These have included multiple classes with a field component, including two summers in our field camp. His students write that, "he makes very well-organized directions and makes it a hundred times easier" to succeed in lab classes, and that he is "one of the most helpful and knowledgeable" teachers in ESS. Another writes that he "always knows how to answer my questions, how to point me in the right direction, and to offer constructive criticism when needed."

    One of Nick's stellar qualities, wrote one faculty member, is "his ability to connect with students and explain complicated ideas in exciting and understandable ways."

    Besides his busy schedule teaching, Nick has recently published a major paper in the prestigious journal Geochimica et Cosmochimca Acta, on the subject of weathering in Antarctic permafrost.


This fund provides a cash award for two students to be used for whatever they need to further their research. The fund was set up by students, faculty, friends, and co-workers of Dave Johnston with a major donation from Lee Fairchild, one of Dave's UW classmates. David Johnston was a USGS volcanologist stationed at Mt St Helens to monitor the unrest in 1980. He was one of 57 people who lost their lives in the May 18, 1980 lateral blast. The Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after David, is located at the terminus of the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This vantage point brings visitors within five miles of the north side of the volcano and offers spectacular views of the still-forming lava dome, crater, pumice plain and landslide deposit.

Annually, we give out two awards, to graduate students in the Ph.D. program who have demonstrated superior academic ability and creativity in research. This year the fund will provide an award of ~$5000 to each recipient. In addition, because of its prestige, ESS has had a perpetual plaque made to honor all recipients of this award. The plaque reads: "David A. Johnston Award for Research Excellence. Presented to the Graduate Students considered to be the most outstanding young scientists in the fields of Geological Sciences and Geophysics. In memory of David A. Johnston (1949-1980). Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences. University of Washington."

Our two David A. Johnston Fellowship awardees are: John Erich Christian and Paige Wilson.

  • Paige Wilson

    Paige arrived at UW in 2016, following a dual B.A. (2014) in Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences with High Honors from Dartmouth College. Paige's work involves the combination of geology and paleobotany. She has one high-profile publications published (on Oligocene mammal fauna) and other en route. Her letter writers say that Paige is "creative, curious, driven", and that she is "characterized by her rigorous scientific thinking" and making "major contributions to the field."

    Her focus is on floral changes across the K/Pg boundary, based on a huge amount of field and lab work. Over the past three summers (2017, 2018, and 2019) she has been the leader of a large team of undergraduate, graduate, and volunteer researchers who have collected and analyzed thousands of leaf macrofossils, and has coordinated multiple undergraduate researchers to prepare, catalog, and morphotype these specimens. Her results establish evidence for both ecosystem turnover loss in diversity.

    In addition to her research, Paige has been an active citizen in the ESS, contributing to outreach and teaching and was recognized for this by the Coombs Teaching Award last year.

  • John Erich Christian

    John arrived at UW in 2014, following a BA in Physics, Magna Cum Laude, from St. Olaf College in 2014. He will be leaving us this year for a combined postdoc at the University of Texas and Georgia Tech.

    John’s research focuses on the response of glaciers to variability in the climate stem, using both statistical and dynamical approaches. He has published three papers as part of his PHD work, with an additional two papers before his arrived at UW. One of his recent papers is led by an undergrad who he has advised along with professor Knut Christianson. Another of his papers, published in the Journal of Glaciology (Committed retreat: controls on glacier disequilibrium in a warming climate) was highlighted as "most downloaded" the month after it was published.

    As one of John's supporters wrote, "the scientific community recognizes John's talent and the high impact of his work." Another wrote that John's excellence lies not only in his research contributions, but also the "breadth, relevance, collaborations, and mentorship associated with that research."


Congratulations to all of the students and faculty. We thank you for all your efforts this year. To all of our generous donors: Thank you so much for your support. It is greatly appreciated and needed.