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Welcome to the 2021 edition of the ESS Awards and Scholarships Program

Because of COVID19 and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, our annual awards ceremony cannot happen in person again this year. But we look forward to next year when we can celebrate again in person!

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 $275,000 this year in awards (an all-time record!), 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 in 2022 when life will have returned 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: Cailey Condit, Ed Waddington, Jessica Badgeley and Andrew Shumway, with the assistance of our student services staff, Noéll Bernard-Kingsley and Melissa Pritchard, along with Scott Dakins, Chris Wren, 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:

  • Megan Mueller

    Megan is a graduate student completing her work this year on "Orogenesis in Rifted Terranes: Perspectives from forearc and foreland basins in western Anatolia" under the supervision of Professors Alexis Licht and Kate Huntington. Megan Mueller has consistently proven to be an invaluable member of the Earth and Space Sciences community, demonstrating her commitment to service through managing essential departmental facilities, mentoring and educating undergraduates in a variety of contexts, and leaving a legacy of positive systemic change in the ESS community. Megan played a central role in the set-up of Alexis Licht's Zircon Extraction lab, serving as lab manager for the last 5 years. She has advised 6 undergraduate students in independent research projects, including two honors research projects, and her mentees have presented their research in university-wide or national conferences. Beyond her six quarters of working as a teaching assistant for core courses in ESS, Megan has twice co-led a 2-week stratigraphy field training school in Bison Basin, WY, where she taught undergraduate students specialized skills, such as measuring section and interpreting depositional environments. Additionally, she has worked for the past four years with students, faculty and staff to address systemic issues of field safety at our field school. As an ESS Diversity and Community Committee member, she has advocated for protections for undergraduate students facing gender harassment and for the clarification of the roles and responsibilities of graduate student TAs, particularly in the realm of physical and mental health. Her advocacy contributes to a positive educational environment for students and instructors that will sustain long-term participation in geoscience fields and academic career paths.


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 Mike Brown

    There is perhaps no other faculty member who has taught a greater diversity of courses during his career in both subject matter and curricular levels, or for that matter, importance, as Mike Brown, reflecting his broad training in both geology and geophysics. He has taught everything from introductory geology for engineering students, to upper division reflection seismology, to plate tectonics, to the very, very challenging core course in mineralogy and petrology, to building a course from scratch outside his field: hydrogeology, having taught himself the specialty. He has consistently stepped forward, teaching demanding courses and having high expectations for his students as well. He was the first faculty member in ESS to develop and exemplify "flipping the classroom," and was very engaged with the students adding a much greater time commitment on his part, spending the time recording lectures and then having all the "regular" contact hours and class time doing hands-on work and problem-solving exercises. This was a very large commitment of additional work on his part, and he was a department leader in demonstrating this technique within the challenging context of an ESS core course. Additionally, Mike has been essential to the success of the MESSAGe program from the very beginning, serving on reading committees, generating and delivering questions for the annual comprehensive exam, and serving on the steering committee.


This award comes from the Eric S. Cheney Economic Geology Endowed Research Fund.

This is a new award that support research advancing the understanding of, and faculty capabilities related to, Economic Geology. In the absence of ESS Faculty actively participating in economic geology research, distributions will be used primarily to sponsor activities that advance the visibility and understanding of Economic Geology, including participation of faculty and students through activities such as, but not limited to, teaching, field trips, presentations at scientific meetings, participation in scientific conferences, and faculty-supervised student research. The breadth of topics may include both the geology related to ore deposits, and contemporary societal/geoscience issues associated with exploration, development, mining, mineral recovery, and remediation.

The inaugural awardee is Professor John Stone, to honor his work and his continued contributions to teaching and research relevant to economic geology.

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 jointly to:

  • Surabhi Biyani and Halie Nitzsche

    From one of their nominators: "How do you keep a student organization alive during COVID when it is based on face-to-face activities that are no longer allowed: social interaction, study groups, field trips, seminars, panels and guest speakers? It is accomplished with a lot of dedication, purpose and commitment to contributing to maintaining some social cohesion among ESS undergraduates." Surabhi and Halie served as co-presidents of GeoClub during the 2019-20 academic year, guiding the club through its various activities, including preparations for the spring trip to Hawaii, until it was cancelled at the last minute due to rising COVID numbers. Despite all of the work that had gone into preparing for the trip, including fundraisers and seminars, they made the difficult - and socially responsible - decision to cancel the trip. The leadership they demonstrated was impressive. We are fortunate that during the ongoing COVID pandemic, they have both continued on in their role as co-Presidents, helping keep the academic and social functions of GeoClub active.


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:

  • Halie Nitzsche

    We are delighted to award Halie Nitzsche the Merrill Prize this year. Halie has been one of our top students, double-majoring in Earth and Space Sciences and in Chemistry. She has served for the past two years as co-President of the GeoClub, and performed independent research on isotope geochemistry of Canary Island seamount complex. She is presenting the results of this research at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium this month. She participated in a study abroad experience at the University of Reykjavik in Iceland, where she was able to take more rigorous coursework in igneous petrology and volcanology than was available to her here at UW. She is currently working with Professor Bruce Nelson to help develop a preliminary report of diversity, equity, and inclusion for students involved in field work. In 2020 Halie was the recipient of the North Seattle Lapidary and Mineral Club Scholarship. In her own words, "With everything I have accomplished so far, I am excited to finish my degrees and begin focusing on a mineral exploration career and how I can become a role model in the discipline as many have been to me."

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 support award for field camp goes to:

  • Xiaohan Yao

Undergraduate Tuition Scholarships


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:

  • Amanda Jackson


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:

  • Xiaohan Yao

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.

Three recipients will receive a cash award from these funds.

  • Gabrielle Alampay
  • Michael Buyco
  • Monica Hill


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


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

  • Brody Hovatter, for his research on "Testing for a latitudinal diversity gradient of morphological diversity in early Paleocene placental mammals from North America."
  • Addien Wray, for his research on "Energetics of Methanocaldococcus sp. FS406-22 while doing N-fixation and with pre-fixed N."


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:

  • Tristan Bench, for his research on "Applications of an in-situ optical surface exposure dating technique on glacial erratic quartzites from the Foothills Erratics Train, Alberta."
  • Jonathan Beyeler, for his research on "Morphodynamic evolution of a proglacial river system undergoing climate-driven headwatersediment release quantified with structure-from-motion."


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

  • Kunmanee Bubphamanee, for her research on "The effect of copper availability on isotope fractionation by denitrifying bacteria."


Robert Winglee served as Chair of this department from 2005-2015, during which time he also carried on an active research program in space plasma physics and engineering, particularly in relation to the space environments around the planet and advanced space propulsion systems. He also served as Director of the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. He passed away suddenly in December 2020, leaving behind a huge legacy.

  • Peter Wynn, for his research on "Mass extinctions and large igneous provinces: connecting CAMP and the ETE using non-traditional isotopes."

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.

The recipient of the Bassett Fellowship is:

  • Tianyi Huang, for his work on "Potassium isotopic systematics in the continental crust."


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:

  • Elizabeth Davis, for her work on "Natural hazards of the past millennium in Western Washington."


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.

This year we are able to award TWO Vance Fellowships. The recipients are:

  • Tristan Bench, for his work on "Applications of an in-situ optical surface exposure dating technique on quartzites from the Columbia Basin and Scotland."
  • Max Needle, for his work on "Virtual field geology and a return to fold kinematics and mechanics."


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 we are able to award TWO Wheeler Fellowships. The recipients are:

  • Kelsay Stanton, for her work on "Characterizing long-term permanent deformation in southwestern Washington, Cascadia Subuduction Zone."
  • Peter Wynn, for his work on "Mass extinctions and large igneous provinces: connecting CAMP and the ETE using non-traditional isotopes."


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 THREE Misch Fellowships. The recipients are:

  • Lindsey Davidge, for her work on "Improving paleoclimate reconstructions: establishing a higher-precision triple oxygen water isotope analytical method for ice cores and identifying topographical effects on polar precipitation and water isotope distribution at a future ice core site."
  • Gemma O'Connor, for her work on "Amundsen Sea atmospheric and oceanic circulation during the industrial era with proxy-data Constraints."
  • Addien Wray, for his work on "A Thermodynamic Analysis of Microbial Surface Chemistry and Metabolic Strategies."


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:

  • Paige Wilson, for her work on "Plants at the K/Pg Boundary in Montana."


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 recipient of the Robbins Fellowship is:

  • Cassandra Brigham, for her work on "Quantitative investigation of fault scarp evolution in jointed bedrock."


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

The recipient of the Marie Ferrel Fellowship is:

  • Brody Hovatter, for his work on "Investigating Paleocene mammalian diversity and biogeography in the Western Interior of North America."


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 there are TWO recipients for the Coombs' excellence in Teaching Award Fellowship. They are:

  • Susannah Morey

    Susannah arrived at UW in 2016, following completion of a B.S. in Geology from the University of Texas at Austin, graduating Cum Laude with Honors and Special Honors. She has been selected for the Coombs Teaching Award based on outstanding recommendations from multiple professors and consistently high evaluations from her students. She has been a teaching assistant in 8 quarters and has taught four different ESS courses. These have included multiple classes with a field component, including two summers in our field camp.

    From her letter writers: "Susannah is an incredibly organized, articulate and a dedicated teacher. She exudes enthusiasm in her classroom, and it is very contagious to the students attending her labs and lectures. This attribute is evident to any colleague or student who has an opportunity to work with Susannah in the laboratory or in the classroom... she is a dedicated and inspirational teacher." And in her own words: "I would easily (and happily) define my time in ESS by the time I spend teaching... Every time I interact with an ESS student, I get the chance to hone my teaching skills and style. It is because of these students that I am the teacher I am today. I know that I will one day be a better professor because of the experience I have gained here in ESS."

  • Max Needle

    Max joined UW ESS in 2016, after completing a B.Sc. in Geology from Kutztown University and an M.S. in Geology from Rutgers University. He has been selected for the Coombs Teaching Award based on outstanding recommendations and consistently stellar student evaluations. He has taught six courses across 13 quarters, including teaching summer field camp 4 years in a row.

    In his own words: "Give me a marker and a whiteboard and I can explain Earth's processes in real time to an audience. Doodling at a pace for students to comprehend and sketch-along comes naturally for me." On teaching during the pandemic: "I made a conscious effort to regularly thank the students for taking the remote-learning journey with me through geology/space-science. I wanted to subtly convey that I was part of their team for success, rather than some overlord that grades them. While the material was novel for the students, the remote-teaching media are also novel to me." From a letter writer: "More broadly, Max has developed a remarkable virtual reality tour of his own field site, as an innovative education/outreach component of his PhD... this pilot work opened the opportunity for Max to mentor undergraduate Computer Science students in one of the first projects hosted by UW's new Reality Lab in Winter 2020. The team has now been working together for more than a year, pivoting from a guided field experience to a virtual one... targeting instructors seeking simulations to replace field experiences canceled due to the pandemic... He is a passionate, humble and dedicated teacher whose reach in this pandemic year has gone far beyond UW."


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: Cassandra Brigham and Megan Mueller.

  • Cassandra Brigham

    Cassie joined UW in 2016, following a Geology, Magna Cum Laude, from Carleton College. Her research focuses on understanding the degradation of fault scarps in fractured bedrock, a common landform on Earth and nearby planets, using machine learning methods similar to those used in facial recognition, to pinpoint specific scarp profile features. She used the resulting classification results to create the morphologic variability metric, which imparts quantitative information of the types of morphologies present, and their relative abundance in a moving window along a scarp. Based on conversations she had with colleagues at conferences, she realized that this metric could be applied to a wide variety of research topics, authoring a paper detailing how the methodology can be applied to any scenario where an understanding of changes in landform profile morphology is needed. Her letter writers praise her "on the basis of the creativity, independence, and persistence that Cassie has displayed in her research... Her 'big data' approach to geomorphology of fault scarps is truly innovative and has the potential to change our understanding of these common landscape features." Cassie has presented at GSA, AGU, and EGU, has submitted a publication to Geomorphology, and has a second in prep for the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

  • Megan Mueller

    Megan arrived at UW in 2016, following completion of a B.S. in Geological Sciences from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. Megan's research focuses on using sedimentary basin analysis to reconstruct ancient subduction zones and intercontinental collisions, integrating detailed field work and sedimentology with stratigraphy, geochronology, and provenance proxies. She has two publications in preparation as lead author, two under review (one as lead) in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, and two already published in Lithosphere, and in Tectontics, as well as one second author as an undergraduate in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Her letter writers describe her as someone who "particularly enjoys working at the interface of different fields, which boosts her creativity... Megan excels at linking broad and complex geodynamic questions to other fields in Earth sciences and transform them into simple and testable field projects... an exceptional student. She has the skills, the motivation, the creativity, and the professional maturity to become a world-recognized leader in geology and interdisciplinary scientist." In her own words: "My long-term professional goal is to study the evolution and deformation of orogenic systems and their impact on biogeography. I aspire to be a professor at a research-intensive university where I can mentor students, ask new research questions, and help drive scientific discovery."

    In addition to her research, Megan has been an active citizen in the ESS, contributing in countless ways that have led to her being awarded not only a Johnston, but also this year's Barksdale Service Award.


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.