Public Release: 

2015 awards recipients of The Geological Society of America

November presentation at Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD

Geological Society of America

Boulder, CO, USA - The Geological Society of America (GSA) will recognize outstanding scientific achievements and distinguished service to the profession at its 2015 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. GSA's highest honors, the Penrose Medal, the Arthur L. Day Medal, and the Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) will be received by James W. Head of Brown University, Jerry X. Mitrovica of Harvard University, and Brandon Schmandt of the University of New Mexico, respectively.

These awards and other honors will be celebrated at the annual meeting; members of the media are cordially invited to attend:

  • Awards Presentations: Sunday, 1 Nov., noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center.

  • Reflective Lectures by GSA's Penrose, Day, Donath, and President's medalists will be incorporated into complementary topical sessions during the meeting.


James W. Head, Brown University, GSA's Penrose Medalist, receives this honor in recognition of outstanding original contributions that mark a major advance in the science of geology. In her nomination Carle Pieters cited Head's "exceptional and rare talent for interweaving important principles of geologic assessment with discovery and exploration brought by space-age technology." Head has been described as one of the "founding fathers" of planetary geology. He has been productive and active in fundamental geological science from the Apollo era to the present, and has contributed significantly to the understanding of almost every planetary body that has been explored by spacecraft.

Jerry X. Mitrovica, Harvard University, was awarded the Arthur L. Day Medal in recognition of his multifaceted contributions to geology through geodesy and geophysics. Nominator Chris Beaumont referenced Mitrovica's outstanding contributions to the development of geophysical models of crustal deformation, including the response to surface loading and mantle convection, and their effects on the rotational stability of the planet and on patterns of relative sea-level change. Supporter Paul Hoffman credits Mitrovica with "insisting that geophysical models be more geologically realistic, while retaining their mathematical rigour." He writes, "Jerry has been rewarded repeatedly with better model-data fits and fresh insights. Geologists have been rewarded with greater gifts, the gift of understanding their own observations, and understanding why they matter."

Brandon Schmandt, University of New Mexico, earned the Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) and cash prize of US$10,000 for outstanding achievement. Schmandt integrates seismology and geology to understand mantle dynamics and continental evolution. Nominator Karl Karlstrom cites "demonstrated technical innovations, keen intellectual curiosity, drive and energy to produce at the highest levels, dedication to the new ethic of open access of data, and a gift for cross disciplinary collaboration and public outreach, all with a sense of humility," as the qualities that embody this outstanding young scientist.


President's Medal of The Geological Society of America

Steven W. Squyres of Cornell University is honored with the 2015 President's Medal, awarded by recent past President Hap McSween. In naming Squyres, McSween praised him as "responsible, more than anyone else, for teaching us how to do robotic field geology on the surface of another planet.' Squyres is Principal Investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission.

Doris M. Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science Award

Priya Ganguli, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is recognized for the impact of her Ph.D. research in the geosciences. Ganguli's dissertation shed light on many unknown and uncharacterized physical and chemical processes that influence mercury dynamics in coastal ecosystems. Her work has created a rapidly growing area of research.

GSA Public Service Award

Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University, was named in recognition of her many contributions to informing public discourse on Earth science, particularly in the area of climate change, but also more broadly on topics of scientific consensus and uncertainty. She is author of Merchants of Doubt and The Collapse of Western Civilization among other scholarly and popular works.

GSA Distinguished Service Award

John W. (Jack) Hess, former GSA Executive Director (2002-2015) and current GSA Foundation President, will be recognized for his long-standing exemplary service to the Society and the Foundation. A member since 1974 and a GSA Fellow since 1992, Hess has played an active role in the growth and development of the Society.

Randolph W. "Bill" and Cecile T. Bromery Award for the Minorities:

Dawn J. Wright is the first woman Chief Scientist at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and she is a professor at Oregon State University. For almost two decades, Wright has been a leader in adapting GIS software to the marine environment. Her list of honors and awards includes serving on the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board.

Geologic Mapping Award in Honor of Florence Bascom:

John M. Proffett, Independent Consulting Geologist, Eagle River, Arkansas, will be the first recipient of this new GSA award. Proffett's career has been defined by exceptional powers of observation, and the ability to work at all scales to solve complicated three dimensional problems in order to define exploration targets and solve mine geology problems. His maps have contributed to understanding fundamental geologic processes and continue to inspire field work around the world.


Photos of the GSA award recipients are online at Citations and responses from the 2015 GSA medal and award winners will be posted on this site after the 2015 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition.

See for GSA Division awardees and for GSA's newly elected Fellows.

Read more about GSA's medals and awards at

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with nearly 27,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

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