University of Rochester

Geophysicist Named Fellow of Prestigious Science Association

January 5, 2004

John A. Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, has been elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest federation of scientists. Tarduno was honored both for his work elucidating the way the Earth’s magnetic field has changed over its lifetime, and for mentoring students in geology and geophysics. The new fellows will be presented with a certificate at the Fellows Forum during the 2004 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle on Feb. 14.

“I’m very honored to be named a fellow of AAAS, especially given the prominence of the organization and its journal Science,” says Tarduno. “I’m also happy to see our educational efforts recognized. Graduate and undergraduate students, of course, have made many contributions to our research programs.”

Tarduno has led student expeditions to destinations as diverse as the western Pacific Ocean to north of the Arctic Circle in his research on the Earth’s magnetic history. The magnetic field that surrounds the Earth leaves its mark in certain rocks as they cooled from molten magma, thus sealing in a record of the field’s strength and orientation for that moment. Students accompany him on these excursions to collect samples from geologically important sites.

Earlier this year, Tarduno presented evidence that suggested that magma plumes, theoretical areas in the Earth’s crust that channel super-hot magma from deep in the Earth’s core toward the surface, were mobile—an idea which stood against the conventional view. Using samples drilled from the chain of Hawaiian seamounts, Tarduno revealed that the magnetic signature left in the seamount rocks showed they had been formed at different latitudes.

On his recent trips to the Arctic, Tarduno uncovered evidence that the stability of Earth’s magnetic poles is directly related to the strength of the field. If so, then the strength of the field, which has been waning for several thousand years, may herald a pole reversal—a time where compasses all over the Earth would point south instead of north.

Founded in 1848, AAAS works to advance science for human well-being through its more than 138,000 members. The tradition of honoring those members who have excelled in their chosen fields began in 1874. AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science.