University of Rochester

Geologist Wins Geological Society of America's Young Scientist Award

September 18, 2007

Carmala Garzione, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, has won the Geological Society of America's Young Scientist Award for 2007.

"Carmie distinguishes herself not only through her landmark papers in paleoaltimetry and tectonics of the Tibetan and Altiplano plateaus, but also by her scientific insight, perseverance, and willingness to take risks," said Matthew Kohn, associate professor of geological sciences at the University of South Carolina, who nominated Garzione for the award. "Many young scientists are bright; few display such perception and daring."

The Geological Society of America (GSA) selected Garzione for her "groundbreaking advances in paleoelevation." She incorporates a range of expertise in sedimentology and geochemistry to study large-scale tectonic problems. Her work has shown that the central Andes mountain range rose two kilometers or more in as little as 2 million years—several times faster than geologists had previously thought.

The GSA credits Garzione with creating "major revisions to geologists' understanding of the origins of the Tibetan and Altiplano plateaus."

Garzione took a new approach to paleoaltimetry, the science of measuring the surface uplift history of mountain belts. As mountains rise, weather erodes them, complicating the estimation of how high they might have been at any given time in the past. Garzione focused on the products of that erosion.

As mountains erode, their sediment is carried down the slope in streams and collects in sedimentary basins within the growing mountain range. As a mountain range rises, it experiences different atmospheric conditions simply due to its change in height. Those atmospheric changes, such as temperature and the amount and composition of rainfall, are recorded in minerals that grow near the surface at different altitudes on the mountainside.

The GSA award recognizes outstanding achievement in contributing to geological knowledge through original research that marks a major advance in the earth sciences. Established in 1988, the award is given to a scientist age 35 or younger, and consists of a gold medal, the Donath Medal, and a cash prize endowed by Dr. and Mrs. Fred A. Donath. Garzione will receive the award at the GSA annual meeting in Denver, Colo., at the presidential address and awards ceremony in October.