Oceanographer Pisias Honored by US Navy, AGU
A pioneering oceanographer has been awarded by the U.S. Navy and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for his work to help establish a new scientific field.
Dr. Nicklas Pisias, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, accepted the Maurice Ewing Medal at the December 2018 Fall Meeting of the AGU, a not-for-profit, scientific organization with nearly 60,000 members in 139 countries.
The medal, named after trailblazing geophysicist and oceanographer Dr. Maurice Ewing, is given yearly to one honoree in recognition of “significant original contributions to the ocean sciences.”
In the late 1970s, and for the next two decades, Pisias helped establish the field of paleoceanography, which is the study of the ocean’s history through sediment analysis, geochemistry, isotopic dating and time-series analysis of ocean processes and dynamics.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored some of Pisias’ early research, including analysis of sediment cores during the Deep-Sea Drilling Project and Ocean Drilling Program, which lasted from 1968 to 2004. Both international drilling initiatives studied the history of the ocean and the nature of the crust beneath the seafloor. Pisias’ research established some of the first continuous, high-resolution records of climate shifts over the past five million years.
“Dr. Pisias combined a deep, broad understanding of both paleoceanography and climate dynamics with nonlinear, statistical-analysis techniques that he pioneered,” said Dr. Tom Drake, head of ONR’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department and presenter of the award.
“He demonstrated that time-series analysis could date layers of seafloor sediment in absolute terms and reveal changes in the Earth’s climate,” Drake continued. “Dr. Pisias’ groundbreaking work underlies, and has had a strong influence on, current climate research.”
Since the Maurice Ewing Medal’s creation in 1974, multiple ONR-sponsored researchers have won the prize. These include Dr. Walter Munk, who invented the concept of surf forecasting; geophysicist John I. Ewing; and marine seismologist Dr. John Orcutt.