Department News

Richard CowenRichard Cowen | In memoriam: 1940-2020

Our colleague and dear friend, Senior Lecturer Emeritus Richard Cowen, passed away on January 8, 2020. A gentleman and a scholar, Richard's teaching excellence inspired thousands of students, as well as UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences faculty and staff. Messages of sympathy and memories of Richard may be sent to If you wish to have your message included on our Memories of Richard page, please let us know.

Jeff MountJeff MountIs California ready for the next drought?

From The last drought in California was so catastrophic, some of the hardest hit communities still haven’t recovered. Dr. Jeffrey Mount, University of California, Davis professor emeritus and member of the Public Policy Institute of California, refers to the old adage, "The longer it's been since the last drought, the closer we are to the next. We know it's going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. Does it begin next year?"

Dawn SumnerDawn Sumner |  Chancellor’s Fellows program

Dawn Sumner, a 2003 Chancellor's Fellow, is featured in the video marking the 20th anniversary of the Chancellor's Fellows Fund. At UC Davis, we encourage our faculty to think big, dream big—and pursue discovery without constraint. One way we do this is through the Chancellor’s Fellows program. Outstanding early career faculty who are named Chancellor’s Fellows receive unrestricted funding in the form of a cash award for their research, teaching, service activities or creative work. 

Cathy BusbyCathy BusbyMGPV Distinguished Geologic Career Award

Cathy Busby is the recipient of the 2020 GSA Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology, & Volcanology (MGPV) Division Distinguished Geological Career Award. The award goes to an individual who, throughout his/her career, has made distinguished contributions in one or more of the following fields of research: mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, volcanology, with emphasis on multidisciplinary, field-based contributions. This award emphasizes a geologic and multidisciplinary approach. Geological work is by nature generalistic and has an important field component, with Earth as the natural laboratory.

Continents of the Underworld Come Into Focus | Curtis Williams

from Quanta Magazine: "Decades ago, scientists first harnessed the echoes of earthquakes to make a map of Earth’s deep interior. They didn’t just find the onion layers you might remember from a grade school textbook — core and mantle covered by a cracked crust. Instead, they saw the vague outlines of two vast anomalies, unknown forms staring back from the abyss. Over the years, better maps kept showing the same bloblike features.

"In July, a team led by Curtis Williamspublished simulations that traced the plumes under hot spots back down through the flowing mantle. They found that these plumes reach all the way to the blobs, and bring unique chemistry up with them. 'Whatever part of the mantle [the plumes are] coming from,' said Williams, 'it’s really old.'"

From the Atlantic: "Giant, Mysterious Blobs Are Lurking at the Edge of Earth’s Core"

Mike OskinMike OskinScientists Scramble to Collect Data After Ridgecrest Earthquakes

From EOS: "Ground shaking in Southern California, including a magnitude 7.1 temblor, triggered a massive mobilization effort to collect seismological, geological, and geodetic data." Mike Oskin is part of a team that, starting in late July, flew a small aircraft to collect lidar observations.

Louise H. Kellogg portraitThe Louise H. Kellogg Chair in Geophysics

Professor Louise Kellogg gave copious time, energy, and support to her department, the campus, and the global scientific community during her three decades in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Professor Kellogg, who passed away in April, has been honored through a $2 million gift from her husband Douglas S. Neuhauser to establish the Louise H. Kellogg Chair in Geophysics. “Louise built bridges among communities with her multidisciplinary scientific vision, by reaching out and engaging the broader scientific community and her dedication to equity,” Neuhauser stated.

Max RudolphMax RudolphExplaining the Tiger Stripes of Enceladus

From UC Davis News: Saturn’s tiny, frozen moon Enceladus is a strange place. Just 300 miles across, the moon is thought to have an outer shell of ice covering a global ocean 20 miles deep, encasing a rocky core. Slashed across Enceladus’ south pole are four straight, parallel fissures or “tiger stripes” from which water erupts. These fissures aren’t quite like anything else in the solar system. “We want to know why the eruptions are located at the south pole as opposed to some other place on Enceladus, how these eruptions can be sustained over long periods of time and finally why these eruptions are emanating from regularly spaced cracks,” said Max Rudolph

Sarah StewartSarah Stewart | UC Davis Has 10 New Fellows in AAAS

From UC Davis News: "Ten faculty members have been elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are among 443 new fellows elected this year, honored for their efforts to advance science or its applications." Sarah Stewart was elected for her distinguished work advancing the theory of how celestial collisions give rise to planets and moons, which provides a comprehensive basis for understanding planet formation.

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