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News Release 07-133

Explorers Club to Honor NSF-Funded Researchers and Glaciologist for Climate-Science Breakthroughs

Julie Palais, glaciology program officer for the U.S. Antarctic Program

Julie Palais, glaciology program officer for the U.S. Antarctic Program

October 9, 2007

B-roll is available on Betacam SP of Paul Mayewski working in Antarctica and of the McMurdo Dry valleys.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Two National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientists, a U.S. Antarctic Program glaciologist and a recipient of the national Medal of Science, will receive the Lowell Thomas Award from the New York-based Explorers Club on Oct. 18 in recognition of their work at the frontiers of climate research.

The awards are presented by the president of the Explorers Club to groups of outstanding explorers who have distinguished themselves in a particular field. Five of this year's eight awardees are federal government scientists or receive their primary funding from the federal government. This year's awards theme is "Exploring Climate Change."

The list of NSF-affiliated recipients includes:

  • W. Berry Lyons, an NSF grantee, director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and lead principal investigator for the McMurdo Dry valleys Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) project will be honored for his studies of the geochemistry of global climate change.
  • Paul Mayewski, also an NSF grantee, and the director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, will be honored for work that the Club says has "revolutionized the field of climate change through the discovery of abrupt climate change and human impacts on the chemistry of the atmosphere." Mayewski also is the founder and lead investigator of the International Trans Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), which comprises scientific teams from 21 countries.
  • Julie Palais directs the Antarctic Glaciology Program in NSF's Office of Polar Programs. She is being honored for research into the use of volcanic ash in ice cores to study the paleoclimate record of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets.
  • Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is known for her climate and ozone work, including research that led to determining the chemical cause of the Antarctic "Ozone hole." Much of that basic research was conducted at McMurdo Station, NSF's logistical hub in Antarctica. Her research also helped lay the scientific foundation that led to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons, which were creating chemical reactions destructive to stratospheric ozone. Solomon was awarded the Medal of Science for her work. NSF administers the Medal of Science program.

Karl A. Erb, who heads the U.S. Antarctic Program, which manages all U.S. research on the southernmost continent, said it was particularly appropriate that the awards should be made during the International Polar Year (IPY), a two-year, global field campaign of research in the Arctic and Antarctic. NSF is the lead federal agency for U.S. IPY science.

"It is particularly gratifying that these awards be made to these pioneering researchers during IPY," Erb added. "They have led the way to new and very promising intellectual horizons and from the vantage points they reached first we can hope that they and others will see the way to even more exciting research that will, as theirs has done, benefit all humanity."

The Lowell Thomas Award is named for 53-year club member Lowell Thomas (1892-1981), the American writer, explorer and broadcaster who famously accompanied T.E. Lawrence during the Arab revolts and made "Lawrence of Arabia" famous. Previous recipients have included Isaac Asimov, Sylvia Earle, Carl Sagan, Buzz Aldrin, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Sir Edmund Hillary and Wade Davis.

This year's awards also went to:

  • Oceanographer Richard Feely of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash., an expert on the subject of ocean acidification. He was one of the lead authors of a series of papers highlighting the role of the ocean in absorbing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) and the potential consequences of a CO2-rich ocean.
  • Will C. Steger, a noted polar explorer, writer and lecturer.
  • Sarah Robertson and Adam Ravetch, who directed the National Geographic Films' movie "An Arctic Tale."


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7761, email:

B-Roll Contacts
Dena Headlee, NSF, (703) 292-7739, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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