Yale Geologist Mark Brandon Honored for Second Time with Kirk Bryan Award

Mark Brandon

Mark Brandon, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale, is designated this year’s Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence from the Geological Society of America (GSA) for his work on erosion rates and their relationship to broad scale questions of the Earth’s surface and underlying plate movement.

The award is given annually by the society in recognition of a work of distinction, published within the past five years, that advances the science of geomorphology or quaternary geology. These disciplines deal with the evolution of the landscape of the “modern” Earth during the most recent several million years; mountains, rivers, earth plate movements and erosion.

The award is named for Kirk Bryan, an American geologist and geomorphologist who pioneered in explaining the forces that molded the present landforms of arid climates. Bryan received his Ph.D. in geology from Yale in 1920, became a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and then taught at Harvard. He helped introduce the study of pollen in old rock formations as a way to reconstruct the climate of North America and proposed that the effects of frost and freezing in the top part of soil and rock formations should reveal much about climate.

In the 48 years of the award, Brandon is the only person to receive it twice, and the currently honored work represents a global extension of regional work that was the basis of his first honor in 2002. The award, including a cash honorarium and a plaque, will be presented at the annual national meeting of the GSA in Philadelphia this fall.

Brandon’s award winning research paper on topography, tectonics, and erosion rates, coauthored with David Montgomery from the University of Washington, was published in 2002 in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Titled “Topographic controls on erosion rates in tectonically active mountain ranges,” the paper discusses the dynamics of erosion.

The main objective of Brandon’s research is to understand the interplay between accretion, erosion, and wedge growth in shaping the surface of the Earth. His primary research sites are western North America, Kamchatka, New Zealand, Crete, and Apennines. After receiving his B.Sc. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, he earned his M.Sc. and Ph.D in Geological Sciences at the University of Washington. His NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship was completed at the Pacific Geoscience Centre, Canada.

Brandon, who is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, joined the Yale faculty in 1986, was tenured in 1996 and was named full professor in 2002.

Citation: Earth and Planetary Science Letters 201:481-489 (2002)

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Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157