June 5, 2018
By Linda Welzenbach

Photo: Janne Blichert-Toft

Geochemist Janne Blichert-Toft Wiess Visiting professor in the department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, has been awarded the Murchison Medal by the Geological Society of London.

Blichert-Toft, CNRS Research Director at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, and a regular visitor to Rice since 2008, is recognized for her research using isotopes to understand planetary mantle-crust evolution, as well as the chemical composition of matter in the Universe.

Only the third woman to receive this honor since 1873, the annual Murchison medal recognizes geologists whose life-long body of research has made significant contributions to ‘hard’ rock studies.

Expressing how deeply humbling it is to receive the award, Blichert-Toft said “Many famous geologists and geochemists have received this before me, including Arthur Holmes (in 1940), and only two other women, in two consecutive years almost a hundred years ago-in 1919, the first year women were allowed to the Society by a change of the bylaws, and in 1920.”

Blichert-Toft works with Rice faculty members Cin-Ty Lee and Alan Levander on a variety of projects, from teasing out the earliest history of planetary differentiation in our solar system, and determining the presence of volatiles on the moon, to applying her expertise in unique isotope systems in deep Earth studies to better understand the history and complex relationships between magma generation and growth of continental crust in the western U.S. and Europe.

“Alan [Levander] wonderfully complemented our geochemical and isotopic perspective on the structure and melting beneath the Western US and the Colorado Plateau from his seismological perspective, a true interdisciplinary collaboration which was really fun and challenging and taught us both new things. It is not that easy for a geochemist and a seismologist to find a common vocabulary!”

As the 147th recipient, she will give a lecture and accept the award on June 6, 2018 at the Geological Society in London, England.

The Murchison, Lyell and William Smith Medals are very highly regarded awards in the geosciences. They not normally awarded on the basis of a few good publications, but are given for breadth as well as depth of contributions to the science. The Murchison Medal is given to scientists in both ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ research. The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body of over 12,000 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. (source: Wikipedia and the Geological Society of London)

Scientific Publications with Cin-Ty Lee and Alan Levander:

Blichert-Toft, J., Moynier, F., Lee, C.-T.A., Telouk, P., and Albarède, F., 2010. The early formation of the IVA iron meteorite parent body. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 296, 469-480.

Albarède, F., Ballhaus, C., Blichert-Toft, J., Lee, C.-T., Marty, B., Moynier, F., and Yin, Q.-Z., 2013. Asteroidal impacts and the origin of terrestrial and lunar volatiles. Icarus, 222, 44-52.

Chin, E.J., Lee, C.-T.A., and Blichert-Toft, J., 2015. Growth of upper plate lithosphere controls tempo of arc magmatism: Constraints from Al-diffusion kinetics and coupled Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd chronology. Geochem. Persp. Let. 1, 20-32, doi:10.7185/geochemlet.1503.

Blichert-Toft, J., Delile, H., Lee, C.-T., Stos-Gale, Z., Billström, K., Andersen, T., Hannu, H., and Albarède, F., 2016. Large-scale tectonic cycles in Europe revealed by distinct Pb isotope provinces. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 17, 3854-3864, doi:10.1002/2016GC006524.

Reid, M.R., Bouchet, R.A., Blichert-Toft, J., Levander, A., Liu, K., Miller, M.S., and Ramos, F.C., 2012. Melting under the Colorado Plateau, USA. Geology 40, 387-390.

Bouchet, R.A., Blichert-Toft, J., Reid, M.R., Levander, A., and Albarède, F., 2014. Similarities between the Th/U map of the western US crystalline basement and the seismic properties of the underlying lithosphere. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 391, 243-254.