Julie Palais Awarded 2019 Goldthwait Polar Medal

October 11, 2019
Dr. Julie Palais in the backlit snowpit at WAIS Divide. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

Julie Palais awarded the 2019 Goldthwait Polar Medal for outstanding contributions to polar science

The Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center is pleased to announce that Dr. Julie Palais is the 2019 winner of the Goldthwait Polar Medal in recognition of her distinguished record of scholarship and service in polar science. 

Dr. Palais has distinguished herself in both scholarship and service to polar science. She is among the pioneers of ice core science and, particularly, studies of the geochemical signatures of volcanic deposition and other process within the ice record. Despite her success as a scientist, she left academia to serve for 26 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF), guiding the Antarctic Glaciology program through a critical time of expansion and numerous major accomplishments. In her role at NSF she also helped launch the successful careers of many young polar scientists and actively increased the inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in Antarctic research.

Dr. Palais received her B.A. in Geology at the University of New Hampshire and her MSc., and PhD. in Geological Sciences at The Ohio State University. In the short time between her graduate studies and taking her position at the NSF, she had already published 32 journal articles on ice core and snow geochemistry and microphysics. According to Douglas MacAyeal, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Chicago, “these papers were highly significant in setting the stage for what has become transformational knowledge gain on Earth’s atmosphere, paleoclimate and the natural history records accessed by ice coring activity in Greenland and Antarctica. Her publications largely focussed on deposition of chemical species from volcanic eruptions in polar ice, and this was essential to establishing the inter hemispheric exchanges of atmospheric aerosols and the degree to which polar ice sheets record them.”

Beginning in 1990, Dr. Palais used her insight as a scientist to build the NSF Antarctic glaciology program and, especially, support for a series of highly successful ice core drilling initiatives. According to Mary Albert, Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth College and Executive Director of the U.S. Ice Drilling Program, “Julie’s support of ice core science at many institutions across the nation served to grow the broad community of ice core scientists that is one of the most productive and impactful programs at NSF. Thanks to Julie, the discoveries of many in the U.S. ice core community are evident in multiple IPCC reports, thousands of publications in major scientific journals, and are conveyed at public science events across the nation.  As the center of the continually-propagating waves of societally-relevant ice core scientific discoveries, Julie’s efforts have been key”.

By awarding her the Goldthwait Medal, we recognize the outstanding contributions of Dr. Palais to  Polar science, encompassing both her impactful work as a scientist and her committed service to the entire Polar science community. 

Established in 1996, the Goldthwait Polar Medal is awarded annually in recognition of “outstanding contributions to polar research.” It is the highest honor bestowed by the Byrd Center. The award is named in honor of Dr. Richard Parker Goldthwait, a leading glacial geologist and the founder and first Director (1960-1965) of The Ohio State University’s Institute of Polar Studies, now the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

Dr. Palais received her award at the opening reception of the “Women in Antarctica: Celebrating 50 years of Exploration” Symposium on October 16, 2019. She presented a talk the following morning at the symposium, entitled “Following in the Footsteps of Lois Jones: Looking Back on 40 years of involvement with the U.S. Antarctic Program”.

Dr. Julie Palais receiving the Goldthwait Polar Medal from Byrd Center Director Ian Howat on October 16th, 2019.

Dr. Julie Palais receiving the Goldthwait Polar Medal from Center Director Ian Howat on October 16th, 2019. Photo credit: Jason Cervenec.