Miriam Kastner

2008 Maurice Ewing Medal Winner
University of California, San Diego


Miriam Kastner was awarded the 2008 Maurice Ewing Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December 2008 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is “for significant original contributions to the scientific understanding of the processes in the ocean; for the advancement of oceanographic engineering technology, and instrumentation; or outstanding service to marine science.”


It is an honor and a great personal pleasure to introduce Miriam Kastner as the recipient of the 2008 AGU Maurice Ewing Medal. Her major contributions to understanding the marine sediment record and ocean chemistry have resulted from tireless fieldwork at sea combined with thoughtful experiments and exacting analytical and theoretical studies.

Miriam gained her first degree at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, followed by her Ph.D. at Harvard and postdoctoral research at Chicago before moving to the Geoscience Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Her earliest major work focused on the origin of authigenic feldspars and of zeolites in oceanic sediments. Next she explained the diagenetic transformations of opal-A to opal-CT and quartz, of crucial importance to the formation of siliceous marine deposits. She showed that dolomite formation is controlled by its associated pore-fluid geochemistry, solving what had been a nagging problem in carbonate mineral science. Her groundbreaking work on the Sr distribution coefficient was crucial in establishing strontium concentrations in calcite as a widely used indicator for carbonate recrystallization, and a fundamental indicator for all paleoclimate studies that depend on carbonate proxies. Her work on phosphate deposits completely revised ideas on the stability of P-O bonds in the phosphate ions in apatite and led to a recalculation of the ocean residence time of phosphorus. Her use of barite to evaluate processes in Cenozoic climate change is a further example of the combination of mineralogical and geochemical expertise she brings to solving important scientific problems.

Miriam published the first paper on the hydrothermal system in the Guaymas Basin on ocean drilling, and was involved in the expedition that found the first hydrothermal springs at 21°N East Pacific Rise. She described the formation of talc at Guaymas and calculated a 300°C fluid temperature and positive δ18O of the fluid. Her work on the mineralogy and genesis of hydrothermal marine deposits is unsurpassed.

In technology and instrumentation she has been an important advocate of in situ experiments on a grand scale in her research on fluid transport in the oceanic lithosphere and the formation of gas hydrates at convergent margins. She was involved in development of the Osmo sample flowmeter that was successfully deployed in the Costa Rica decollement.

Her dedication, persistence, and passion for her work are exemplary. Miriam’s tireless commitment and her insistence on the highest standards have become legendary. Current geologic folklore associated with the ocean drilling programs is full of stories about Miriam’s commitment and diligence. Her service to the marine geoscience community is equally remarkable. She has served on dozens of key national and international advisory panels and editorial boards for prestigious journals, acting as an outspoken advocate for science of the highest quality. She has acted as role model for young scientists, promoting excellence.

For her long-standing record of research excellence and productivity, for her leadership roles in scientific ocean drilling and in marine geosciences overall, and for her resulting profound influence on the field of marine geochemistry from her influential publications, Miriam Kastner is a most worthy recipient of the Maurice Ewing medal for 2008.

—HENRY ELDERFIELD, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


I am deeply honored to receive the AGU Maurice Ewing Medal, an award without equal in oceanography. First, my thanks go to my colleague Harry Elderfield, for his very generous introduction. I am fortunate to have been able to work with great colleagues like Harry, and with numerous talented and energetic graduate students and postdoctorate fellows at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), some of whom are here today. They rapidly became research partners with whom I have explored a spectrum of topics, with emphasis on the various aspects of marine sediment geochemistry, authigenesis and diagenesis, with implications for chemical paleoceanography, submarine hydrothermal deposits, the role of fluids and C cycling in convergent margins, and the significance of gas hydrates for slope stability and global change. Without these individuals I would not be standing here today.

I started as an undergraduate student at the Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, Israel, and was fortunate to receive a generous scholarship from Harvard University for the duration of my stay there, where the challenge to understand complex processes and to focus on the broad perspectives was stimulating and rewarding. I had an eminent advisory committee that consisted of Robert Garrels, Ray Siever, Jim Thompson, and Clifford Frondel. When I was about to finish my Ph.D. at Harvard University, the future looked rather cloudy for graduates of my gender. Fortunately, unexpectedly new forward blowing winds came, and I was fortunate to be invited to join the enlightened faculty of SIO, who had a profound influence on my career. They provided me with extraordinary possibilities to engage in new research with state-of-the-art facilities and extensive seagoing opportunities.

Although I did not have the chance to know Maurice Ewing, I feel greatly privileged to receive an award in his name and share his passion of ocean exploration. This is a great honor that motivates me to continue to pursue the excitement of ocean research.

I have had the fortune of working with many excellent colleagues and collaborators at SIO and at numerous national and international universities and institutions.

In addition to my citationist, I would like to thank my margins colleagues; the work on continental margins, one of my focus research areas in recent years, is within a framework of several important discoveries. Through combining observations, modeling, theory, and experiments, enormous progress in understanding this dynamic system was made in recent years. This research provided me with many seagoing opportunities, a wonderful and challenging experience, during which deep friendships were established. Part of this award goes to these colleagues and to the support staff who make expeditions successful.

In addition to research and education, serving on numerous national and international committees was one way to return the generous support and opportunities I received since I came to the United States.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the long-term financial support of my research by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, the NSF Division of Earth Sciences, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Office of Naval Research.

I deeply regret that my late husband could not share this moment with me.

In closing, I wish to express my extreme gratitude to AGU for this award.

—MIRIAM KASTNER, University of California, San Diego