Duvall Receives 2016 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

Alison R. Duvall will receive the 2016 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”


It is an honor to present Alison Duvall as the recipient of the Luna B. Leopold Award for 2016. Alison’s contributions have fundamentally advanced understanding of landscapes across a range of scales—from the width of bedrock channels, to the uplift of Tibet, quantitative analysis of landforms across strike-slip faults, and landslides in the Pacific Northwest. It is particularly appropriate for her to receive this award as one of the hallmarks of Leopold’s career was merging field observations and theory to develop insights into a wide range of geomorphological features and processes.

Alison played a key role in early efforts to understand controls on bedrock channel profiles, publishing one of the first papers that helped establish bedrock channel width as a degree of freedom in accommodating spatial variation in rock uplift and erodibility. She influenced thinking about the tectonic geomorphology of Tibet, establishing that faulting began in northeastern Tibet far earlier than previously believed and challenging models for the development of the plateau. She applied low-temperature detrital thermochronometry to rivers draining the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and found evidence for regionally synchronous late Miocene exhumation and uplift. In applying landscape evolution modeling to the quantitative analysis of strike-slip landforms, she developed methods for quantifying the topographic signature of the deformation of catchments along strike slip faults, opening up new ways of analyzing landscapes in tectonically active regions. She was a driving force behind using surface roughness to date Holocene landslides in area around the deadly Oso landslide, demonstrating how to rapidly assess risk in landslide-prone terrain. Alison has established herself as a researcher adept at field, laboratory, and modeling approaches across fluvial, tectonic, and hillslope geomorphology. She is a deserving recipient of an award that honors a scientist whose breadth and depth of interests continue to inspire.

—David R. Montgomery, University of Washington, Seattle


Thank you for the generous citation. I am deeply honored to receive the 2016 Luna B. Leopold Award and thrilled to join the list of esteemed scientists who received this award before me.

Looking back, I cringe a little recalling my master’s degree application. I think I checked almost every desired specialization—a classic mistake. Somehow, Doug Burbank and Eric Kirby looked past my greenness and took a chance on me. I am forever grateful that they did.

Through the next years, I sharpened my interests and learned much about rising mountains and the surface processes that act to shape them. But the greatest lesson they taught me was that it was okay, advantageous even, to cross disciplinary boundaries in order to chase big scientific questions.

And so I have.

Asking questions beyond a narrow subfield helped give me the confidence to say yes when Marin Clark offered me a Ph.D. tackling problems as heady and complex as the formation of the Tibetan Plateau. With Marin’s guidance, I gained a fuller appreciation for how what happens far below Earth’s surface affects the processes that we study above. She showed me how to meld geodynamics, tectonics, and geomorphology with a tool kit that stretches from the field to the lab to the equation on the back of a napkin.

Marin was also the first female geoscience mentor in my life. Her success and positive example influenced me profoundly as a young woman forging a path in a male-dominated profession.

Finally, I thank Greg Tucker for agreeing to take me as a postdoc, despite my glaring lack of modeling experience. His kindness, generosity, and landscape brilliance have contributed richly to my science and allowed me to interweave my core research pillars—rivers, hillslopes, and faults—using a single beautiful landscape model.

Thank you!

—Alison R. Duvall, University of Washington, Seattle