Keir Receives 2011 Jason Morgan Early Career Award

Derek Keir received the 2011 Jason Morgan Early Career Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early-career contributions in tectonophysics.


keir_derekThe AGU Tectonophysics section is pleased to present the third Jason Morgan Early Career Award to Derek Keir for discoveries resulting from his innovative and tireless efforts to elucidate the role of magma intrusion in large-scale strain accommodation prior to and during continental rupture, a stage of the Wilson Cycle that is very poorly understood. Keir is a consummate tectonophysicist; he uses state-of-the-art seismic, structural, and other field geophysical techniques to study in detail a first-order tectonics problem: that of how continents break up as the Wilson Cycle is initiated. To address this problem, one has to go to the only place on Earth where the process is ongoing at this moment: northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. These are physically and logistically difficult places in which to do fieldwork; the work of many collaborators must be coordinated to collect the necessary high-quality data, and, equally important, one must have excellent “people skills” to gain access to critical areas and to keep a project moving along, always with the target in mind. After the very large amounts of data are collected at great effort, the motivation must be maintained to ensure that the data are sifted and condensed into a coherent whole and published where large numbers of scientists of many disciplines will see them. Keir’s astounding productivity in some of the world’s best scientific journals in his fledgling scientific career attests to his possession of such motivation and the caliber of his writing skills. The equally impressive number of citations of these papers attests to his choice of important topics, the rigor of his analyses, and the quality of the results. His quiet, modest demeanor belies his strong commitment to teaching and outreach, and his career to date exemplifies AGU’s aim to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.


Harry W. Green, University of California, Riverside


I am sincerely grateful to the Tectonophysics section of AGU for considering me as a recipient of this prestigious award. These days, early-career scientists face an ever increasing challenge navigating their way toward independent careers. The international science community is large and complex, and the standards are high. It is therefore very important for the community to continue supporting young scientists through opportunities in funding and resources, sound mentoring, and encouragement to contribute back to the community. I have been fortunate to have had all these ingredients in my career to date.

First, I am grateful to my Ph.D. advisor, Cindy Ebinger. Her enthusiasm, generosity, and unwavering determination in Earth science are truly inspirational. I also thank my closest established colleagues in Europe and Ethiopia: Graham Stuart, Mike Kendall, Tim Wright, Sylvie Leroy, and Atalay Ayele, who continue to provide valuable mentoring and scientific collaboration. I have built a fledging career on a core of seismic experiments in Ethiopia and Yemen. I am therefore indebted to Alex Brisbourne and colleagues at SEIS-UK for the fabulous opportunities facilitated, as well as to collaborators at Addis Ababa University and the Yemen Seismological Observatory Center. In the United States the platforms provided to young scientists by AGU and the Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins (GeoPRISMS) program to contribute to, and integrate with, the broader community have also been exceptionally important.

Young scientists are the future, and I have already worked with and learned from a suite of young and exceptionally talented seismologists, geodesists, geochemists, and volcanologists. I look forward to a future of collaborative, multidisciplinary, high­quality, fun, and ethical science from my new base at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.


Derek Keir, Centre, Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK