Kelley Receives 2011 Hisashi Kuno Award

Katherine Kelley received the Hisashi Kuno Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “accomplishments of junior scientists who make outstanding contributions to the fields of volcanology, geochemistry, and petrology.”


kelley_katherineFresh out of Macalester College, Katherine Kelley was inspired to move to Kansas, ironically, on the promise of a sea­going opportunity: drilling the world’s oldest oceanic crust. From this experience, Katie took a leadership role in studying seafloor alteration, became an expert in laser ablation inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and wrote a definitive paper on the chemical fractionation in the U-Th-Pb system from the ridge to the subducting slab and beyond. This work is Katie’s best cited, but it is not what she is best known for. Instead, during most of her time at Boston University, where she finished her degree, and at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism), where she did a postdoc, Katie worked on measuring the water contents of arc magmas. She found simple relationships between the water content of the mantle, the extent to which it melts, and the distance from the trench. This is the hallmark of Katie’s work; the results seem so obvious after the fact. She has gone on to unravel one of the great knots in our field: how temperature, pressure, and water content contribute to magma generation beneath arcs.

Even with these major contributions, many consider Katie’s most important work her most recent. In a dynamic partnership with Elizabeth Cottrell, Katie developed the micro-XANES technique to make the first coupled measurements of H2O and Fe3+/FeT in the same glass and melt inclusions. Of course, it is common knowledge that arc magmas are wetter and more oxidized than mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB), but Katie and Liz’s data are the first to show that these quantities relate. H2O and fO2 are the demons in petrology, and Katie has spent her short career on these elusive variables, finding remarkable relationships between them.

Terry A. Plank, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, N. Y.


Thank you, Terry, for your kind words, and thanks to AGU and the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology section for this tremendous honor. Like that of any of us, my scientific work has grown from great collaborations, and I stand here on the shoulders of many generous and brilliant mentors and colleagues, with whom I share this terrific recognition.

My early interest in geology was fostered by my father, Phil Kelley, a cartographer and lifelong member of AGU. Great field experiences, from my undergraduate years at Macalester College with Karl Wirth in the Duluth Complex to a Fulbright year exploring Philippine volcanoes with Jun Yumul and Toti Corpuz, cemented my interests in volcanoes and the processes that create magma.

When I started my Ph.D. with Terry Plank, Terry herself was winning young scientist medals, and she was so vibrant and enthusiastic, I knew she would lead me to great scientific experiences. I also enjoyed countless productive interactions with Ed Stolper, Tim Grove, and Steve Parman that led to new models of hydrous melting beneath arcs and back-arc basins.

As a postdoc at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, I developed new perspectives on magmatic volatiles with Erik Hauri and had the greatest arguments with Paul Silver, Mark Behn, and Brian Savage, my supportive and loving husband. My colleagues at the Graduate School of Oceanography, particularly Steve Carey, Chris Kincaid, Rob Pockalny, and Art Spivack, now enrich my daily life with new perspectives.

Six years ago, Liz Cottrell and I had a lucky conversation at Carnegie’s lunch club, which ultimately opened up a new frontier in geochemistry for us: accessing the key petrological variable of oxygen fugacity at microscopic spatial scales. Our work together has helped me grow as a scientist in new ways, and part of this award truly belongs to Liz as well.

Katherine A. Kelley, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett