Mariotti Receives 2014 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

Giulio Mariotti received the 2014 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 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.”


Mariotti_Giulio-Leopold_Award_SIZEDWe are pleased to honor Giulio Mariotti with the Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award for ground-breaking experimental and theoretical work at the intersection of physical and biotic processes in coastal landscapes. Giulio is a geomorphologist who applies his considerable quantitative and observational skills to improve our understanding of Earth surface processes. While keeping a firm grasp on the detailed fluid and sediment dynamics of coastal systems, Giulio has been able to step back from the details and consider how best to pare a problem down to the simplest possible representations and/or observations to get at the underlying system controls and responses.

Through work in the field, the lab, and numerical modeling, Giulio has provided key insights into the interactions of coastal hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, and ecological processes. For example, with a simple dynamic model Giulio showed the existence of a threshold width for tidal flats bordering salt marshes. Once this threshold is exceeded, irreversible marsh erosion takes place even in the absence of sea level rise. He also determined through a series of laboratory experiments how wrinkle structures in siliciclastic deposits can be microbially induced, shedding light on the feedbacks between flow, sediment motion, and microbial growth.

Giulio’s creativity, quantitative skills, and productivity place him in the very top tier of young scientists in Earth and planetary surface processes who have followed in the footsteps of Luna Leopold.

—P. L. Wiberg, University of Virginia, Charlottesville



I would like to thank the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group for this award and for the trust they put I my capabilities. My academic achievements were made possible by my advisor, Sergio Fagherezzi, who distilled in me the art of observing processes and landforms in the field and translating them into mathematical models. I am also in debt to Taylor Perron and Tanja Bosak, who followed me during my off-the-beaten-path adventure in experimental microbial sedimentology.

I confess that when I started working on ecogeomorphology, I thought about biotic processes as an obstacle to the quantitative understanding of geomorphology. This was the view of a freshly graduated engineering student, with a lot of mathematical tools in his bag but with a quite narrow vision of nature. Luckily, interactions with scientists from different backgrounds—biologists, ecologists, paleontologists, and biochemists—taught me to look at life not as an inconvenience, but rather as an opportunity to give purpose to my geomorphology-based research. Such a change of view led my interest toward questions about the origin and evolution of life and the functioning and fate of modern coastal ecosystems.

There are plenty of biotic-driven questions relevant to society that can be addressed using the tools of geomorphology. My wish is to continue along this road, working with old and new colleagues who are the true catalysts for my work. Thanks to all of you.

—G. Mariotti, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston