Rice Receives 2015 Ocean Sciences Award

Donald Rice will receive the 2015 Ocean Sciences Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of outstanding and long-standing service to the ocean sciences.


Don Rice is well known for his successful direction of the chemical oceanography program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the past 2 decades. The vibrant health of the program today, even within a declining research budget, speaks to his leadership, vision, and diligence in the pursuit of research excellence, a diverse portfolio, and cultivation of scientists at all career levels.

Don has been instrumental in developing the field of ocean biogeochemistry through his leadership in the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) and the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry program (OCB). His tactical skill in finding ways to support critical science informs his success as much as his intellectual acumen. JGOFS and OCB followed different programmatic models, and yet a third is employed for GEOTRACES, at the intersection of trace metal biogeochemistry, paleoceanography, and physical oceanography. Don’s exemplary broad, balanced, and objective style of program management has advanced and nurtured ocean sciences.

Many of us go into science believing our work will one day benefit society, but for Don Rice, this responsibility is a centerpiece of his career. After establishing himself for his research in ocean sediment chemistry, Don obtained a master’s degree in public health to help promote research on the impact of ocean processes on human health, as well as the impact of human activities on the health of the ocean. To this end, he serves as lead NSF program officer in the NSF–National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Joint Program for Centers of Excellence in Ocean and Human Health.  Both ocean and society are threatened by global warming, and Don has acknowledged this by his tenure on the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s subcommittee on “Global Change and Human Health” since 1997, as well as the U.S. Global Change Research Program Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group.

Don Rice’s intellectual creativity extends beyond the ocean sciences, including mastery of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. He is truly a Renaissance man, making him uniquely deserving of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Ocean Sciences Award.

Robert F. Anderson, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.



I am deeply grateful to the AGU Ocean Sciences section for this award and to Bob Anderson, a longtime colleague-in-arms from the days of U.S. JGOFS down to U.S. GEOTRACES, for the kind words in his citation.  Rewards for doing what one loves doing can come in many forms, but the recognition of one’s peers is hard to beat.

My career as an NSF program officer came about quite by accident and, as far as I know, without malice aforethought.   Beginning in 1990, Dr. Neil Andersen, my predecessor at the helm of the NSF Chemical Oceanography Program, began encouraging me come to NSF to serve as a rotator in the program.  As ocean chemists in academia continue to do down to the present day when approached with such an alarming suggestion, I always had plenty of good reasons to decline.  But I eventually ran out of excuses:  my postdoc left for a real job, my anticipated new doctoral student got a better offer, and for the first time in 12 years my NSF grant was not renewed (for good reason, I will admit).  In any event, I agreed to join up as a rotator “for one year, Neil.”  That was 1994.  In 1997, when I was offered Neil’s old job, I accepted it as an honor.  I have had no regrets.

I am grateful to my family for their support for forbearance of my eccentricities and absences over the years, to my graduate students who taught me far more than I could ever have presumed to teach them, and to the hundreds of colleagues in the worldwide ocean sciences community who have made my life’s work a joy and an adventure.  I share this award with them all.

—Donald L. Rice, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va.