Michael Strasser

University of Innsbruck

2017 The Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize Winner

Michael Strasser was awarded the 2017 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The Taira Prize is a partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) and is made possible through a generous donation from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (-IOPD-​-MI). The prize honors an individual for “outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”


Michael “Michi” Strasser is a key science driver for increasing our understanding of submarine mass movements through scientific ocean drilling. He has enthusiastically conducted research on mass transport deposits induced by historic mega earthquakes in the Nankai Trough and also by the 2011 Japan Trench mega earthquake and tsunami. His achievements have significantly contributed to our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of such deformable sediments and their tectonic backgrounds. Importantly, these scientific achievements are also highly relevant to human society in terms of natural geohazards.

Beginning with his Ph.D., he initiated his research with the study of Swiss lake sediments and proposed a novel method to reconstruct magnitudes and source areas of prehistoric earthquakes. By combining sedimentology, exploration geophysics, and geotechnical methods on seismic slope stability, he quantified prehistoric earthquake intensities produced by subaquatic sediment failure. In 2007–2008, he participated in the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment sailing on the D/V Chikyu as a member of the scientific team during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition (Exp.) 316. As a shipboard sedimentologist, he clarified the origin and evolution of a tsunamigenic thrust system based on slope failure sediments. In 2010, he assumed a leadership role in proposing the Nankai Trough Submarine Landslide History (-NanTroSLIDE) project, again using the D/V Chikyu, and served as a co–chief scientist during IODP Exp. 333. One of the most fascinating scientific achievements resulting from IODP Exp. 333 was his 2011 paper, which presents several novel aspects of a submarine landslide study combining the use of -X-ray computed tomography and 3-D seismic interpretations of the targeted area.

In 2011, he established his own lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and systematically pursued a conceptional research scheme to study -earthquake-​-triggered subaquatic landslides and sediment stability along subduction margins. Major scientific achievements emanating from these projects include important discoveries of transient geochemical signals in the slump deposit that constrained the triggering of the slump associated with the 2011 Japan Trench mega earthquake and the history of methane release from hydrate dissociation induced by recent offshore earthquakes. Michi’s research has expanded further to include -trans- and interdisciplinary directions to integrate both observational and theoretical processes. His interdisciplinary research achievements have broadened to include the impacts of active margin tectonics on the deep carbon cycle and biosphere and the integration of numerical modeling using IODP data. Since 2010, he has been serving as a leader of the international scientific community, for example, as cochair of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (-UNESCO) International Geoscience Programme IGCP 585 and 640 and as subchair of the Proposal Evaluation Panel of IODP.

As a recipient of the Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize, Michael Strasser is honored for his outstanding contributions to the investigation of submarine mass movements using multidisciplinary approaches through scientific ocean drilling.

—Yasuhiro Yamada, Center for Ocean Drilling Science, Japan Agency for -Marine-​-Earth Science and Technology, Yokohama


I feel deeply honored to receive the Taira Prize. I thank AGU, the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), and IODP for establishing this prestigious prize and express my supreme gratitude to Yasuhiro Yamada for his gracious citation.

The enthusiastic lectures by Judy McKenzie, Gretchen Bernasconi, and Gerald Haug triggered my fascination for studying Earth’s structure and history through scientific ocean drilling. I cannot overemphasize the encouragement and support I received from them to apply for the ODP student trainee program in 2002. I had the good fortune to join the JOIDES Resolution with fantastic international colleagues during Leg 205 to study subduction zone processes offshore Costa Rica. I am thankful to co–chief scientists Julie Morris and Heinrich Villinger and staff scientist Adam Klaus, who nurtured my scientific growth from a student trainee to a shipboard sedimentologist.

After this cruise, I did my Ph.D. project on lakes with Flavio Anselmetti, who taught me how to conduct my own little IODP-style project in lakes as model oceans and introduced me to the fascinating research of subaquatic mass movements and paleoseismology. Thereafter, I had the great opportunity to be involved in the IODP Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (-NanTroSEIZE), to get exposed to the tremendous technological opportunities of Chikyu, and to establish exciting interdisciplinary collaboration with many -NanTroSEIZE scientists. I would particularly like to thank Greg Moore, Achim Kopf, Mike Underwood, and Gaku Kimura in addition to the NanTroSEIZE chief scientists Harold Tobin and Masa Kinoshita and all co–chief scientists of Expeditions 316, 333, and 338, who were mostly influential on my research developments. They encouraged and supported me in writing my first drilling proposal to study submarine mass movement, which was implemented during Expeditions 333 and 338. Similarly, I am deeply thankful for the great momentum created by my colleagues within the UNESCO IGCP 585 and 640 projects, in particular, Angelo Camerlenghi and Roger Urgeles, to foster submarine landslide research within IODP. In representation of all not mentioned colleagues and friends within the bigger “IODP family,” I also thank Dick Kroon as past chair of the Science Evaluation Board, the panel membership of which provided me with yet another highly rewarding experience in learning how outstanding new research proposals are emerging. I acknowledge my host institutions, ETH Zürich, MARUM Bremen, and the University of Innsbruck, for all their support, and also my students for conducting their research projects with me. Finally, I thank my wife and family for all their incredible support.

—Michael Strasser, University of Innsbruck, -Innsbruck, Austria