Scott Doney

2000 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Scott C. Doney was awarded the James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on December 17, 2000 in San Francisco, California. The medal recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by a young scientist of outstanding ability.


“‘A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.’ — James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

“After collaborating with Scott Doney for the past 14 years I know what Joyce meant. When working with someone as bright as Scott it inevitably happens that you just don’t understand. And because we’re trained skeptics the question immediately arises, ‘has our friend and colleague made a mistake?’ But we’re wrong; we just didn’t see the portal through which people like Scott had already proceeded. Certainly this is what we reserve these awards of ‘outstandingness’ for; those whose insight lead through the portals of discovery.

“Where should I begin? Scott’s scientific talents are many and varied; go to any bibliographic database and search on ‘Doney,’you’ll find the fruits of his talents shining out from more than 40 (at last count) peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Scott has displayed his prodigious talent in tackling topics of oceanographic interest such as: transient tracer measurement and modeling, oceanic ventilation time scale calculation, denitrification rate estimation, irreversible thermodynamic quantification of air-sea gas transfer, coupled physical-biological modeling dynamics, advances in upper ocean boundary layer modeling, diurnal cycling of photochemical species, ecosystematic modeling of biogeochemical processes, exploration of mesoscale variability in satellite data, global climate system modeling, trace-nutrient limitation of the global carbon cycle, the list seems to go on and on. The overarching theme of Scott’s research is his desire to better understand and model the response of the marine biogeochemical system to climate variability and to predict potential climatic feedbacks via the exchange of CO2 and other radiatively or chemically important gases between the atmosphere and ocean.

“Our collaboration began shortly after Scott came to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a newly minted Bachelor of Arts (magna cum laude) from the University of California, San Diego. This collaboration, which began at the white board, continues to this day.

“As part of his Ph.D. thesis in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Scott worked with Bill Jenkins on the distributions of transient tracers to infer the workings of basin scale circulation and water mass ventilation in the North Atlantic. This work with transient tracers resulted in a clear demonstration that the deep western boundary current is not a single ribbon of flow (as the popular press prefers to display), but, rather, a complicated system of recirculation cells that have enormous import for the implications of how climatically important, anthropogenic tracers (such as CO2) are stored in the deep ocean.

“After completing his thesis, Scott went inland and took up modeling global climatic systems at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, always with an eye to what the data are telling us. Scott and many of his colleagues are working to include, as realistic as feasible, ecosystem dynamics into physical models of all dimensionalities. Starting from simple models applied to the Bermuda area Scott’s coupled physical-biological ecosystem-based models have branched out from one-dimensional to two- and three-dimensional model frameworks of global and regional extent. This modeling activity has led to research using satellite data as one constraint on the patterns emerging. Using geostatistical techniques to quantify mesoscale variability, Scott has clearly demonstrated that this is a direct outgrowth of the interactions of physical and biological processes operating in the upper ocean.

“The above is just a small fraction of Scott’s scientific endeavor, so you might think Scott has no time for anything outside his scientific research. Not so. Scott gives back to our community enormous portions of his intellect and energy driven by an earnest desire to ensure that the insights we gain today are not lost tomorrow. He’s on more committees than I can remember (or think humanly possible); he teaches (upon request) at the University of Colorado, Boulder; and advises several postdocs at NCAR. All of these activities are full of a selfless, non-promoting drive to ensure that the younger scientists around him are encouraged and that we gain understanding of our world so that projections from climatic modeling are based on sound science.

“Scott sees deeper into, knows more about, and synthesizes more significant oceanographic information than most oceanographers I know today. It is my great pleasure to present to you Scott C. Doney, the AGU James B. Macelwane 2000 medalist.”

—DAVID M. GLOVER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.


“Thank you, Dave, for that flattering citation, and I am honored to receive the Macelwane Medal. But it is a particular pleasure to have been nominated by Dave Glover, a good friend and colleague since my very first day of graduate school at Woods Hole nearly 15 years ago. Few people have the privilege to devote their lives to something they love. I have been fortunate to turn my fascination as a kid scrambling around the tide pools in southern California into a lifelong adventure (and paying career). No one works in a vacuum, and in my case I am indebted to a host of colleagues, friends, and mentors. Most of you know who you are, so if I forget anyone, please accept my apologies.

“From the time I was very young, my family encouraged my curiosity in science and nature, for which I am ever thankful. With the help of my great aunt, I participated in the SEA program as an undergraduate, drawing my attention from premed back to oceanography. My first exposure to the actual workings of science came through a summer internship at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies with Inez Fung and Michael Prather. I met Wally Broecker in a corridor of Lamont that summer and quickly found myself on an oceanographic cruise, dragging large blocks of ice around the deck (and only subsequently running instruments).

“I cannot imagine a better place to study graduate oceanography than the MIT/Woods Hole Joint program. I owe my thesis advisor, Bill Jenkins, a tremendous thanks for teaching me by his example how to think, and all of the members of the WHOI Helium Isotope laboratory for their support and assistance. Despite being 6000 feet above sea level and a thousand miles from coast, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has been a great place to pursue oceanography. I am especially grateful to my two postdoc advisors (Bill Large and Jim McWilliams) and other unofficial mentors (Dave Schimel, Rana Fine, Don Olson, Hugh Ducklow, Inez Fung, Peter Gent). My numerical modeling research would not be possible without the hard work and talents of the NCAR oceanography and ecosystem dynamics section members (particularly Gokhan Danabasoglu and Nan Rosenbloom) and my own research group (Keith Lindsay, Joanie Kleypas, Keith Moore, Ivan Lima, and Roger Dargaville).

“I have been fortunate to collaborate with a great group of scientists (and friends!!) including John Bullister, Ray Najjar, Rik Wanninkhof, Dennis McGillicuddy, Dave Siegel, and many others too numerous to mention (at least in 500 words). I would like to specifically thank all of the participants of the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study program, which has provided the field observations, intellectual community, and scientific vigor upon which I have built much of my recent modeling research. My work would not have been possible without the support of many dedicated program managers at NASA, National Science Foundation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the NCAR management. Finally and most important, I want to thank my wife, Andrea Gosselin, who has graciously and (most of the time) cheerfully put up with all of the late nights, long cruises, and excessive travel.”

—SCOTT C. DONEY, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.