Geophysicist Wins 'Women of Discovery' Award

November 20, 2008


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Maya Tolstoy Recognized for Deep-Sea Exploration

Maya Tolstoy, a marine geophysicist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has received the 2009 Women of Discovery Sea Award for her pioneering work in studying the ocean floors. The discovery awards are given yearly by Wings WorldQuest, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes the achievements of women explorers. The honor was announced at the Explorers Club in New York City on Nov. 17.

Tolstoy, a veteran of 27 deep-sea expeditions, specializes in studying mid-ocean ridges using seismic signals generated by earthquakes. Among other things, she led a team that documented a 2006 undersea lava eruption in the Pacific that swamped the scientists’ instruments. Her work has helped show that subsea earthquakes can be triggered by tides. In a recent study in the journal Nature, she challenged the conventional image of how volcanically heated undersea hydrothermal systems work, demonstrating that water on one Pacific ridge flows energetically along the axis instead of seeping in from the sides. She is also active in scientific programs that seek to introduce young people to science.

"Dr. Tolstoy was nominated for her outstanding groundbreaking discoveries," said Milbry Polk, executive director of Wings WorldQuest.

Four others received Women of Discovery awards this year: Aparajita Datta, a botanist and zoologist who has discovered several new species in her native India; Rosaly Lopes, a Brazilian volcanologist who has led NASA’s examination of Jupiter’s moon Io; Bolortsetseg Minjin, a Mongolian paleontologist who has made spectacular finds in the Gobi desert; and Leela Hazzah, an Egyptian wildlife biologist who works to conserve lions in East Africa.

Previous awardees have included primatologist Jane Goodall, oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and Marie Tharp, a Lamont scientist credited with drawing the first global maps of earth’s seafloors.

The award, which includes a $10,000 grant, will be made at a gala event in New York on April 28, 2009.