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February 15, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Known for Supercontinent Cycle, Nance Receives Distinguished Scientist Award

Dr. R. Damian Nance, portrait

Dr. R. Damian Nance

Dr Damian Nance, widely renowned for his supercontinent cycle research, was awarded the Atlantic Geoscience Society’s 2019 Distinguished Scientist Award, the Gesner Medal, at the society’s annual banquet Feb. 9, 2019.

Nance is Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio University.

The Gesner Medal is presented to “a person who has, through their own efforts, developed and promoted the advancement of geoscience in the Atlantic Region in any field of geology” and who’s contribution has “made an impact beyond the immediate Atlantic Region,” according to the society’s website.

Nance began his research more than 40 years ago by studying metamorphic rocks preserved in the Atlantic region, and although his subsequent research career was much more expanded in scope, his work on Atlantic geology framed much of his later major theoretical advances, such as the supercontinent cycle.

“It is especially meaningful to me that this award comes from the Maritimes. It was here in the Maritimes that I first applied the supercontinent cycle to real rocks, and it was Atlantic Geology (then Maritime Sediments) that published my first research,” Nance noted in his acceptance speech.

Nance’s work in the Atlantic region has been multifaceted and includes studies of the development of mountain belts, the formation and closure of ancient ocean basin, the identification of San Andreas-style fault systems for the first time in the Appalachians, the geochemical fingerprinting of terranes, and the age constraints of major tectonic events. Nance synthesized these varied pieces of data into his well-known supercontinent cycle and leveraged these into his Pannotia hypothesis.

“Damian Nance has always been able to see the big-picture significance of geological studies that might at first sight only seem to be of local importance,” notes Dr. Rob Strachan of the University of Portsmouth in the UK.

Perhaps Nance’s impressive research career recognized by this award is best described by Dr. Brendan Murphy, St. Francis Xavier University, his chief nominator for the Gesner Medal, who noted that Nance “has contributed fundamental insights into forces responsible for the origin of mountains and how these forces have changed through time. Damian’s research has contributed much more than fundamental ideas and concepts. His fieldwork has shown how tectonic activity on a ‘local’ scale can be connected to regional and global patterns, and in doing so, has bridged the conceptual gap between field-based research and the supercontinent cycle hypothesis.”

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