Presentation of the award will take place at a public ceremony on the UMD campus on March 28 at 3 :15 p.m. in Life Science Building 185. Following presentation of the award, Professor Johnson will present a lecture titled "Why Africa?" focused on understanding global warming and our changing global climate system. A public reception will follow at 4:30 p.m. in the Griggs Center in the UMD Kirby Student Center.
The lecture will be devoted to answering the question "Are we experiencing global warming today, or are we just witnessing a natural perturbation in climate that has been repeated time and time again?" Our global climate system determines where we can live in comfort, where crops do well, and when armed invasions may be destined to failure.
The large lakes of the East African Rift Valley contain one of the richest potential records of past climate change to be found anywhere in the tropics (which span half the earth's surface and constitute the heat engine for the global climate system). Beginning in January 2002, Professor Johnson and UMD will be in the lead on an exciting new program of drilling one of the East African lakes. This program will carry Johnson's extensive research to a new level of understanding climate changes.
He initiated a pilot study on Lake Superior in the late 1970's applying oceanographic techniques to study the lake, focusing on what kinds of sediments accumulate, where, and why. Gathering information on a broad spectrum, and using seismic reflection profilling, he found the lake basin to be very dynamic. Examining the geochemistry of the lake floor sediments and comparing aspects of their geochemistry to sediments accumulating in the oceans, Professor Johnson began to unravel a history of climate spanning the last 9,000 years.
His research led him to be invited to participate in an expedition to Lake Tanganyika in 1983 to oversee a geophysical survey of sediments on the lake floor. In Africa, he was fascinated by the geology and limnology of the East African Rift Valley, where he returns frequently to carry out his research.
A distinguished scholar in the field of oceanography, Professor Johnson has an extensive publication record and has received substantial grants and numerous awards for contributions to research. His awards include the George C. Taylor Award for Outstanding Research and the Fulbright Scholarship. He has been a visiting research fellow at Chancellor College in Malawi (East Africa) and was a Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Research Fellow from 1987 to 1992. He has been a Fellow of the Geological Society of America since 1996.