NOAA 2000-526
Contact: Jana Goldman


An early interest in fossils turned into a life's work in geosciences for Dr. Robert P. Dziak, one of the winners of the Presidential Early Career Award.

Dziak, chief seismologist at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Newport, Ore., was one of 60 individuals who were awarded the nation's highest award for young scientists during a White House ceremony today. Dr. Shawn McLaughlin of NOAA's National Ocean Service was also honored.

"Dr. Dziak has contributed greatly to our understanding of deep ocean volcanic and thermal activity and the role they may play in the global ocean's physical, chemical and biological environment," said Dr. David L. Evans, NOAA assistant administrator. "We in NOAA Research are very proud that his work has been recognized with this prestigious honor."

A native of Illinois, Dziak holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and a master's from the University of Memphis. Three years ago, he earned his doctorate from Oregon State University, where he currently holds a joint appointment and is an assistant professor.

"There is no doubt that Dr. Dziak has a bright scientific career ahead of him," said Dr. Eddie N. Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. "We are fortunate to have a scientist of Dr. Dziak's talent and insight. He sets his goals high and he has the intelligence and commitment to achieve them."

Dziak's research into how underwater earthquakes move along the seafloor and their effect on the colonies of microbes that live there has opened new windows into this previously little-known field.

"Submarine volcanic eruptions provide windows into the biosphere and Dr. Dziak's research helps his NOAA colleagues, and collaborating scientists all over the world, know where and when that window opens," said Dr. Stephen Hammond, leader of PMEL's Ocean Environmental Research Division, where Dr. Dziak works.

Hammond added that Dziak is particularly skilled at recognizing the elusive, but specific, sounds that submarine volcanoes emit during eruption. By using both the U.S. Navy and NOAA's deep water hydrophone listening systems, Dziak and his colleagues can find the location of the eruption and measure its chemical, physical, and biological consequences.

Although submarine eruptions are the most common such events on Earth, the NOAA acoustics team, of which Dziak is a key member, made it possible to study their impacts on the ocean for the first time ever in the summer of 1993, Hammond noted.

One of the youngest members of the team, 37 year old Dziak is an accomplished researcher who is nationally recognized for the results he regularly publishes in major scientific journals, the most recent being in the Sept. 14 issue of Nature.

Dziak's interest in geology began as a child when he and his older sister would go on fossil hunting trips. His work has taken him on several oceanographic research cruises and two submersible dives. He recently was interviewed for consideration to be part of the Astronaut Corps.

His ultimate goal is to study the recent underwater activity along the Pacific coast and see what relationship it may have to the likelihood of major earthquakes in northern California and southern Oregon.