GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 99-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


ERNST, W. Gary, Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Bldg 320, room 118, Stanford, CA 94305-2115

My introduction to geologic research began modestly at Carleton College. I studied heavy mineral suites in some midcontinent orthoquartzites, publishing my very first paper in Am Min in 1954. But, as MS candidate at University of Minnesota, Sam Goldich had a cow reading my turgid report on the St. Peter Sandstone-Glenwood Shale contact. Later in a PhD program at Johns Hopkins, I became Joe Boyd’s apprentice at the Geophysical Laboratory, and for a time was phase-equilibrium god of the Na-amphiboles. That earned me the offer of a UCLA assistant professorship as mineralogist in 1960. I nearly didn’t interview, but visiting UCLA hooked me. There, I kept pursuing clinoamphibole P-T stability relations in both lab and field. Unfortunately, most of my papers were not published in Am Min, for, as a reviewer acidly noted: “Over a lifetime, only a few specialists would ever read them.” More importantly, possibly the most careful work I ever did would later be shown to have synthesized, not glaucophane, but the rare double-chain silicate Na-magnesiorichterite. Still, that research encouraged me to map and study occurrences of HP/LT blueschists in the Franciscan Complex. So, when plate tectonics emerged in the late 1960s, I was deep in the subduction zone! Who would have anticipated that the enigmatic Franciscan Complex would become tectonically significant? My more recent studies have focused on metamorphic petrology-geochemistry of oceanic peridotites, calc-alkaline arc plutons, and coesite ± microdiamond-bearing convergent sialic margins in central + eastern Asia, and in the Alps. Other investigations have included global mineral resources, mineralogy-human health, and early-Earth petrotectonic evolution. I try to study important problems, but mostly have worked on ones that lit my fire. For MSA’s future, I regard the existential challenge facing humanity—in fact, the entire biosphere—as the imperative to reach a state of dynamic equilibrium between near-surface planetary resources, i.e., nutrients, and incoming sunlight. Earth scientists are stewards of the planet, so we must direct much more attention to life-supporting mineral resource usage, commodity recycling, and dematerialization. In any event, sustainable development will be achieved because Mother Nature hates the long-term over-drafting of resources.