International Ceremony Honors Brett

Carl Brett is not likely to forget the spring of 2006. His first memory will undoubtedly be of the international ceremony in Bamberg, Germany, at which the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation recognized his achievements in research and teaching with the well known Humboldt Research Prize. Between 30 and 40 such awards are given annually to distinguished researchers around the world, and Brett was one of only three earth scientists to win the distinction this year.

Carl Brett receives Humboldt Award

Carl Brett (right) receives the Humboldt Research Prize (certificate) from Wolfgang Fruhwald, director of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, at a ceremony held in Bamberg, Germany, on March 25, 2006.

His trip involved work as well as honors, however. As part of a cooperative project through the International Global Correlation Program, he is working with German geologists and paleontologists at Frankfurt’s Senckenberg Institute, where the Humboldt award will fund more such collaboration. While there, he presented a keynote Humboldt lecture at the Senckenberg Museum and did field work with a colleague at several geological sites.

Brett plans to return to Germany during the summer to continue a project comparing patterns of global sea-level and climactic change and evolutionary events that occurred during the Devonian Period approximately 417-354 million years ago. This was a critical time in the evolution of marine and land ecosystems because the first fossil forests, insects, and amphibians all evolved during this period.

He says that he and his co-workers will test whether patterns of sea level, climate, and biological changes that he has documented for eastern North American correlate with changes in Europe during the period. If they do, in fact, represent a global pattern, the researchers will then attempt to discover the causes in hopes of better understanding which physical changes may affect the biosphere and how they may precipitate major cascades of extinctions and intensified evolution.

Observing that the spring trip was “multi-faceted and rewarding,” Brett notes that on the way home, he stopped in England to work on research projects with a former UC student and a colleague at London’s Imperial College and to serve as an external reviewer for a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton.

He adds, “The weather in Europe this spring was among the coolest and gloomiest in recent history, leading a geologist interested in global changes to contemplate the meaning of ‘spring break.’”

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