Arizona State University Oceanographer Honored for Impact of Her Paper Published in 1998

Hilairy Hartnett, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, is the lead author of a paper that has received the 2022 John Martin Award from the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. The award, established in 2005, recognizes a paper in aquatic sciences that is judged to have had a high impact on subsequent research and that has led to a fundamental shift in understanding.

Dr. Hartnett is being recognized for her research published in Nature in 1998, titled “Influence of Oxygen Exposure Time on Organic Carbon Preservation in Continental Margin Sediments,” with University of Washington co-authors Richard Keil, the late John Hedges and Allan Devol. This research provided the first evidence that burial of organic matter at the seafloor is a direct control on oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which has implications for the Earth’s carbon cycle and the stability of oxygen in our atmosphere.

“The tool developed by Hartnett and co-authors to predict carbon burial efficiency was elegant and revolutionary to the field,” said Roxane Maranger, president of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. “More than 20 years later, the oxygen exposure time concept continues to be integral to oceanography and limnology, particularly as we continue to assess how climate change impacts on aquatic ecosystem oxygen dynamics will influence carbon sediment burial.”

“It is a tremendous honor to have our paper recognized with the John Martin Award — the papers that have received it are all true ‘must reads’ in the marine and aquatic sciences,” Professor Hartnett said. “We knew our demonstration of the negative feedback between organic burial in sediments and oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere was important when we wrote the paper, but I never imagined it would continue to influence people’s thinking for such a long time.”

A member of the Arizona State University faculty since 2003, Professor Harnett is a graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she majored in chemistry. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington.

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