College of Fellows Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker

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John Tarduno
University of Rochester
United States of America
Primary Affiliation: Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism and Electromagnetism

The geomagnetic field shields the planet from particles streaming from the Sun, known as the solar wind, that have the potential to erode the atmosphere and ultimately remove water from the planet. The field is generated by convection in Earth’s liquid outer iron core which is, in turn, controlled by heat loss through the mantle. Therefore, probing the geomagnetic field back in time - the discipline of paleomagnetism - provides a way to learn about the development of Earth’s deep interior, the history of magnetic shielding, and overall planetary habitability. In this talk I will review progress in these areas and topical grand challenge questions associated with three time intervals of special importance with regard to past and future solar-terrestrial interactions. 


Professor Tarduno’s research centers on detecting the past geomagnetic field to learn about the evolution of Earth’s surface and deep interior. His recent research includes studies of the very origin of the geodynamo, the mechanism within Earth’s core that generates the field. In his publications, Professor Tarduno asserts that the geomagnetic field is essential for the development and sustainability of a habitable planet. 

Professor Tarduno received a B.S. in geophysics from Lehigh University in 1983 and an M.S. and Ph.D. in geophysics from Stanford University in 1987. He was a Joint Oceanographic Institutions Fellow at Stanford in 1988 and a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at ETH-Zürich in 1989. From 1990 to 1993 he was Assistant Research Geophysicist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He joined the University of Rochester in 1993, and served as Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences between 1998 and 2007, and 2016 to 2019. In 2018, he was named William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor, and since 2019 he has served as Dean of Research for Arts, Sciences and Engineering. Professor Tarduno founded the Rochester paleomagnetism laboratory where he and his research group have developed methods to recover past field data from single crystals. His group uses ultrasensitive magnetometers to read this magnetic history. He has sailed on ocean drilling cruises, and was lead proponent and co-chief scientist on ODP Leg 197 (Motion of the Hawaiian Hotspot: A Paleomagnetic Test, 2001). He has conducted field work with students in India, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and has led two expeditions in the Sahara and ten to the High Canadian Arctic.  

Professor Tarduno has over 100 publications including 13 first-authored works in Science and Nature. He was elected Fellow of the GSA in 1998 and in 2001, he received Rochester's Goergen Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching. In 2003, he was elected Fellow of the AAAS for "providing large-impact contributions to the study of Earth's paleomagnetic record and for a matching mentoring outreach to students." Professor Tarduno was the 2004 AGU Bullard Lecturer and he has been interviewed by CNN and The New York Times.  In 2006, Professor Tarduno was named a Guggenheim Fellow. In 2007, he was elected a Fellow of the AGU. Also in that year, he received Rochester’s Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.   

In 2016, Professor Tarduno was awarded the Price Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for “…his achievement in detecting the absolute motion of hotspots, overturning the notion that they are fixed points over which the tectonic plates moveopening the way to new insights into mantle convection”. In 2017, he received the EGU Petrus Peregrinus Medal for his “…seminal studies on the evolution of the early Earth’s magnetic field.” His article in The Conversation (“Does an anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field portend a coming pole reversal”) has over 800,000 reads, and Professor Tarduno has been featured in a recent BBC/Science Channel documentary on this subject.