May 1, 2003
Contact: Perle M. Dorr (703) 379-2480

Volcanologist Richard S. Fiske Receives Award
for Outstanding Contribution to
Public Understanding of the Geosciences

ALEXANDRIA, VA - The American Geological Institute (AGI) presented its prestigious Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Understanding of the Geosciences to distinguished volcanologist Richard S. Fiske. The award ceremony took place in the stately John Wesley Powell Auditorium in Washington, DC, during the January meeting of the Geological Society of Washington. "We are proud to recognize one of the world's foremost geoscientists whose efforts not only bring the wonders of volcanoes to young and old alike, but demonstrate how exciting science is," stated Marcus E. Milling, AGI Executive Director.

    Dr. Fiske is an internationally known research geologist whose passion is volcanoes. For more than 40 years, he has traveled to lofty heights and to great depths to study these phenomena around the world. His work takes him to Hawaii where he rappels deep into cracks in the Kilauea volcano to search for ash layers between lava flows. These days, he can be found in a small submersible unit in the waters off the coast of Japan to explore recently active undersea craters.

    Besides his major research projects, Dr. Fiske finds ways to convey his enthusiasm for volcanoes to the general public. In 1986, he helped arrange the production of the motion picture, Inside Hawaiian Volcanoes, by the late volcano cinematographer Maurice Krafft. Then, working with a colleague, he produced a shorter video version and developed a companion teacher's guide that is still being used today. Dr. Fiske was the chief curator for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition entitled, "Inside Active Volcanoes: Kilauea and Mount St. Helens," and he has presented more than 150 lectures to audiences throughout the U.S. as part of the Smithsonian's National Associates Program. Dr. Fiske has appeared on the MacNeill-Lehrer News Hour on PBS and, on multiple occasions, has been a guest on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio. Several prominent magazines, including Life and National Geographic, have also published his dramatic photographs.

    Dr. Fiske returned to research in 1985 after serving as Director of the National Museum of Natural History. He played a major role in the planning of the museum's Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, which opened to the public in 1997, and was a member of the project's Core Curatorial Team. Prior to joining the Smithsonian Institution in 1976, Dr. Fiske was Chief of the Office of Geochemistry and Geophysics at the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition to his contributions to public education, Dr. Fiske has authored dozens of peer-reviewed papers that have been published in scientific journals. He received his PhD in geology from The Johns Hopkins University in 1960.

    The AGI Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Understanding of the Geosciences was established in 1985 and is presented annually to a person, organization, or institution in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of geology. The contribution may be in geology as a science or in geology as it relates to economic or environmental aspects of modern civilization. The award may be given to a geologist or non-geologist, or to an organization or an institution that is geologic or non-geologic in character. Recipients in the recent past include John Noble Wilford, Esther and Sherwood Tuttle and Ann Harris, and M. Dane "Duke" Picard.

    The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 40 scientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at The Institute also provides a public-outreach web site,


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