On November 3rd, 2016, Prof. Donald R. Lowe of Stanford University was presented with the department’s Alumni Achievement Award. Prof. Lowe presented a lecture, "The Geologic Record of the Late Heavy Bombardment" and received the award from Department Head Tom Johnson.
Don is a prolific and widely respected scholar of sedimentary geology. He has published well over 100 peer-reviewed papers and some of them are major classics: His 1982 paper, “Sediment Gravity Flows .2. Depositional Models With Special Reference To The Deposits Of High-Density Turbidity Currents” has been cited 1328 times. He has 18 other papers that have been cited over 100 times.
His research generally covers two main areas.
1. Deep-water sedimentation, especially using outcrops and cores to study the processes by which coarse sediment is transported and deposited in the deep sea. This area of research has major implications for oil and gas exploration and production in deepwater environments.
2. His group uses the techniques of sedimentary geology and geochemistry to explore the nature and role of early organisms, the role of giant meteorite impacts in early crustal development, and Archean basinal settings and tectonics, generally before 2.5 billion years ago.
Prof. Gary Parker commented on the significance of Prof. Lowe’s work:
“Deep-sea sedimentary deposits have remained much more puzzling than corresponding river deposits. River deposits can be directly correlated to the flow that emplaced them by means of direct observation. In the case of deep-sea deposits, however, the flows themselves have been until recently undetectable in the field. It was thus necessary to develop tools for indirect interpretation based on analysis of sediment cores and outcrops. Many of the very earliest tools for the interpretation of submarine outcrops were developed by Don Lowe. His 1982 paper on sediment gravity flows (high-density turbidity currents) has been quoted a very large number of times. The frequent quotation should be viewed in terms of tools that shed light where otherwise there was almost complete darkness.”
Don grew up in Sacramento, California, and graduated from Stanford University. After he received his PhD in 1967, he spent two years as a post-doc at the US Geological Survey until he was hired as an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in 1970. After 18 years at LSU he moved Stanford and has remained there ever since.
Prof. Lowe is the Max Steineke Professor, Stanford University. In 2012, he was awarded Honorary Membership and the Society for Sedimentary Geology, SEPM. In 2014, he was named the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award, by AAPG. He also served as the leader of the Science Definition Team for NASA Astrobiology Research Laboratory in 1999-2000 and was a member of the UCLA Astrobiology Center from 2000 to 2003. He is currently co-director of the Stanford Project On Deep-water Depositional Systems (SPODDS).