The 2022 Augustus Love Medal is awarded to David Bercovici for fundamental and long-lasting contributions that advance our understanding of the dynamics and evolution of mantle convection, lithospheric rheology and plate tectonics.
David Bercovici has made groundbreaking and lasting contributions to many areas of geodynamics, including our understanding of the fundamental processes that promote plate tectonics on Earth, the mechanics that lead to intraplate volcanism, the storage of volatiles in the Earth’s mantle, planet-scale convection processes, and more recently, strategies for long-term carbon storage in the crust. What sets him apart is his keen ability to distill important geophysical processes down to the essential physics that control the behaviour he is investigating – and his insight into how to frame and scale the problems to provide practical and innovative solutions to long-standing geodynamic problems.
Bercovici’s earliest contributions were pioneering, three-dimensional compressible models of mantle convection, the most advanced of their time. His most important work is in developing a dynamically and thermodynamically consistent damage theory of rock deformation for the origin of shear zones and plate tectonic boundaries in the Earth and terrestrial planets. Together with Yanick Ricard, he showed that feedbacks between micro-scale processes—grain size evolution, cracking, or void generation—and lithospheric shearing are essential for the formation of plate boundaries. Bercovici showed that the interaction of two or more different mineral phases via Zener pinning allows a feedback between grain size reduction and grain size sensitive flow to develop; such a feedback is essential for forming sharply localized shear zones. This finding is consistent with field observations and supported by recent experimental studies. The formulations developed by Bercovici in this, and previous papers, are the first to incorporate these micro-scale processes in continuum-mechanical geodynamic models, and are widely used today to provide new insights into lithospheric deformation processes on Earth and other planets. Another notable and highly original contribution is his transition zone water filter concept developed with Shun Karato, in which water and other volatiles circulate independently of the major solid constituents and concentrate in the mantle transition zone.
In recent years, Bercovici has also taken key leadership roles in the problem of climate change, as deputy and co-director of the Yale Climate & Energy Institute from 2009-2015 and now co-director of the Yale Center for Natural Carbon. Beyond these remarkable achievements, David Bercovici stands out as an excellent mentor, encouraging colleague and enthusiastic leader for the geodynamics community. For all these remarkable accomplishments, David Bercovici is a highly deserving winner of the Augustus Love Medal.