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Sherilyn C. Fritz

Sherilyn C. Fritz
Sherilyn C. Fritz

The 2014 Hans Oeschger Medal is awarded to Sherilyn C. Fritz in recognition of her outstanding contribution in reconstructing and understanding past periods of drought in North America, past hydrological changes in tropical and mid-latitude regions from lake sediments, and for her thorough approach to deciphering natural climate impact from human-induced landscape changes.

Sherilyn C. Fritz obtained her PhD in ecology from the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, USA) and is now a research scientist at the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, also in the US. Fritz is a specialist in the ecology and palaeoecology of recent and fossil diatoms and combines this with both biological and Earth sciences. Fritz has made an outstanding contribution in reconstructing past hydrological changes in tropical and mid-latitude regions from lake sediments, a thorough approach to interpreting past hydrological shifts and deciphering natural climate impact from human-induced landscape changes.

Fritz is well known for her research on combining palaeoclimatology, palaeolimnology, palaeohydrology and diatom ecology, mainly through the interaction between lacustrine system, atmosphere and surrounding land areas. Fritz’s palaeoclimate and environment studies were focused on palaeodroughts in North America and her application of diatom analyses to investigate drought history in the Great Plains and northern Rocky Mountain regions of the US have shown that drought was more common in the past than in the recent 20th century. Fritz has demonstrated the relationships between major droughts to sea surface temperature variability in the Pacific and North Atlantic.

A major long-term research topic for Fritz focuses on better understanding of the drivers and pacing of tropical climate change and the relationship between tropical hydrological variability and higher latitude climate variability by using multi-proxy and multi-disciplinary study of the long lake sediment sequences from Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. Fritz’s studies of past human activities on the landscapes in Europe, Greenland and southeast Asia highlight the strong imprint of humans over millennia.

Fritz’s research has led to a significantly better understanding of the palaeorecord through merging palaeoclimatology and palaeoenvironmental studies with modern data sets, in line with Hans Oeschger’s approach linking past and current changes. These reasons make her a worthy recipient of the Hans Oeschger Medal.