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Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal 2024 Daniel J. Conley

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European Geosciences Union

Daniel J. Conley

Daniel J. Conley
Daniel J. Conley

The 2024 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal is awarded to Daniel J. Conley for pioneering studies of how altered nitrogen, phosphorous and silica cycling impact aquatic and coastal eutrophication, and applying science to inform environmental management strategies.

Daniel J. Conley obtained his PhD in Chemical Oceanography at the University of Michigan. Following postdoctoral research in Florida and Marlyand, he moved to Denmark and then to Lund University, first as a Marie Curie Chair and then Professor. Among other recognitions, Conley is a Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography where he received the Ruth Patrick Award in 2014.

Conley’s research focuses on nutrient limitation, demonstrated when elements like nitrogen (N) or phosphorous (P) increase productivity if added to ecosystems. During the Anthropocene, use of fertilisers to increase agricultural productivity has dramatically altered delivery of N and P to aquatic and coastal marine environments. Conley’s outstanding contributions include the ‘dual nutrient paradigm’, highlighting the interacting roles of both N and P in the eutrophication and deoxygenation of lakes and coastal seas. In addition to leading his own field and experimental studies, Conley synthesized existing literature to link biogeochemical cycling including increase silica limitation to the promotion of blooms of specific harmful algae. These insights explained observed patterns in eutrophication and deoxygenation in different settings, and could be used to improve management strategies to reduce damage to ecosystems. A strong advocate for the role of science in environmental management, Conley led international programs to study the impacts of increased nutrient supplies to the Baltic Sea and translated the conclusions into international management strategies adopted for the Baltic region.

Conley is also one of the world’s leading experts in biogeochemical cycling of silicon. He performed seminal work indicating the importance of large amounts of amorphous silica cycled between plants soils on land and its importance as a potential buffer that can decouple land weathering rates from delivery of silica to the sea, or that can be quickly eroded when ecosystems are disturbed. More recently, he has explored how past changes in global cycles reflect evolution and shifting transfers of silica between land and ocean.

Conely is an enthusiastic communicator of science to society, even authoring a book for general audiences on the silica cycle. He has worked hard to shape understanding into action to reduce eutrophication and deoxygenation in coastal waters and is also generous with service to the scientific community. He has mentored many early carrer scientists, and initiated the Vega fellow program that provides training in leadership and outreach for European researchers. Conley actively promotes opportunities for gender diversity and under-represented minorities in science, and has served on the EGU Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Committee.

As an exemplary biogeochemist who has increased the understanding of interactions among nutrient cycles under eutrophication and deoxygenation, and further translated that understanding into action to improve water quality, Daniel Conley is richly deserving of the 2024 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal.