UW News

December 12, 2012

Award recognizes UW oceanographer’s talent for engaging public

News and Information

The American Geophysical Union presented the Spilhaus Award, the organization’s top prize for engaging the public in science, to the University of Washington’s John Delaney during an awards ceremony Wednesday (Dec. 5) in San Francisco.

Delaney, a professor of oceanography, is director of the Regional Scale Nodes, a cabled underwater research facility being constructed off Oregon and Washington that’s one component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative.

John Delaney stand at podium giving acceptance speech

John Delaney at the awards ceremony during the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.Mary Miller/Exploratorium

“John’s powerful outreach and innovative activities developed public support for the vision of the powerful and technologically advanced ocean observing system now under construction,” the AGU citation says. “His passionate message about the oceans enthralls audiences, and he is a highly sought after speaker giving more than 50 invited talks a year. . .He is as excited to share his excitement with school children as with TED audiences and national committees.”

Among his outreach activities, Delaney worked with colleagues to develop the first formal programs bringing middle and high school teachers to sea, now common opportunities, according to the citation. He worked with NOVA in 1998 to film the successful recovery of black smokers from ocean ridges. In 2005 Delaney’s group was the first to stream high-definition video live from sea floor. More than a million viewers across the globe watched on the web.

The letters nominating him for the award talk of the historical and cultural aspects he employs to explain science, including his use of poetry. One letter writer called him “. . .an extraordinary scientist and communicator, in essence, an environmental philosopher.”

Delaney joined the UW in 1977 and currently holds the holds the Jerome M. Paros Endowed Chair in Sensor Networks. Leader of more than 50 ocean expeditions, his research focuses on the deep-sea volcanic activity of the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean.