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Geological Society of America honors Sterling Nesbitt with Young Scientist Award

July 17, 2017

Sterling Nesbitt in paleontology lab.

Sterling Nesbitt in paleontology lab.
Sterling Nesbitt carefully cleans a fossil at Virginia Tech's paleontology fossil prep lab at Derring Hall.

Sterling Nesbitt of Virginia Tech’s Department of Geosciences is being honored by the Geological Society of America with its Young Scientist Award, the 2017 Donath Medal.

Nesbitt, an assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Science and a faculty member with the Global Change Center, will receive the award at the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) annual conference in Seattle in October. The Young Scientist Award was established in 1988 to honor scientists aged 35 or younger who have greatly contributed to geologic knowledge with original research that advances the earth sciences, according to the GSA.

The award, consisting of a gold medal called the Donath Medal and an honorarium, was endowed by Dr. and Mrs. Fred A. Donath. Fred Donath was a famed professor of geophysics and earth science.

Shuhai Xiao, also a professor in the Department of Geosciences specializing in geobiology, nominated Nesbitt for the award.

“This is a highly deserved recognition for Sterling,” Xiao said, adding the award is a first for the Department of Geosciences.

Nesbitt earned a bachelor of arts in integrative biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004 and a doctoral degree in geosciences from Columbia University in 2009. His research focuses on the evolution of Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrate fossils through major Earth events, such as climate change, and extinction events, with a keen interest in reptile evolution. His studies and field work have taken around the world to such locales as Zambia, Tanzania, Argentina, and the western United States.

His research with Michelle Stocker, also an assistant professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech, has made numerous international headlines, including finding the oldest relatives of dinosaurs and discovering that these relatives sported a long neck and tail, and instead of walking on two legs, walked on four crocodylian-like legs.

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