Marsh Book of the Year Award for Earth Sciences

This Award is for an academic book, published in the previous year, by UK or International authors. The winning book demonstrates academic excellence, academic scope and the potential for influence outside its primary subject area.

Nominations for the Award can be made via Natural History Museum website and are judged by a selection panel of four Earth Sciences researchers. Details of the winner are submitted to the MCT for final approval.

In the Footsteps of Darwin: Geoheritage, Geotourism and Conservation in the Galapagos Islands (Geoheritage, Geoparks and Geotourism) by Daniel Kelley, Kevin Page, Diego Quiroga and Raul Salazar 2019

This book provides the first-ever overview of and guide to the geological setting and related features of the famous, volcanically active Galapagos Islands, as well as an in-depth analysis of the setting’s relationship to the region’s unique and iconic ecology, and its conservation. Further, it provides an introduction to human settlement and activity on the islands, including the transition from subsistence to a fishing economy and more recently tourism, all in the context of increasingly restrictive conservation regulations. Importantly, the book also explores the development of the concept and practice of sustainable development across the islands as a framework for future economic development, pursuing an approach that reconciles the needs of the resident population with conservation of this fragile environment.

Previous Winners

'Land Bridges - Ancient Environments, Plant Migrations and New World Connections' by Dr Alan Graham

Alan is Curator of Palaeobotany and Plynology at the Missouri Botanical Garden and is the author of several books. Land Bridges tracks the tectonic and climatic changes and evolutionary processes that constitute an important part of, and contribute to a better understanding of, the origin and biotic history of the New World. In the book, Alan describes five long lasting connections (land bridges) between continents. When these were intact, biotas moved between the regions to form floristic and faunal biogeographic relationships, and when they were disrupted, disjunct affinities, such as between eastern Asia and eastern North America, were established.

Paul Manos from Duke University says that Alan is “among the best palaeobotanists in the world.” He has described the topic of the book as “clear and timely” and says that Land Bridges “has great potential to contribute to the biogeographical history of the Americas”.

Henry Hooghiemstra from the University of Amsterdam says that the book “attempts to reconstruct the broad outlines of the geological and palaeobotanical history of the last hundred million years”. He says that “while reading, admiration greatly increased for how Graham is able to make a fascinating story out of such a large bulk of evidence. Few scientists have developed such an impressive, integrated picture of earth history”.

'The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: The Emergence of the Forth Geosphere' by Eric Smith and Harold J Morowitz

This is a groundbreaking, scholarly resourced book illustrated with examples of natural processes drawn from the inner workings of the biosphere itself.  It is logically and scientifically written, looking at the origin of life as a ‘nearly inevitable’ consequence of geophysical, geochemical and energy flow processes that have been taking place on this planet for billions of years.  The recently discovered submarine vents and its associated organisms provide powerful insights into the chemotrophic ecosystems that has been proposed as a model for early life-enabling environments. The authors describe in detail the carbon fixation pathways and the build-up of complex organisms and ecosystems in existence today, based on natural processes and develop novel concepts of phase transitions and the necessary order in face of persavive disturbance as fundamental to establishing hierarchical complex systems.

The book elegantly discusses ‘in equilibrium’ and ‘out of equilibrium’ transition phases and the preservation of biological species as example of cross-level coupling and complex order achieved by the biosphere. The authors seek to overturn the perception that life is a paradox of thermodynamics, but instead it should be understood as a continuation, not a departure from it. Life is presented to the reader as a new domain within thermodynamics involving the partitioning role of the abiotic geosphere, small-molecules network, carbon reduction and carbon bonds, the chemical path to aminoacids, sugar phosfates carbon-nitrogen heterocycles transition to cellular encapsulation of lipids, catalytic RNA and iron and reliable translation giving bith to biological phylogeny.

Harold Morowitz unfortunately passed away following publication of the book in 2016 and so the Award was given to him posthumously, alongside Eric Smith.