Holly Stein named Geochemistry Fellow

Holly Stein, founder and director of the Center for Applied Isotope Research for Industry and Environment, has been named a Geochemistry Fellow by the Geochemical Society and The European Association of Geochemistry for her outstanding work in the field of geochemistry, particularly her innovative use of rhenium-osmium (Re-Os) isotope geochemistry.

Only 12 in the world

Holly Stein, Colorado State University Warner College of Natural Resources 2015 Outstanding Research Impact Award recipient
Holly Stein, founder and director of the Center for Applied Isotope Research for Industry and Environment.

The honorary title of Geochemistry Fellow is awarded to outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made major contributions to the field of geochemistry. Only 12 scientists in the world were selected in 2015.

“Holly and her team are pursuing world-class, innovative, and unique geochemical and geochronological research at the AIRIE facility,” said Geosciences Department Head Rick Aster.  “This work addresses some of the most interesting and important questions in geosciences, ranging from conditions on Earth during mass extinctions to the origin and evolution of mineral and petroleum resources. I am very happy to see her honored by her scientific peers on two continents for this extraordinary work.”

Top global program

Stein, who also is senior research scientist at CSU and professor at Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics at the University of Oslo, Norway, envisioned and founded the AIRIE Program in 1995. AIRIE is the world’s leading institution in producing state-of-the-art developmental and analytical work in Re-Os geochronology and tracer studies related to earth resources.

The program and team are housed in the Department of Geosciences but wholly supported by external funding, grants and contracts that Stein has garnered from the National Science Foundation, international, and industry sponsors. Stein adds, “we couldn’t have made it without the many avenues of major financial support from Norway.

Earth evolution

“We’re tackling big scientific questions to link traditionally disparate disciplines in the geosciences,” says Stein. “With Re-Os, we can connect events in the past and build earth evolution through time.”

Stein and her team are making a global impact working in more than 80 different countries taking on a wide range of projects from determining causes for past mass extinctions to innovations in petroleum geology. The value of the Re-Os chronometer for the resource industries stems from its unique application in dating sulfide ore deposits as well as organic matter linked to petroleum.

“My deepest gratitude goes to our team,” said Stein. “They’re the ones making it all happen.”

The AIRIE team includes: Aaron Zimmerman, Rick Markey, Gang Yang, and Svet Georgiev, and Professor Judith Hannah.

‘Success comes from her passion’

“Whatever Holly takes on, she takes it all the way,” said Hannah. “Her ability to connect seemingly unrelated concepts to create new solutions demonstrates her unique kind of scientific mind.  When she started AIRIE, it was like starting a new business without venture capital; she poured her life into it.  Her success comes from her passion, her ability to connect with the industry, and her support of the people in her group.”

Stein has a self-made and nontraditional career. “I am constantly thinking about the big scientific questions where ore geology and petroleum geology can play a role in finding solutions” says Stein.  “Working together with colleagues at Harvard, we were the first to date the rise of atmospheric oxygen, as we had the tool to date a shale.”

Award-winning scientist

Early in her career she received a Gilbert Fellowship while working with the USGS and this work formed the basis for her creation of the AIRIE Program. When others questioned the potential of Re-Os, Stein fought for its development as a tool for geochronology and ultimately launched collaborations with more than a thousand scientists to test and build the application of Re-Os. Her success also earned her a prestigious Helmholtz-Humboldt research prize in 2008, and the Silver Medal from the Society of Economic Geologists in 2005.

Stein will receive this honor at the 2015 Goldschmidt Conference in Prague. Conference topics include major challenges facing society today. The outcome of these challenges is, in part, defined by our understanding of the geologic record in deep time, right back to the origins of our planet 4.6 billion-years-ago. The AIRIE team will attend and present their work at this conference in August 2015.

More information

For more information on the AIRIE Program, click here.

For more information on the 2015 Goldschmidt Conference, click here.