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Canada Excellence Research Chair, Dr. Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (right), led the team that discovered the plant fossiles inside the Cold War-era ice samples

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (right) has received the Balzan Prize, the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize and been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2022.

Dorthe Dahl-Jensen’s research honoured with three international awards in 2022

November 22, 2022 — 

It’s been a banner year for Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, one of UM’s trailblazing scholars in natural science and climate change.

Dahl-Jensen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Ice, Freshwater-Marine Coupling and Climate Change in the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, has received three accolades in the past few months: the 2022 Balzan Prize, the 2022 Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize, and she has been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

On November 25, Dahl-Jensen, along with her colleague and collaborator Johannes Oerlemans from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, will be receiving the 2022 Balzan Prize in Rome, Italy, for Glaciation and Ice Sheet Dynamics.  The prize, worth over EUR 700,000, is as prestigious as the Nobel Prize, says Feiyue Wang, associate dean – research in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources.

“I congratulate Dr. Dahl-Jensen and her long-time research collaborator Dr. Oerlemans on winning the prestigious Balzan Prize,” says Dr. Mario Pinto, vice-president (research and international). “As a Canada Excellence Research Chair at UM, her dedication to the study of glaciology and past Arctic climate has provided profound insight into the future consequences of climate change world-wide. This prestigious international award acknowledges Dr. Dahl-Jensen’s decades-long leadership to increase scientific understanding and public awareness of this growing global crisis.”

Dahl-Jensen and Oerlemans are being recognized for their fundamental and groundbreaking contributions to our global understanding of ice sheet behaviours and their impact on understanding climate change and its implications. The International Balzan Prize Foundation is committed to promoting excellence in science and paving the way for innovation, and selecting Dahl-Jensen speaks to the tremendous impact she’s made.

“The Balzan is an amazing prize. After seeing who else has received it, I can’t explain how honoured I feel to be receiving this prize on behalf of the larger research group in Copenhagen, where I spent most of my career, and at the University of Manitoba – especially the young students who are all so intelligent and curious,” says Dahl-Jensen. “I feel the honour is also theirs.”

Earlier this year, the Carlsberg Foundation awarded Dahl-Jensen the 2022 Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize for years of exceptional ice core research. The Foundation applauds her “unique combination of vision, strong research leadership and openness to insights and methodologies from a broad range of scientific fields.”

Dahl-Jensen was also inducted into the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) 2022 Class of AGU Fellows. Since 1962, less than one tenth of one per cent of AGU members have been selected to receive this honour each year.

“It’s totally unbelievable… I feel that I’ve really been recognized this year,” says Dahl-Jensen. “It’s super great to have this research acknowledged, on behalf of the teams. It’s really overwhelming. I’m honoured to get all three of them in one year.”

“We are deeply proud that Dorthe’s research is being recognized at the highest level,” says Tim Papakyriakou, interim Scientific Director for CEOS and professor in the Department of Environment and Geography. “Each of the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize, having been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and most recently the Balzan Award for outstanding achievements in natural sciences are all well-deserved and monumental achievements.”

Dahl-Jensen’s current research delves into changes in cryosphere dynamics. Studying the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic ice caps and glaciers will give insight to historical sea ice conditions and illuminate past climate shift events. She is one of the world’s leading scholars adding to our understanding of ancient ice – telling a story that can only be revealed by cutting-edge research. A true visionary, Dahl-Jensen’s findings provide the blueprint for ice systems models, and will help the scientific community better project future conditions in the midst of climate change.

“When we look at data from the past and the manmade increase of greenhouse gases that have not been seen in the last million years that are warming the system, these greenhouse gases are programming the system for the future,” says Dahl-Jensen. “We need to work on both mitigation and adaptation at once. It’s going to take many resources, both financial resources and human resources, to find solutions. We also need to help poorer nations who didn’t contribute to the problem as much as richer countries, but they are really suffering from the consequences, and they need our help.”

Dahl-Jensen notes that outreach and mentorship is very important in her field of climate research. “It’s something everyone is interested in and concerned about,” says Dahl-Jensen. “I’ve been really committed to communicating about climate and working with people who do climate research to communicate about their research and speak to as many people about climate change.”

The Balzan Awards Ceremony will be taking place on Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. (GMT+1). You can watch the livestream of the Balzan Prize award ceremony here.

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