Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 201–203 | Cite as

In Memory of Elizabeth H. Gierlowski-Kordesch (October 4, 1956–May 17, 2016)

On May 17, 2016, we lost an amazing person and a devoted scientist, mentor, and professor in the field of limnogeology, Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch. Most of you would have known Beth as a long-standing member of the editorial board of JOPL, and during the last eight years as an associate editor. Her 16 years of service to the Journal and her career-long dedication to the promotion of limnogeology ended much too soon. The void left by her passing will be difficult to fill.

Beth Gierlowski-Kordesch examining Jurassic wetland sediments in India, January 2016

Beth was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 4, 1956. After graduating from Lourdes High School in Chicago, she received a Bachelors Honors Degree with General Honors in Geophysical Sciences from University of Chicago in 1978. Her M.Sc. And Ph.D. research at Case Western Reserve University in the early 1980s (Gierlowski-Kordesch 1985) awakened Beth’s interest in the rapidly growing fields of limnogeology and nonmarine sedimentology—themes she would tirelessly promote for the next three decades. In 1986 she ventured across the pond to take up a 2-year research position with DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) at the Institut für Paläontologie, Freie Universität, Berlin, where she worked with Professors Joachim Reitner and Bernard Krebs on the Lower Cretaceous continental sequence in the Serranía de Cuenca of Spain. She returned to the United States in 1989 to join the Department of Geological Sciences of Ohio University in Athens, where she initiated one of the first limnogeology courses in North America and taught a variety of other sedimentology, stratigraphy, limnology, petrography, and introductory geoscience courses.

Dr. Gierlowski-Kordesch’s research and that of her students covered a wide spectrum of geoscience topics, from paleontology and Phanerozoic stratigraphy, to cutting-edge terrestrial carbonate and siliciclastic petrography and sedimentology. She was truly international in scope and research interest. She travelled the world (five of the seven continents) to collaborate with other researchers on both modern and ancient lake deposits. Most recently in 2014, she was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Program Grant to work with colleagues in Argentina and to teach limnogeology. It could be argued, however, that Beth’s most enduring scientific contributions will include her very welcomed synthesis papers and monographs. Work with her close friend and colleague, Kerry Kelts, during the 1980s and 1990s on the IGCP 219-324 initiatives culminated with two major synthesis volumes on the global geological record of lake basins (Gierlowski-Kordesch and Kelts 1994, 2000). Beth and her co-authors were regularly able to provide paleolimnology practitioners with much needed state-of-the-art summary papers and critical reviews such as Gierlowski-Kordesch (2010), Renaut and Gierlowski-Kordesch (2010) and Park and Gierlowski-Kordesch (2007).

Beth’s contribution to our science in terms of professional society activities and scientific editing is legendary! Everyone appreciated her reviewing and editing abilities. She took it upon herself to help non-English speaking researchers who had sound scientific data produce good papers. You could always count on Beth to give thoughtful and constructive feedback; she somehow always found the time and patience: anything to further the discipline. This resulted in our community being exposed to a tremendous wealth of paleolimnological and limnogeological information that might otherwise have been lost. In addition to her overseeing the Global Geological Record of Lake Basins (GGLAB) volumes and her regular duties as associate editor/advisory board member of JOPL and Elsevier’s Sedimentary Geology, she co-edited a number of thematic/special issues (e.g., Lake Basins as Archives of Continental Tectonics and Paleoclimate: Gierlowski-Kordesch and Buchheim 2003; Paleolimnology: Giralt et al. 2010; Limnogeology: Rosen and Gierlowski-Kordesch 2015), many of which were spinoffs or outgrowths of international conferences and theme meetings that she had organized. She was a consummate and hard-working member of several professional societies, most importantly the Geological Society of America (GSA) and the International Association of Limnogeology (IAL). Her roles as the founding chair of the Limnogeology Division of GSA and as president of IAL, which hosts the International Limnogeology Congress every 4 years (e.g., Rosen et al. 2015), has done much to thrust the geological investigation of lakes into the forefront. Indeed, there was hardly a year in the past decade that Beth did not chair, co-chair, or organize a session involving lacustrine geology at a national or international conference.

Beth was an inspiring yet challenging professor to her students; she was committed to teaching and stimulating interest in science. She was humorous, enthusiastic, hardworking and honest; you could always rely on Beth to give you a straight answer and honest opinion. This transferred to her outreach, where it was her goal to mentor teachers and inspire children through hands-on activities and by organizing science fairs.

She loved her family; balancing a family and career as she did was not an easy task. She was so dedicated to her science that, at the beginning of her career, she was known to take her newborn daughter with her on field trips.

Unfortunately, Beth’s life ended much too soon. We have lost a great scientist, educator, colleague and friend. Her contributions to the field of limnogeology will inspire others to continue the momentum she worked so hard to establish.


  1. Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (1985) Sedimentology and trace fossil paleoecology of the lower Jurassic East Berlin Formation, Hartford Basin, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Ph.D. thesis. Case Western Reserve UniversityGoogle Scholar
  2. Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (2010) Lacustrine Carbonates. In: Alonso-Zarza AM, Tanner LH (eds) Carbonates in continental settings: facies, environments, processes. Developments in sedimentology, vol 61. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 1–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gierlowski-Kordesch EH, Buchheim HP (2003) Lake basins as archives of continental tectonics and paleoclimate. J Paleolimnol 30:113–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gierlowski-Kordesch EH, Kelts K (eds) (1994) Global geological record of lake basins. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Gierlowski-Kordesch EH, Kelts K (eds) (2000) Lake basins through space and time. AAPG Studies in Geology 46, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, TulsaGoogle Scholar
  6. Giralt S, Cabrera L, Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (2010) Paleolimnology. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 294:1–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Park LE, Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (2007) Paleozoic lake faunas: establishing aquatic life on land. Paleogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 249:160–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Renaut RW, Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (2010) Lakes. In: Dalrymple R, James N (eds) Facies models, 4th edn. Geological Association of Canada, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  9. Rosen MR, Gierlowski-Kordesch EH (2015) Paleolimnology. Environ Earth Sci 73:913–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Rosen MR, Cohen A, Kirby M, Gierlowski-Kordesch E, Starratt S, Valero Garés B, Varkamp J (eds) (2015) Sixth International Limnogeology Congress—Abstract volume, Reno, Nevada, June 15–19, 2015. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1092Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and GeosciencesAngelo State UniversitySan AngeloUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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