Tag Archives: Andrea Dutton

Andrea Dutton: Westport’s Newest Genius

Andrea Dutton is a genius.

That’s not just hyperbole. The 1991 Staples High School graduate — visiting associate professor of geology at the University of Wisconsin, who investigates changes in sea levels and ice sheet mass — is one of 26 people chosen as 2019 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

That’s the official wording. The world calls them “genius grants.”

MacArthur fellowships honor “extraordinary originality.” The award is pure genius: a no-strings grant of $625,000, distributed over 5 years.

The fellowships — announced yesterday — went to men and women whose work “pushes the boundaries of disciplines and genres,” says the New York Times.

They include a theater artist who incorporates artificial intelligence into performances; novelists, musicians, scientists, historians, legal advocates, community activists and others. All were chosen “at a moment in their careers when the award might make a difference,” and range in age from 30 to 67.

Andrea Dutton with a fossilized coral reef in the Florida Keys. (Photo/Joshua Bright for Redux)

Potential geniuses are suggested by hundreds of anonymous nominators, in many fields. The final selection is made by a committee — also anonymous.

Dutton calls herself a “detective collecting clues to solve the puzzle of earth’s climate history.

The paleoclimatologist’s work has immense real-life implications. Her reconstruction of sea levels over thousands of years can help predict future rises. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine listed her among “25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More.”

Dutton is not Westport’s first MacArthur genius. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario — a fellow 1991 Staples grad — received a fellowship in 2009.

(Click here for the stories of all 26 new MacArthur fellowship awardees. Hat tips: Sandee and Chuck Cole.)

 

Rolling Stone: Andrea Dutton Is Saving The World

Rolling Stone recently profiled “25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More.”

They’re the “inventors, entrepreneurs and disrupters who are changing (and maybe saving) the world one brilliant idea at a time.”

One is Westport’s own Andrea Dutton.

The 1991 Staples High School grad — now an assistant professor of geology at the University of Florida — is addressing “one of the most important scientific questions of our time, one upon which millions of lives, and trillions of dollars in real estate and other investments, depend: As our planet continues to heat up, how fast will sea levels rise in the coming decades?”

Andrea Dutton with a fossilized coral reef in the Florida Keys. (Photo/Joshua Bright for Redux)

Dutton studies West Antarctica, which contains enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet. “If West Antarctica is unstable,” she says, “that could be a very big problem for coastal cities in the future.”

Rolling Stone notes:

Dutton is not the only scientist interested in this question. But she has pursued it with a kind of urgency that belies her cool manner, traveling the world to seek out well-preserved fossilized coral outcroppings that help her learn the story rising water can tell about the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate. To Dutton, coral fossils can be read like tree rings, and dating how fast the corals grew on top of each other can reveal not just how high the water rose in the past, but how fast.

Her research involved “a startling amount of physics, from ice-sheet dynamics to glacial rebound of the North American continent.”

The magazine adds this portrait of the former Westport/current world changer:

Dutton is a single mom with 2 young kids. Her Facebook page is full of pictures of their soccer games and stories like the frog that accidentally got puréed in her garbage disposal. “I’m a scientist, and I love my work,” she says. “But I’m not just doing this because I love science. I’m doing this because I care about the future, and the kind of world we’re leaving to our kids.”

(For the full Rolling Stone story, click here. Hat tip: Sandee Cole)