David A. Hodell, Ph.D.

Professor of Geology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

1998 Awardee

David Hodell believes climate had a lot to do with the collapse of the Mayan civilization a millenium ago. Hodell says climate, soil and vegetation changes in core samples from lake beds in various parts of Mexico provide strong evidence of a persistent drought throughout much of the Mayan empire between 800 and 1000 A.D., the same period when the Mayan civilization collapsed. His research, much of which has been funded by the National Geographic Society, has forced archaeologists to reassess the role climate change played in the decline of the Maya.

Hodell also examines the Earth’s climatic history on a larger scale as an active participant in the Ocean Drilling Project, an international program funded by the National Science Foundation and 18 other countries to conduct basic research into the history of the ocean basins and the overall nature of the crust beneath the ocean floor.

Hodell was the co-chief scientist on a two-month expedition by the research ship JOIDES Resolution from December 1997 to February 1998 that collected sediment cores from the seafloor at six locations in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Hodell is currently analyzing stable isotopes of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and strontium stored in these cores for insight into how events in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica have helped to define the Earth’s climate system during the last 6 million years.