Portrait of a smiling white woman in the woods
UC Davis distinguished professor Louise Kellogg passed away on 15 April 2019. Credit: Janice C. Fong

With the premature death of Louise Kellogg, the geoscience community lost a thoughtful and influential leader.

After a childhood spent in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Louise obtained her Ph.D. in geological sciences from Cornell University, where she was advised by Don Turcotte. After a 2-year postdoc at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where she worked with Jerry Wasserburg, Louise joined the Geology Department at the University of California (UC), Davis, where she remained for the rest of her life.

At the time of her passing and since 1998, Louise held the title of professor of Earth and planetary Sciences at UC Davis.

A Pioneer in Modeling Mixing in the Mantle

While pursuing her Ph.D. at Cornell, Louise pioneered the quantification of mixing and stirring of subducted lithosphere into Earth’s mantle through chaotic flow to address the origin and scales of long-lived geochemical heterogeneity.

During her postdoctoral work at Caltech, she developed a simple and insightful box model for helium outgassing throughout Earth’s history to explain excess 3He in hot spot volcanoes.

This multidisciplinary interest persisted throughout Louise’s career, sustained by collaborations with, among others, Scott King on the nature and evolution of the seismologically observed D″ layer at the base of the mantle and the modeling of mantle plumes.

Perhaps Louise’s most influential idea is the model of compositional stratification developed with collaborators Brad Hager and Rob van der Hilst.

Perhaps Louise’s most influential contribution is the model of compositional stratification developed with collaborators Brad Hager and Rob van der Hilst. In this model, she proposed the presence of a stable, compositionally distinct, but hot, layer of variable thickness in the deep mantle to explain the difference in isotopic compositions of mid-ocean ridge and oceanic island basalts, as well as the heat flow budget of Earth. This original idea continues to inspire scores of geodynamical, seismological, and mineral physics studies.

Notably, the illustrative cartoon accompanying the 1999 paper in Science developed a life of its own and is now part of a classical collection of cartoons presenting contrasted views of mantle circulation. As Louise would point out, “sometimes other scientists share it with me, not knowing its origin in my own paper.”

In later work, Louise harnessed the power of higher-resolution numerical simulations to further investigate thermochemical convection in the mantle and, in particular, the role of initial conditions and viscosity structure for the preservation of heterogeneity through geologic time.

Later Contributions

As we look back through Louise’s body of research work, we are struck by the profound insights expressed in her papers: Although the science progresses over time through the collective contributions of many researchers, her ideas are still relevant to key questions and debates in global solid Earth geosciences.

In her later work, Louise became interested in combining geodetic and seismic data with nonlinear system simulations to investigate strike-slip fault interactions and sequences of major earthquakes in California and elsewhere.

Louise also devoted some of her considerable energy to establishing the W. M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), the 3-D scientific immersive visualization center at Davis, with initial support from the W. M. Keck Foundation and subsequent support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other agencies. She was instrumental in putting KeckCAVES to use at the interface between geosciences and computer sciences: visualizing flow in the ancient oceans, modeling Earth’s deep interior, interpreting lidar data, and tracking carbon from volcanic plumes to the depths of the mantle. KeckCAVES continues to play an important role in outreach to the public, with projects such as the original Augmented Reality Sandbox.

Louise did not live to see the acceptance for publication of her last manuscript about scalable, parallel visualization of geodynamo simulation data, on which she eagerly worked in collaboration with Yangguang Liao and Hiroaki Matsui from UC Davis.

Exceptional Service Record to the Geoscience Community

Louise left an exceptionally distinguished record of service to the geoscience community.

Louise left an exceptionally distinguished record of service to the geoscience community, most recently as the director of the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics (CIG), a consortium of more than 70 affiliate institutions funded by NSF in support of the development of codes for numerical simulations in solid Earth geodynamics. CIG flourished under her leadership and has become an essential resource for the geophysical community.

Louise also led the Deep Carbon Observatory Modeling and Visualization Forum, enabling new understanding of carbon pathways in the deep mantle.

She also played an important role in the establishment and success of the Cooperative Institute for Dynamic Earth Research (CIDER), providing, from its very beginning in 2003, inspiration and leadership as a founding member, lecturer, and member of the steering and executive committees. It was Louise’s idea, in 2009, to change the “D” in CIDER from “Deep” to “Dynamic” when the focus of CIDER expanded from the very deep Earth to encompass global research questions reaching the surface and beyond.

Louise had a unique talent for articulating and extracting the essence of the often-disordered suggestions and ideas that arise in committee meetings, effectively helping move forward community initiatives. She knew how to listen and channel discussions and turn them into action items.

Louise was often solicited to participate in and chair various panels and committees at the national level for NSF, the National Research Council, and AGU. These appointments and roles include the NSF Advisory Committee for the Geosciences Directorate, which she chaired from 2010 to 2013, and the U.S. National Academies’ Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics, which she chaired from 2007 to 2009. As chair of the NSF workshop on Frontiers of Mathematics in Geosciences (2001) she helped establish an important cross-disciplinary NSF program.

Louise shaped the department through her mentoring of young faculty, postdocs, and students.

As chair of the Department of Geology (2000–2008) and later interim chair (2013–2014, 2016–2017) of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Davis, Louise shaped the department through her mentoring of young faculty, postdocs, and students. She achieved this by listening to, and hearing, many points of view and seeing a path to bring people to a common vision and through her never-ending joy in sharing the awe of geoscience with everyone, from students in a general education Earth hazards class to visitors at the campus “Picnic Day” to administrators from across campus.

Louise was a champion for equity and diversity efforts across campus, understanding that small changes can have big impacts. As chair, she supported her department’s efforts to build a diverse faculty, increasing the percentage of women to over 30%. She donated a prize she won for promoting diversity to establish “Tuesday Tea” as a time for all members of the department to come together.


Louise’s scientific achievements were recognized, in particular, by a Presidential Faculty Fellowship (awarded to her by G. H. W. Bush, 1992–1997) and fellowships in AGU (2010), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013).

Louise died prematurely of cancer at 59, sending waves of sorrow and shock across a vast geoscience community of collaborators and friends whom she impacted through her vision and energy, including the authors of this tribute. Barbara Romanowicz arrived in northern California at the same time as Louise and worked for 20 years with Louise’s husband, Doug Neuhauser. She enjoyed a special relationship with Louise, which culminated in their shared enthusiasm for the establishment and development of CIDER. Magali Billen is one of those lucky faculty to have been mentored through their early years by Louise and to have shared in her friendship ever since.

Memories of Louise can be shared on the following web page: https://geology.ucdavis.edu/people/inmemoriam/kellogg/memories.

—Barbara Romanowicz (barbara@seismo.berkeley.edu), University of California, Berkeley; also at College de France, Paris; and Magali Billen, University of California, Davis


Romanowicz, B.,Billen, M. (2019), Louise H. Kellogg (1959–2019), Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO127207. Published on 27 June 2019.

Text © 2019. The authors. CC BY 3.0
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