Richard J. Behl, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), received the 2010 Distinguished Educator Award during the 85th annual Meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Pacific Section.
Behl, who joined CSULB in 1995, is an expert in marine sedimentology, stratigraphy, paleoceanography and paleoclimatology, focusing on California’s coastal tectonic and sedimentary history. He earned a B.A. in chemistry from UC San Diego, a Ph.D. in earth sciences from UC Santa Cruz and has experience as a petroleum geologist.
At CSULB, Behl earned a 2004 Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award and is a co-founder of the university’s Institute for Integrated Research in Materials, Environments, and Society (IIRMES), a state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary laboratory that conducts research on societies, environments and materials. He is also one of the geology, geography and archaeology faculty that make up CSULB’s Geosciences Diversity Enhancement Program (GDEP), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to train and recruit high school and community college students from underrepresented minority groups into the geosciences.
Behl is active in a number of domestic and international research organizations and projects, including a NSF-funded project that is testing the potential of Santa Barbara Channel sediments for recording climate change over the past 1.2 million years under the auspices of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.
“Paleoclimatology and paleooceanography are very important because they are what we base our understanding of how the Earth operates,” he explained. “We need to know what actually happened in the past. How fast can a change occur; what triggers it; what are the effects; what feedbacks might occur that make things worse or amplifies a change?”
AAPG named him a Distinguished Lecturer for 2003-04 and arranged for him to travel across the United States and Canada to speak about his research. He also was the 2006-07 president of the Pacific Section of the Society for Sedimentary Geology. This April, he traveled to Estonia to serve as a co-chair of the International Past Global Change Program Varves Working Group, an affiliate of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program. Varves are annual layers of sediment or sedimentary rock that can provide detailed clues to climatic change over time.