Graeagle scientist wins lifetime achievement award

Steve Lindberg, of Graeagle, accepts the Kathryn R. Mahaffey Lifetime Achievement Award in Mercury Research in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Aug. 1. Photo submitted
Feather Publishing

  Steve Lindberg, of Graeagle, got a nice surprise recently. He received a call from Toronto inviting him to Edinburgh, Scotland, to receive the Kathryn R. Mahaffey Lifetime Achievement Award in Mercury Research.

  Mercury, a toxic heavy metal, is recognized by the United Nations as a chemical of global concern due to its long-range transport in the atmosphere, its persistence in the environment, its ability to bio-accumulate in ecosystems and its significant negative effect on human health. Lindberg began doing research on mercury in the Everglades in 1972 for his degrees at Florida State University.

  The award was presented at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in August, and is intended to celebrate extraordinary lifetime achievements in mercury research, mentoring, contributions to government policy and public outreach. The conference was attended by 970 scientists from more than 60 countries.

  The award is given in honor of Dr. Kathryn R. Mahaffey, who passed away in 2009. Her career embodied all that this award is meant to honor: scholarly research on mercury that meets the highest scientific standards, that greatly enhances our understanding of mercury as a pollutant and that supports government action across the globe to protect public health.

  The award citation states, “Dr. Lindberg has been at the forefront of advancing mercury science during the past 40 years of his scientific career. He represents the epitome of a scientist who made a difference, critically thinking about the work he and others did, while maintaining an open mind and being willing to share ideas and thoughts in order to advance science.”

  Lindberg is a fellow emeritus at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and held adjunct professor positions at the universities of Michigan, Tennessee and Nevada. He has published more than 230 scientific articles, has edited several technical books and won the Haagen-Smit Publication Prize in 2011.

  Lindberg and his longtime partner, Barbara Inyan, traveled to Scotland in late July for the award ceremony. Lindberg was asked to present a plenary lecture that highlighted his career achievements. In keeping with his sense of humor, he titled his talk “Mud, Sweat and Beers: A 40-Year Affair with Mercury.” He said the hours spent preparing his lecture reminded him why he retired to Graeagle in 2005.

  Following the conference, Lindberg and Inyan traveled to the Isle of Skye (where it rained buckets), and to the Scottish Highlands (where it didn’t). They both agreed that driving on the “wrong” side of the narrow Scottish roads was “an interesting challenge.”

  Inyan, an accomplished mountain climber, was excited at the chance to climb Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the U.K. At 4,400 feet it’s barely equal to the elevation in Graeagle, but one starts the trek from sea level, making for a serious climb in just 4 miles. Perhaps the most popular peak in Europe, the summit is attempted by more than 100,000 climbers annually.

  Despite the North Atlantic gale that swept the highlands for days before, they were greeted with a rare fine day for the climb (Ben Nevis gets more than 160 inches of annual rainfall). There was even a bit of sun on the heather. As if on cue, the clouds lifted as they reached the summit, presenting awesome views.

  Preceding his lecture at the conference, Lindberg was presented with the handcrafted crystal sculpture representing the Mercury Lifetime Achievement Award, which he will pass on to the next recipient in 2017. He also received a personal award reflective of the host country: a nice bottle of single-malt scotch with an engraved decanter set. Lindberg says he looks forward to sharing that prize with his friends.

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