DTM Staff Scientist Erik Hauri Passes Away

Wednesday, September 05, 2018 

Erik Hauri at his award of the Macelwane Medal in 2000.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1966, Erik H. Hauri was the first in his family to attend college and set that standard very high by obtaining a Ph.D. and becoming a world-renown Earth scientist. His academic journey began early with a first move to the University of Miami to obtain a B.S. in geology and marine science. After that, he went to the northeastern U.S. and MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program for a Ph.D. in Earth Science under the mentorship of DTM alumni Stan Hart and Nobu Shimizu. Although based in the northeast, Erik began what would be a life-long connection to the far-flung field sites that were the source of the rocks he studied. In his citation of Erik for the Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union, Stan Hart noted that Erik's first field excursion was a two to three week trip to Polynesia. Hart wrote: "But then, every Friday, I would get a telegram from [Erik in] a new southwest Pacific island saying, 'lots of interesting rocks, but can you wire some more money?'" After three months, Erik returned with literally tons of volcanic and mantle rocks that followed him to DTM and served as a source of important discoveries for years to come.

Erik Hauri (left) and Alberto Saal (right) in front of the DTM NanoSIMS 50L ion probe, the instrument used to make the first-ever measurements of water in lunar melt inclusions. Credit: Steve Jacobsen, Northwestern University

Erik was hired by then DTM Director Sean Solomon as a DTM Scientific Staff member in February of 1994. At DTM, Erik quickly established one of the best ion microprobe laboratories in the world. Working with colleague Jianhua Wang, Erik pushed the performance of the ion microprobe to new levels of sensitivity. This advance was essential for the analysis of the variety of volatile elements such as hydrogen and carbon, that are so essential both to the dynamics of Earth's interior and to life on its surface. Working with colleague Alberto Saal, Erik's push to improve the volatile element detection limits of the ion microprobe led to the ability to detect water in what were previously believed to be "bone dry" volcanic rocks from the Moon. This discovery drove new wide ranging investigations of the process of Moon formation and the consequences of water for the geochemical evolution of our neighbor in space. Erik's work on the Moon's water was highlighted as #47 in Discover Magazine's Best Science of 2013. The announcement of the discovery was covered by media worldwide, including the NY Times, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, the BBC, CBS, and Bloomberg News.

This interest in volatile elements made Erik a natural fit to lead the Reservoirs and Fluxes community of the Deep Carbon Observatory. Erik not only investigated the fluxes of water into and out of Earth's interior along the planet's chain of island arc volcanoes, but also focused on its deeper circulation through the study of diamonds and the mineral inclusions they contain. Erik's early contributions led to him winning the early career awards from both the American Geophysical Union and the European Association of Geochemistry, two of the primary professional societies in his field. His continuing major contributions more recently led to his election as Fellow of both societies.

Participants in the DCO – DECADE synthesis workshop organized by Hauri (back row 4th from right) in May, 2018. Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa, DTM.

Besides his major contributions to science, Erik was very dedicated to his family and with wife Tracy raised three children, Kevin, Matthew, and Michaela, seeing them through their home schooling and the large number of swim meets in which they participated. In what limited free time remained, Erik was a talented designer and builder of custom guitars, extending his garage band role from college throughout his career.

Erik's hand-built custom two-neck electric guitar. Courtesy of Jan Dunlap, DTM.

Although cut unfairly short, Erik Hauri made the most of his life and leaves behind a loving family and a record of major contributions to the understanding of the natural world around us. He was a distinguished gentleman of science that his many friends and colleagues around the world will sorely miss.



Highlights from Erik Hauri's career:

B.S. (Honors) 1988, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
Geology, Marine Science double major; Chemistry minor
Senior Thesis: "Radiocarbon Stratigraphy of a Native American Settlement on the St. Johns
River, Volusia County, Florida"

Ph.D. 1992, Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography
Thesis Title: "Geochemical and Fluid Dynamic Investigations into the Nature of Chemical
Heterogeneity in the Earth's Mantle"
Ph.D. ADVISORS: Stanley R. Hart, Nobu Shimizu

Awards and Honors

  • Isaac B. Singer Fellowship, University of Miami, Florida, 1984
  • Outstanding Scholar Award, Department of Geology, University of Miami, Florida, 1988
  • Phi Beta Kappa, University of Miami, Florida, 1988
  • Ruth and Paul Fye Award, Best Student Paper, Department of Geology and Geophysics, MIT-Woods Hole Joint Program in Oceanography, 1992
  • F. G. Houtermans Medal, European Association of Geochemistry, 2000
  • James B. Macelwane Medal, American Geophysical Union, 2000
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 2000
  • Fellow, Geochemical Society and European Association of Geochemistry, 2015

Research interests

  • Geochemical evolution of the Earth's mantle, crust and hydrosphere
  • Systematics and evolution of volatiles and stable isotopes in planetary bodies
  • Fluid dynamic and chemical effects of mantle convection and melt migration
  • Origin and genesis of hotspot magmas


Erik requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in support of the Merle A. Tuve Fellowship fund that supports visiting scientists for short working stays at DTM. Please see carnegiescience.edu/ErikHauri if you would like to donate to this fund in memory of Erik.