Dr. Bruce Molnia’s career encompasses more than five decades of exploration, research, community service, communication, public policy, and education. Molnia, who has led and participated in more than 40 polar and sub-polar expeditions is a recipient of the Antarctic Service Medal (1968) and the namesake for Molnia Bluff in Antarctica’s Dry Valleys (2005). As early as 1965, Molnia conducted seismic studies in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic marginal seas from R.V. Eltanin. Since 1968, when he traversed the Juneau Icefield, Molnia’s research and exploration has focused on Alaska, especially understanding the response of Alaskan glaciers to changing climate and the dynamics of tidewater and surging glaciers.
Molnia has authored or co-authored more than 500 publications. Books that he has authored or edited include Alaska’s Glaciers (1982), Glacial-Marine Sedimentation (1983), Proceedings of The Workshop on Arctic Contamination (1993), Glaciers of Alaska (2000), and Alaska (2008), a 550-page ‘chapter’ of The Satellite Image Atlas of The Glaciers of The World. More than 120 of Molnia’s publications are public policy articles published in GSA TODAY and GEOTIMES. They address unique issues and topics and were designed to present a broad audience with basic science and policy information. Two were prepared for the Department of Justice for use in arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, while others were prepared for senior Department of the Interior officials to provide peer-reviewed science for decision making concerning the safety of offshore oil and gas development sites.
Molnia has demonstrated leadership and community support by serving as the Acting Executive Director of the National Research Council’s Polar Research Board (1985-1987); serving as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Chief of International Polar Programs (1987-2002); coordinating a Federal Government remote sensing investigation of the damage caused by Hurricane Mitch (1999-2000); organizing and chairing three international workshops dealing with Arctic pollution, which resulted in Russia providing information on radioactive waste that they had dumped in Arctic marginal seas (1993-1997); organizing and operating the US House of Representatives Ocean Caucus to establish policy and provide information to Congress about critical ocean issues including national security, international borders, sustainable fisheries, Law of the Sea, and oceanographic research (1998-2002); serving as webmaster for the Arctic Council website in support of the US Department of State,(DOS), during the US’ tenure as host of the Council (1998-2000); serving as subject matter expert and workshop convener for a DOS bilateral multi-year agreement with the Chilean Government on glacier melting, water resources, and climate change (2011-2015); serving as editor of GSA TODAY for a decade (1990-1999); and most recently, serving as the Executive Director and Senior Science Advisor of the Federal interagency committee that facilitates Federal Civil Agencies gaining access to imagery resources of the intelligence community for use in better addressing their statutory missions, especially related to natural disaster response (2006-present). Molnia worked for the USGS for more than 40 years.
Molnia has received the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award (2019), the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award (2016), the USGS Eugene A. Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communications (2011), three USGS Shoemaker External Communications Awards (2010, 2004, 1999) the Geological Society of America (GSA) Public Service Award (2009) and the GSA Distinguished Service Award (2000). Molnia was elected a GSA Fellow in 1982. Molnia serves as Chair of the Explorers Club Washington Group (ECWG).
Bruce Molnia (left) and his son Michael at the foot of Tyndall Glacier, Taan Ford, Icy Bay. Mount Saint Elias (18,009 feet) is in the background.