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G.K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes

Information on the Award

The G.K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes is presented annually and recognizes sustained and outstanding contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes from a mid-career or senior scientist. Notable contributions can include the honoree’s single significant advance or sustained contributions to the field, and unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of early-career scientists in the field.

Renamed in 2014, this award honors G.K. Gilbert, a pioneer in modern quantitative geomorphology. The award is presented during the AGU Fall Meeting.

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Award Benefits

AGU is proud to recognize our section honorees. Recipients of the G.K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes will receive the following benefits during the award presentation year:

  • 1
    Award certificate
  • 2
    Recognition in Eos
  • 3
    Recognition at the AGU Fall Meeting

Eligibility

To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.





  • The nominee is not required to be an active AGU member.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be candidates for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Gilbert Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff

  • Nominators are not required to hold an active AGU membership.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be nominators for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Gilbert Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff

  • Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members.
  • The following individuals are not eligible to be supporters for the award during their terms of service:
    • AGU President;
    • AGU President-elect;
    • Council Leadership Team members;
    • Honors and Recognition Committee members;
    • Gilbert Award Committee members; and
    • All full-time AGU staff

The following relationships need to be identified and communicated to the Award Committee but will not disqualify individuals from participating in the nomination or committee review process. These apply to committee members, nominators, and supporters:

  • Current dean, departmental chair, supervisor, supervisee, laboratory director, an individual with whom one has a current business or financial relationship (e.g., business partner, employer, employee);
  • Research collaborator or co-author within the last three years; and/or
  • An individual working at the same institution or having accepted a position at the same institution.

Individuals with the following relationships are disqualified from participating in the award nomination process as a nominator or supporter:

  • Family member, spouse, or partner.
  • A previous graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) and/or postdoctoral advisor, or postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.
  • A former doctoral or graduate student, or a former postdoctoral fellow may not write a nomination letter for a former advisor but may write a supporting letter after five years of terminating their relationship with the nominee beginning on 1 January after the year the relationship was terminated.

  • Chairs and members of the Award selection committees who have any of the above-mentioned mentor-mentee relationships or are a supervisor of a nominee should recuse themselves from participating in the deliberation, evaluation, and voting process for that particular nominee.
  • Members of the Award Committee may, for other reasons, determine that they have conflicts, or potential conflicts, that require elimination from service and then act on that determination if they believe that service could affect the fairness of the selection process.

Nomination package

Watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or read our how-to guide.

Your nomination package must be submitted as a single PDF file and contain the following, which should each be no more than two pages.

  • A letter that details the nominee’s significant contributions to Earth and planetary surface processes, including a one-sentence citation. Nominator’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications, and the number published by AGU.
  • Two to three letters of support. Supporter’s signature, name, title, institution, and contact information are required and letterhead is preferred. We encourage letters from individuals not recently associated with the candidate’s graduate institution or employer.
  • Up to three copies of the nominee’s published or pre-published manuscripts (optional).

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Submission Process

Nominations should be submitted through our online submission system.

We encourage you to watch our tutorial on successfully submitting a nomination package or reading our guide on how to submit a successful nomination. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Deadline: 15 April 2021

Submit
Lava flow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, United States

Recipients

Field Photo:

Anderson Field Photo

Kelin X. Whipple received the 2019 G. K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes a scientist who has made “a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes” and “also promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

Prof. Kelin Whipple is a remarkable scientist, mentor, and community builder who is an ideal recipient of the 2019 G. K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes for his seminal studies on the role of fluvial incision as the key process linking climate, tectonics, and landscape evolution. With over 120 publications and 21 mentored graduate students, Kelin contributes significantly to our field across many topical areas including fluvial and glacial processes, tectonic geomorphology, and debris flow mechanics linked with alluvial fan development. This unending scientific brilliance is combined with his selfless promotion of collaborative research and achievement by young scientists. Through his incisive integration of field observations with both natural and laboratory experiments and with prescient and creative analytical and numerical exploration, he leads efforts to quantify critical controls on mountain landscape evolution and its external drivers, climate variability, and active tectonics. Over the past 20-plus years, Kelin and his students and postdocs have published extensively, quantifying how river incision is the key process connecting the external drivers of climate and tectonics with landscape evolution, thus setting the pace for how landscapes evolve. Central to all of his work is his ability to couple detailed field, lab, and modeling efforts into an integrated “whole” that solves, or makes significant progress toward solving, important problems related to how planetary surfaces evolve. Kelin is an exceptionally keen field geologist as well as a meticulous experimentalist. Importantly, in addition to his scientific achievements and the continued vibrancy of his career, Kelin maintains remarkably good humor, tireless attention to detail, seemingly boundless patience, and enviable intellectual generosity. He is constantly giving back to our community in profound ways that are both piercing and compassionate. These qualities are an inspiration for all of us who work with him.

—Arjun M. Heimsath, Arizona State University, Tempe

Response

I am so honored to receive this award. Having one’s name associated in any way with G. K. Gilbert and listed alongside the former recipients is incredible. It is humbling as well to think of the many scientists equally or more deserving of this honor. I am grateful to so many people: from friends and family who provided so much support, to mentors and advisors for challenging critiques, good guidance, wise words, encouragement at low points, and teaching by example in so many ways.

But science is not an individual sport, and this is not an award for individual accomplishments. This award belongs to the incredible group of students, postdocs, collaborators, and colleagues I have had the pleasure and luck to work with over the years. Each has contributed so much. It belongs also to my wife, Darla, and our two girls, Teagan and Daryn, who have tolerated countless hours of physical or mental absence. This award celebrates all you have done, and I thank you all. On behalf of this amazing group, I thank the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes community for this honor. I especially thank Arjun Heimsath for the very kind words in the citation.

Community is such an important aspect of the scientific endeavor. We are fortunate to have a vibrant, positive, and supporting community in surface processes. We owe a debt of thanks to all who have helped shape our community into what it is today. Maintaining a positive, collegial, and yet scientifically challenging community is critical. As a community, we have one significant challenge to overcome, however: a lack of diversity. We must all strive as best we can to do our part to rectify this shortcoming. Our community and the rate of scientific advance both would benefit from a proactive focus on enhancing diversity.

—Kelin X. Whipple, Arizona State University, Tempe

Ellen Wohl will receive the 2018 G. K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, to be held 10–14 December in Washington, D. C. The award recognizes a scientist who has made “a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes” and “also promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

Prof. Ellen Wohl fully represents all of the qualities of an inspiring and groundbreaking scientist and as such greatly deserves the 2018 G. K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes. She has consistently and significantly advanced our understanding of processes in numerous subfields in geomorphology. Ellen has more than 200 refereed publications, with many being in key geomorphology journals; these publications have made tremendous contributions to understanding the morphology, sediment transport, wood dynamics, and hydraulics in steep mountain channels. Her work has also greatly advanced the understanding of carbon storage and transport in rivers. Ellen has also worked to incorporate fundamental research into the more applied work of river restoration. Through this work, which includes eight books for nonacademic audiences, she has had a large impact on helping both scientific and nonscientific communities outside of geomorphology understand the importance and practical application of knowledge in our field. Ellen has effectively supervised and graduated more than 70 Ph.D. and M.S. students. Many of these students have gone on to lead successful careers in academia and government science, thereby further influencing knowledge in geomorphology. Ellen is consistently a fair and extremely supportive colleague for everyone in geomorphology. She has served as a role model to countless female geomorphologists as a direct mentor or collaborator, as an indirect mentor at meetings, and by being one of the few full female professors in our field. While none of us have worked directly with Ellen, she has provided all of us inspiration in terms of her scientific excellence and continual inclusiveness of young scientists. Ellen’s compassion for her community would be remarkable even if she were not one of the elite researchers in our field. We know of no other scientist in geomorphology who so truly excels in both science and community engagement.

—Nicole Gasparini, Tulane University, New Orleans, La.; Paola Passalacqua, University of Texas at Austin; and Elowyn Yager, University of Idaho, Boise

Response

I’m honored to receive this award. As the first female recipient of the award in the time of the “Me Too” movement, I’d like to discuss mentorship. My professional career and my life have been shaped by many extraordinary mentors, starting with my parents. While I was an undergraduate at Arizona State University, committed, caring teachers pushed me to excel. At the University of Arizona, Vic Baker and Bill Bull created a supportive and intellectually stimulating atmosphere for their graduate students.

I’ve been lucky to have supportive senior colleagues who fulfill the definition of mentor as a guide and advisor. But I’ve also worked with people who have been damaged by harassment. Most people agree that there is no justification for overt harassment. Ingrained attitudes and subtle prejudices are trickier. We can each strive to be cognizant of these and to treat others fairly and supportively. The golden rule is ancient, but it remains superb advice.

People give of themselves most fully and happily when they feel supported, appreciated, and safe. If your colleagues are giving of themselves, you gain from them in the ultimate positive feedback loop.

I encourage everyone to go beyond the bar of not harassing or impeding others and meet the higher and more rewarding level of actively encouraging and supporting others. My fellow grad student Keith Katzer referred to fairy godfathers and godmothers—senior people who do good things for us—who write letters of recommendation, provide thorough and constructive reviews of papers and proposals, or provide an encouraging word at a critical moment. No one is too junior to be a fairy godparent. So take the time to thank your fairy godparents, and then strengthen the tradition and help turn a pumpkin into a golden carriage for someone else.

—Ellen Wohl, Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Michael Church will receive the 2017 G. K. Gilbert Award in Surface Processes at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes a scientist who has made “a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes” and “also promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

Given Grove Karl Gilbert’s legacy of high-caliber fieldwork, coupled to process-based studies, there can be few more deserving recipients of the G. K. Gilbert Award than Prof. Michael Church of the University of British Columbia. Primarily a field scientist, his extensive investigations on Baffin Island, his backbreaking work establishing necessary sampling criteria for gravel bar sedimentary studies, and other works on gravel bed river dynamics have been complemented by flume experimentation and computational studies on process dynamics.

In addition to statistical rigor, three other great attributes of Mike’s research are mechanical insight, as exemplified by work with Rob Ferguson on grain settling velocity; an ability to critique and interrogate foundational concepts, as shown in his groundbreaking work with Olav Slaymaker on how equilibrium scaling for specific sediment yield breaks down when a postglacial sediment pulse is working its way through a landscape; and a keen reflective and philosophical strand to his thinking, with particular focus on the nature of scale, associated phenomena such as allometry, and the history of the discipline.

Mike has also been a pivotal figure in the education of professional and academic geomorphologists in Canada and farther afield. His undergraduate hydrology course, with the requirement to deploy calculus, graphical techniques, and conceptual reflection in order to succeed, left a deep impression on me on how such classes should be devised. At graduate level, that Mike’s numerous students themselves have gone on to make significant contributions to the field is testament to the way in which Mike helped hone their critical and technical faculties while they worked with him.

I am sure that a great many colleagues from around the world will join me in expressing their delight that AGU has seen fit to award the 2017 G. K. Gilbert Award to Mike.

—Christopher Keylock, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Response

Ah, if one could but believe such an encomium. But one implication of it unquestionably is true: I have consciously attempted to emulate the scientific method of G. K. Gilbert. Geomorphological insight must be preceded by fieldwork—detailed, usually strenuous, field (or laboratory) work—and must be followed by careful and extended thought.

There are three things I wish to say about this unexpected but much appreciated award. First, sincere thanks to Chris Keylock for the nomination and to the anonymous members of the focus group who selected it. Coming as it does from my immediate colleagues, it is the most valued of recognitions.

Second, this is not really a personal award. “Michael Church” is simply the corporate signature of about 10 generations of remarkable students, both graduate and undergraduate, and, as Chris has noted, two or three senior colleagues. It would be unfair to mention only some names, and tedious to mention all. You know who you are; the achievement is yours.

Third, I would like to reflect on the fact that I am not an American. It is nevertheless entirely in the character of AGU that I should receive this award (consider the names on the honors list for this or any other year). From its beginnings (in 1919) as a semiofficial focus for American national and international activities in the then nascent field of geophysics, the Union has grown to be the authoritative international leader of the much expanded field. And it has welcomed us all, from anywhere on the globe. It is an outstanding example of American scientific leadership. Thank you for that.

As for my work, it will be of value only if it gives rise to better work (paraphrased from a letter of Alexander von Humboldt to Charles Darwin, September 1839).

—Michael Church, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Christopher Paola will receive the 2016 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

Prof. Chris Paola merits the G. K. Gilbert Award for his leadership in shepherding a generation of Earth surface process researchers through the maze of complexity, to the beauty of insight via first-order simplification. Prof. Paola is

• A researcher of peerless insight and innovation in the field of Earth surface processes;

• A leader in defining the underlying commonality between the otherwise disparate fields of geomorphology and stratigraphy;

• A visionary in terms of his conception of a) the subsiding experimental facility at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, b) his co-leadership of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System, and c) his leadership of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics;

• An integrator of diverse lines of research and diverse research groups via at least nine review and synthesis papers; and

• A freely-giving and deeply dedicated educator of undergraduates, graduate students, and younger researchers in the Earth sciences, regardless of whether or not a given individual is under his direct supervision.

I make a key observation about Prof. Paola’s research philosophy. He is a cracker of hard walnuts who has no nutcracker. In the absence of a nutcracker, one could use a stone, a sledgehammer, or indeed a focused beam of sound to open the nut. The process of doing so may be so destructive that post processing of the bits of shell and nut becomes more challenging than the process of cracking the nut. Prof. Paola, instead, places two walnuts in his hand, squeezes at just the right angle and with just the right pressure, and pops the desired one open, cleanly, with its internal structure readily apparent. It is this ability to abstract problems to their first-order simplicity and elegance that ranks Prof. Paola as peerless.

—Gary Parker, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana

Response

This is an occasion for nothing but the deepest gratitude: to my parents and teachers, to many people along the way, to those who supported me for this award, and especially to Gary for his generous citation. I will return to his kind words shortly.

Three groups of people make our careers: our mentors, the “research apprentices” with whom we work, and our colleagues. When I went to college, I never imagined a career in research, and when I embarked on my career I had no idea how much it would enrich my life. I have been extremely fortunate: in my students and postdocs, who have been as much a part of this work as I have, and who I hope will see this as recognition of what we all did together; and in working for many years with Gary, who has influenced me far more than he realizes. Much of the work mentioned in the citation was inspired by discussions with him, my scientific older brother.

I want also to acknowledge my debt to my friend and long-time collaborator Paul Heller, whom we lost in July. He was one of the most creative and original scientists I have ever met. I owe my involvement with large-scale river and basin dynamics to Paul, who helped me see how grain-scale dynamics could change the way we think about continents.

Finally, I want to highlight the culture of Earth-surface dynamics. I know of no other field that does so well at maintaining high standards of both research and collegiality. Perhaps our positive culture is related to the pleasure of working on something so intrinsically appealing and beautiful. This brings me back to Gary’s citation. His words express a set of ideals that apply across our community. The spirit they represent is something for all of us to cherish, and to join in sustaining. I am very grateful to be part of it.

—Christopher Paola, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Robert Anderson will receive the 2015 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

The diversity of opportunity that greets geomorphologists today is stunning: It ranges from Google Earth’s view of the entire planet to our ability to measure rocks flexing beneath breaking waves. Today, our challenge is less in making observations; rather, it’s deciding which observations can provide critical insights on how, when, and why diverse surface processes sculpt Earth’s surface. Few geomorphologists have been as incisive in choosing the key observations needed to quantify a problem, as creative in their use of technology, as diverse in the range of geomorphic environments that they have studied, or as productive in developing new, quantified theories of landscape evolution as this year’s G. K. Gilbert Award winner, Bob Anderson.

For nearly 30 years, Bob has shown us how to combine a rich understanding of geomorphic processes with strong skills in mathematical and physical analysis in order to attain fundamental new insights on landscapes. He has used this combination to develop novel theories explaining processes and landforms at scales that span from eolian sand grain impacts to mountain ranges. Bob’s ability to move seamlessly from the geophysical aspects of crustal dynamics to the mechanics of frost cracking to new applications of cosmogenic nuclides has repeatedly given us remarkable insights on how the Earth works.

During his years at Santa Cruz and Colorado, Bob has mentored a noteworthy group of younger geomorphologists who are now advancing our field in new directions. In nearly all of their publications, Bob’s mentorship and intellectual “fingerprints” are clearly visible. Bob’s freely available pedagogical gem “The Little Book of Geomorphology: Exercising the Principle of Conservation” typifies his rigorous thinking, his perennial enthusiasm and curiosity, and his scholarly generosity.

For his remarkable, provocative, and diverse contributions to our field, Bob Anderson is distinctly deserving of the 2015 G. K. Gilbert Award.

—Douglas Burbank, University of California, Santa Barbara

Response

I am deeply honored to receive this award, and I thank Doug for this flattering citation. This award reflects the inspiration of the geoscientists by whom I was lucky enough to be taught, the quality of the colleagues with whom I have worked over the last 30 years, and, perhaps most importantly, the hard work, the fun, and the friendship of the students with whom I have collaborated.

Let me feature one deserving more credit than most, my wife and colleague, Suzanne. I thank her for her support and inspiration in all facets of our lives. That little book Doug refers to was followed by the bigger book that we cowrote and that so dominated the early lives of our kids.

Having written as my master’s thesis a biography of Clarence Dutton, who worked with J. W. Powell and G. K. Gilbert to introduce the world to western North American landscapes, I have been acutely aware of Gilbert’s work throughout my career. His research, his choice of problems to address, and the organized manner in which he went about it are mirrored in the research of the prior Gilbert awardees and have set the tone of our community’s growth in the last few decades. Being a part of this legacy has been one of the chief joys of my research life.

But there is still much to do. Although I was lucky to catch the waves of numerical landscape modeling and application of cosmogenic radionuclides, it is clear that new technologies like autonomous vehicles, lidar, structure from motion, and miniaturization of environmental sensors will further push surface process research into new frontiers and perhaps new worlds. But who knows what new tools will arise on the longer time frame? That’s why we play the game and what makes it so much fun.

—Robert S. Anderson, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder

Gary Parker received the 2014 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

"For visionary research on Earth surface processes, advancing the fields of sediment transport and morphodynamics and inspiring a generation of Earth surface scientists.”
—Marcelo H. Garcia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana

 

Response

I express my deep thanks to those who supported me in regard to the G. K. Gilbert Award. They are but a subset of a world of fascinating colleagues with whom I have coevolved over my career. The collective phenomena of subaerial and submarine morphodynamics remain irresistibly appealing to me. After all, are there many more beautiful things than a meandering or braided stream, animated using Google Engine? I want to see progress. I want to know more. I want to leave the scene knowing that more progress will be made. Maybe I can continue to contribute by the Method of Inadvertently Littering the Literature with Mistakes. See, he’s wrong again! (Well, I thought I was right at the time…) And may we get closer and closer in our rationality to that which strums so hard on our strings of spiritual aesthetics.

—Gary Parker, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana

Alan D. Howard received the 2013 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

Alan Howard is the recipient of the 2013 Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group’s G. K. Gilbert Award.

Since 1963, Alan Howard has written papers that have defined the research frontier of Earth and planetary surface processes. Importantly, for this focus group, Alan has contributed significantly to both Earth and planetary science. It is difficult to find fundamental questions in geomorphology that Alan has not tackled and advanced our understanding of. His terrestrial research began with karst evolution and led to seminal papers in which theory is introduced to explain such key processes as channel network development, river meandering and floodplain formation, groundwater seepage erosion, and river incision into bedrock. Alan developed the first numerical landscape evolution model that coupled advective, diffusive, and threshold-controlled processes to explain controls on the topography under varying boundary conditions. Through this model he introduced the concept of detachment-limited processes.

Alan’s planetary research began in the 1970s, with a focus on Mars. Alan brought his considerable insight and modeling skills to the challenge of deciphering the landscape evolution and climate history of Mars. His initial work was on the polar caps of Mars. With his colleagues and students, he then made key geomorphic observations that make a compelling case that early Mars was likely warm and wet and that there was a subsequent period of large alluvial fan construction on crater walls.

Alan’s generosity in sharing ideas and models has inspired many. His leadership as the focus group chair has emphasized inclusion of young scientists. He has provided guidance and insight to generations of geomorphologists, helping us to see deeper into landscape processes and to read landscape morphology.
For all this Alan Howard is richly deserving of the G. K. Gilbert Award.

—WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley

Response

I am deeply honored to receive this award associated with the luminous heritage of G. K. Gilbert. My interest in geology and, in particular, in landforms was triggered by family vacations in the western United States. These trips fostered the theme of the process controls of landscape morphology that has been central to my research.

As a consequence of funding obtained by my thesis advisor, Charlie Hunt, I had the great fortune to base my dissertation in the Henry Mountains region, the site of Gilbert’s great insights and a desert landscape where landscape form and function are readily decipherable. I was also indebted to the founders of the quantitative revolution in geomorphology, including Horton; Strahler; Leopold; and my “spiritual” advisor at Johns Hopkins, Reds Wolman. My entire career has been in the welcoming environment of Mr. Jefferson’s University and the Department of Environmental Sciences.

My research has greatly benefitted from interactions with many professional colleagues, most notably with Bill Dietrich, who has provided immeasurable inspiration during many field trips and late-night conversations. My venture into planetary aspects of geomorphology was initiated and fostered by Stephen Dwornik, erstwhile head of NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program. I am grateful to the many students from undergraduates through Ph.D. who have contributed time and insights into my research activities and productivity. Finally, my research would not have been possible without the support and nurture of my wife, Marlowe, who has been a constant companion and partner for 4 decades.

—ALAN D. HOWARD, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Rudy L. Slingerland received the 2012 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an envi­ronment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

It is a tremendous pleasure to see the 2012 G. K. Gilbert Award presented to Professor Rudy Slingerland, of Penn State University. Rudy has been serving the Earth sciences for more than 3 decades. He has done so through his own research contributions; through research that he has inspired in his students, postdocs, and colleagues; and through his many efforts on behalf of the larger community. These include dedication to organizations like the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System, for which he ably chaired the steering committee during its critical first 5 years.

In terms of his own scientific contributions, the list of scientific topics that have drawn Rudy’s curiosity is quite impressive. To stratigraphers and sedimentologists, he is known as a founder, practitioner, and life-long champion for quantitative dynamic stratigraphy. He is known among paleoceanographers for having pioneered the computational study of circulation patterns in ancient epeiric seaways. Tectonicists may know Rudy best for his work on ancient and modern fold-and-thrust belts. Geomorphologists, on the other hand, are most attuned to his work on landscape evolution and river dynamics. It is noteworthy, for example, that his work with Scott Snow on modeling river profile evolution, beginning in the late 1980s, helped to set the stage for the recent surge of interest in that topic.

Across this diverse body of work, Rudy’s contributions have always been notable for their insistence on posing clear, precise, and carefully phrased questions—questions that cut through the seeming complexity of the natural world. In a similar way, this award’s namesake was renowned for his ability to see through the richness of the natural landscape and recognize the underlying core principles at work. Thus, it is fitting that Rudy should be recognized with an award named in Gilbert’s honor.

—GREGORY E. TUCKER, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder

Response

I’m deeply honored to receive the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes G. K. Gilbert Award, in no small part because Gilbert’s application of simple physical principles to Earth surface processes has always been an inspiration to me. My desire to study the transportation of debris by running water started a long time ago on our family farm, where re-engineering the local stream with a backhoe was a rewarding afternoon activity.

After a Geology B.Sc. degree and 2 years in the U.S. Navy Seabees, I knew that I wanted to study with Professor Gene Williams, an intense sedimentary geologist on the graduate faculty at Penn State. His philosophical and quantitative style influenced me more than he can ever know. Five years later and armed with a fresh Ph.D., I was hired by the Department of Geosciences at Penn State to replace Gene. During the next 36 years, I never saw a job that looked better.

I know that I am accepting this award on behalf of all of my students and colleagues with whom I have worked. To all of you I give my heartfelt thanks for good times in the field, good scientific discussions, and the chance to participate with you in such a noble enterprise as geology.

—RUDY L. SLINGERLAND, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Thomas Dunne received the 2011 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

The emergence of a strong community of geomorphologists in the past 40 years owes much of its existence to the inspiring intellectual leadership of Tom Dunne. At the University of Washington and the University of California, Santa Barbara, Tom has taught generations of students. He has done this through inspiring lectures, field-based class exercises, reading seminars, joyful discussions with individual students and colleagues, and close collaboration in the field on research projects. His deeply penetrating scholarly publications (including no fewer than 18 book chapters and two books, Rapid Sediment Budgets with Leslie Reid and Water in Environmental Planning with Luna Leopold) reach the entire community.

Tom really is responsible for what could be called a school of thought that helped lead geomorphology from the backwaters of Earth science in the 1950s and 1960s to the success and excitement it now enjoys. One can easily keep busy in science. Tom asks us to do something significant, or at least try to, and have fun trying. He asks for good scholarship, fundamental questions, field observations, experimentation (field and laboratory), process understanding, and theory.

Tom discovered and explained saturation overland flow. The process goes by many names, including the Dunne mechanism. Call it what you will, its discovery, quantification, and explanation by Tom constitute a cornerstone of our understanding of runoff hydrology. Tom has now worked with over 35 graduate students on a wide range of topics, including channel networks, weathering, hillslope erosion, sediment routing and sediment budgets, river mechanics, meandering and floodplain depositional processes, and watershed management and river restoration.

For over 40 years, Tom has shaped the field of geomorphology through key discoveries, intellectual leadership, and mentorship of generations of young geomorphologists. For this leadership he is awarded the 2011 G. K. Gilbert Award of the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union.

— William E. Dietrich, University of California, Berkeley

Response

Thanks, Bill, for the generous introduction and to those who compiled and evaluated the nomination. It’s a reminder of how helpful we all are to one another in organizations like AGU and how energizing such support is in creating and disseminating new knowledge. I never expected to be linked to Gilbert when I was introduced to his theoretical literature and exotic field adventures 50 years ago in Richard Chorley’s revolutionary geomorphology classes at Cambridge. Chorley used Gilbert to illustrate the goal of developing general theory about landscape evolution through the functioning of surface processes. That interdisciplinary goal led directly to the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Focus Group.

This new community required a few other developments. The first was guidance from important mentors, such as Ron Shreve, Peter Eagleson, and Jim Smith, who demonstrated how to transform the study of surface processes into a geophysical science formalizing the analysis of entire evolving landforms and landscapes. Our earlier quantitative approaches were learned, for example, from agricultural and geotechnical engineering, which, however valuable, limited us to small scales of time and space and unidirectional causality. Geophysics enlarged our perspective and allowed us to study the coevolution of landscapes and processes but still promoted rigor of theory and method. Then, as geophysics itself diversified by assimilating chemical and biological studies, our field participated. We also profited from technological advances allowing measurements of Davis’s landforming triad of process, material properties, and time. Most important and promising of all, the field is being transformed by young people with modern scientific training entering the field and utilizing novel methods to study the part of Earth that affects people most immediately as well as other planetary landscapes that inspire our curiosity. It’s a wonderful prospect; this community is working very well. Gilbert, the pioneer, would have approved.

— Thomas Dunne, University of California, Santa Barbara

William E. Dietrich received the 2010 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, held 13–17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”

 

Citation

William “Bill” Dietrich’s contributions to geomorphology, hydrology, and ecogeomorphology are unequaled in breadth and quality. We are particularly honored to recognize his accomplishments in this inaugural awarding of the G. K. Gilbert Award. Bill exemplifies the depth of insights and breadth of interests that characterized the award’s namesake, G. K. Gilbert. Bill’s status in the scientific community is manifest in his election to the National Academy of Sciences and in several other honors he has received, including AGU’s 2009 Robert E. Horton Medal.

Bill is largely responsible for establishing geomorphology in AGU in its strong present role in the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes (EPSP) focus group. He was instrumental in organizing geomorphology-oriented sessions at the AGU Fall Meeting through his leading role in the Erosion and Sedimentation Subcommittee of the Hydrology section. A very significant part of his success in making AGU a primary outlet for fundamental geomorphologic research was his establishment of the Gilbert Club 25 years ago. This annual gathering immediately follows the AGU Fall Meeting and has become the premier scientific and social gathering for geomorphologists.

Many of the graduate students and postdocs working with Bill have become leading scientists in academic and government organizations. Beyond this traditional mentoring, however, Bill has been unselfish in cooperation and collaboration with the geomorphic community. He serves as a sounding board about research for many of our colleagues, and most of us have seen our theories and conjectures wither in the face of his incisive analysis.

— Alan D. Howard, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Response

In the early 1980s I started an annual 1-day gathering to discuss geomorphology in Berkeley on the Saturday after the annual AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. I whimsically called it the “Gilbert Club” and offered an open invitation to anyone to come join us. The whimsy, of course, was the use of the word a “club,” as there was no organization or affiliation, and in fact no “club”—rather just a deep admiration for G. K. Gilbert. We grew from 7 to nearly 300 attendees, and now “grandstudents” of the meeting are coming, doing pop-up statements, and painting the future for us. Geomorphology is a vibrant community, enabled with new tools, and rich with great unsolved problems.

The AGU Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group decision to award me its first G. K. Gilbert award was a shock and, as everyone saw at the awards ceremony, left me speechless. It is an exceptionally kind act. I share this award with the fantastic group of students and postdocs at Berkeley with whom I have been lucky enough to work. There are too many individuals to thank for this honor, but I must mention three. I am in this field because when I arrived at the University of Washington hungry to begin my graduate studies, I had the great fortune to be mentored by Tom Dunne and Jim Smith. We worked together in the field, debated at the blackboard, and continued the debate as we wrote papers. The joy of discovery was ever present. I must also thank Alan Howard, who has continuously shared his deep understanding of geomorphology and guided me in many research adventures. Finally, I thank the entire geomorphology community for being what it has become. We are truly fortunate.

—William E. Dietrich , Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley

Honors Contacts

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Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]