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The sad passing of Herb Wright

On behalf of our IPA Chair, Prof. John Smol:

Herb Wright
Dear Paleolimnology Colleagues,

I am sorry to report that Herb Wright passed away Thursday afternoon (12 November 2015). He celebrated his 98th birthday on September 13, 2015.

Herb was one of our inaugural winners of the International Paleolimnology Association (IPA) Lifetime Achievement Awards in Mexico in 2009.

His IPA 2009 citation read:

Herbert E. Wright, Jr. is among the world’s most productive and highly recognized Quaternary scientists. He has led a remarkable scientific career that has touched on many of the pivotal questions of recent earth history, he has mentored and inspired more than 70 graduate students and numerous visiting scholars from around the globe, and he has been the recipient of many of the highest awards in his field.
Herb continues to be actively engaged in science and to write and publish, and his home still serves, after almost 50 years, as the venue for Wednesday evening seminars in Quaternary paleoecology at the University of Minnesota.

As part of the IPA award, Herb published a summary of his career in the J. Paleolimnology at:

Wright, H. E. 2010. High points in paleolimnological studies as viewed by a convert. J. Paleolimnology 44: 497-503.

He will be very much missed by our community.

We’re very proud of Rick who will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. The award is given to those who have made remarkable contributions to the lives of people around the world.


11th Symposium Obituaries

At the 11th International Symposium in Guadalajara the IPA honoured the lives of Michael Richard Ronald Talbot and Jaan-Mati Punning for their lifetime contributions to palaeolimnology.

Mike Talbot (1943-2009)
Michael Talbot_Geovitenskap_2009

Mike was born in Wales in 1943. His PhD in Geology at the University of Bristol was on “The Deposition and Diagenesis of the Corallian Beds of Southern England”. After several University positions, including a Lectureship in the University of Ghana, he moved to Bergen, Norway in 1981, becoming a Professor in 1984. He remained in Bergen at the Department of Earth Science, until his very untimely death just a few weeks ago.

As the title of his PhD suggests he started his professional career as a carbonate sedimentologist and he maintained an interest in carbonates throughout his career working on sediments from the Late Palaeozoic to Miocene.

In our community we know him best for his limnogeological research beginning with his pioneering work on the lake levels of lake Bosumtwi, stemming from the time he was at the University of Ghana. His first paper on Bosumtwi, published in Nature in 1977, was the start of a life-long interest in Bosumtwi and it was the beginning of a broader research programme that eventually encompassed almost all the large lakes in East Africa, carried out under the auspices of the IDEAL project (the International Decade for the East African Lakes project), focussing especially on the isotopic composition of organic matter as a proxy for lake level and climate change.

His career was also marked by his service to our research community in many different ways, through his helpful and influential reviews, most notably his paper on “Nitrogen isotopes in palaeolimnology” in the DPER Handbook series, through his work on the IDEAL project, as a co-founder and an executive committee member, through his major efforts to raise European funding for East African lake research through his Euro-Ideal initiative in 2001, through his membership of the Lake Drilling Panel for the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP), and closest to home as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Paleolimnology (2003 – 2009), a role he was filling up to the time of his death.

He was a complete academic – a devoted teacher and supervisor with extensive teaching experience from introductory undergraduate to postgraduate levels. He was an adviser to 60 M.Sc. and 14 Ph.D. students, an author of over 100 papers in refereed journals, books and special publications and in 2007 he received the W.H. Bradley medal for “his stellar research career as well as his dedicated services to the Limnogeology community.”

We will remember Mike as an outstanding scientist and a generous and sympathetic friend.

Jaan-Mati Punning (1940-2009)
Mati Punning_2009

We also remember Jaan-Mati Punning.
Mati was one of the most remarkable natural scientists and scientific leaders in Estonia. He was a professor of Geoecology in Tallinn University, the founder, director and leading scientist in the University’s Institute of Ecology and the long-term President of the Estonian Geographical Society.

He was born in Mooste in 1940 and graduated with a degree in Chemistry at Tartu University. His doctoral thesis in 1982 was on ‚the dynamics of glaciation processes during the Late-Pleistocene in Northern Eurasia‘ and he became the first person in Estonia to be awarded a doctor’s degree in the field of physical geography.

Mati had a wide vision, and his interests spanned many fields of environmental science, but he is best known in palaeolimnology for his work on lake-level fluctuations during the postglacial period, the impact of human activity on lake ecosystems, and the formation of the bottom sediments of Lake Peipsi and their palaeolimnological value. In all he published over 500 scientific articles and his research team received the Scientific Award of the Republic of Estonia in 1995.

Beyond his own research interests he contributed strongly to the development of environmental science in Estonia and in the nation’s science policy strategy taking an active role in the formation of Estonia’s scientific, educational and environmental policies and in particular leading the formation of the Estonian Council for Sustainable Development.

He was also a dedicated teacher, establishing a teaching programme in natural sciences at the Tallinn Pedagogical University and laying the foundation for masters and doctoral programmes.

His close colleagues have reported that his initiative and energy was hard to keep up with. He combined uncompromising science-based thinking and dynamic scientific leadership that was conducted with „an intense internal flare“ which inspired and illuminated several generations of scientists, allowing them to pursue their own goals. Estonia has lost one of its great natural scientists and we have lost a great palaeolimnologist, colleague and friend.

13th Symposium Obituaries

At the 13th International Symposium in Lanzhou the IPA honoured the lives of Françoise Gasse, Hannelore Hakansson and Natalia N. Davydova for their contributions to palaeolimnology. John Birks, provided the following obituaries for our esteemed colleagues.

Françoise Gasse

Françoise Gasse dedicated her scientific research to the study of lacustrine sediments. She initiated her pioneering research in paleolimnology primarily to reconstruct the Quaternary climates and environments from the Sahara and Sahel, and from other sites in East Africa (Ethiopia), Madagascar, western and south Asia (Caspian Sea, Tibet), and from the Middle East (Lebanon).

One of her key contribution was her leadership role in developing the use of diatom distributions to quantify how lake properties, such as depth and salinity, have changed through time. Her research commonly integrated diatom and isotopic data, and was characterized both by its sophisticated understanding of the importance of basin hydrogeomorphology in paleoclimatic interpretations and the rigor of her taxonomic study of diatom assemblages.

Françoise was the first woman to receive the Vega Medal in Gold awarded in 2005 by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography. In 2010, she was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal from the European Union of Geosciences for her contribution to the reconstruction of climate variability during the Holocene. Françoise also received an IPA Lifetime Achievement Award from this society at our last meeting in Glasgow in 2012.

Françoise died on April 22th, 2014.

Hannelore Hakansson

Hannelore was first employed at the Lund University geology department in 1957 as a laboratory assistant and later became a research engineer. She was interested in early microfossils analysis, first dealing with historical pollen analysis and then more with the paleoenvironmental analysis of diatoms.

Hannelore immersed herself in diatom systematics and became a world authority on certain genera. She became a self-taught scientist, internationally well-known and respected within the Quaternary paleoecological community. She collaborated with researchers and graduate students from around the world.

She received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Science at Lund University in 1990, and continued her research and mentoring long after her retirement. Hannelore, although often very demanding, inspired both students and the seasoned researchers who worked with her.

Hannelore Hakansson had died at the age of 89 years in the autumn of 2014.

Natalia Davydova

Natalia Davydova was a Russian paleolimnogist, paleogeographer and algologist, and a well-known specialist in diatom analysis, who held the position of Leading Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Limnology.

In 1954 she graduated from the Geography Faculty of the Leningrad State University and took a job at the Academy of Sciences’ Limnology Laboratory, which was later transformed into the USSR Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Limnology.

In 1963 she defended her PhD thesis on ‘Diatom assemblages in contemporary sediments in Lake Ladoga’, and in 1984 her post-doctorate thesis on ‘Diatoms as indicators of change in lake ecosystems in the Holocene’. Her entire scientific career, from PhD student to Leading Research Associate, was linked to the RAS Institute of Limnology, where she carried out paleolimnological studies based primarily on the diatom analysis.

She developed methods for reconstructing the main stages of lake evolution and for assessing the natural and anthropogenic controls of the rate and magnitude of change relying primarily on diatom analysis.

Natalia supervised a number of successful doctoral and post-doctoral theses. She took part in a great number of national and international research projects, was a member of the Journal of Paleolimnology editorial board, and organized and participated in international conferences on the history of lakes.

Natalia Davydova wrote over 300 scientific papers in Russian and English on diatom analysis, paleolimnology and paleogeography, including the monograph “Diatoms as Indicators of Lake Ecosystem Evolution” (1985) and the book series “The History of Lakes” (1988-1998). Natalia Davydova was an active member of the Russian Geographical Society, for many years chairing its Palaeolimnological Commission.

For the book series “The History of Lakes” Natalia Davydova was awarded an Honorary Diploma of the Russian Geographical Society.

Natalia Davydova was born in 1931 in Leningrad and died on July 23, 2014.

The Springer Student Book Prizes for best Oral paper and Poster presentation were again awarded at the IPS 2015, Lanzhou, China Continue Reading »

Dear Colleagues,

Please note that the Committee minutes from the August 2015, International Symposium in Lanzhou, China have now been published. Please find these under the Minutes header on the website.

Many thanks,
Your IPA Committee

The IPS 2015 official website has been launched. The address is Please access it using the thumbnail in the sidebar! Continue Reading »

ASLO Aquatic Science Meeting

The ASLO 2015 Aquatic Science meeting is being held in Grenada on the 22-27th Febraury Continue Reading »

The organisers of the 2015 IPS in Lanzhou, China are asking for a second round of session proposals. Please all show an interest! For more information on sessions that have been selected so far and on how to propose one please read on. Continue Reading »

We are pleased to announce details on the 2014 British Diatom Meeting. This will be held in Hay-on-Wye (UK) during the last weekend of October (24-26th). Please click the link below for more information on how to register and details of where the meeting is being held.

British Diatom Meeting 2014

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