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 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 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 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.