Professor Gerald Nanson

Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Alison Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health Strategy) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Gerald Charles Nanson as an Emeritus Professor of the University on 19 April 2017.

Chancellor, I present Gerald Charles Nanson.

A born scientist with a childhood passion for pyrotechnics, Professor Nanson’s distinguished career in Earth sciences may well have been diverted to a Chemistry-based discipline but for an overly ambitious ‘experiment gone wrong’ which greatly disturbed the nerves of the neighbours in his hometown of Hamilton, New Zealand. Instead, alpine adventures with his father climbing the peaks in southern New Zealand ignited in Gerald a keen interest in geomorphology, and nearly half a century later he is revered as one of the most influential geomorphologists of his generation.

Joining the University as a lecturer in 1977 (a period he refers to as “wild times in a wild town!”), Professor Nanson went on to make major contributions in shaping the research and teaching initiatives in what is now the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. In addition to holding various senior UOW positions such as Head of the Geography Department and Co-ordinator of Geography in the then newly formed School of Geosciences, he also held various seminal positions such as Chair of Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Co-ordinator of the Environmental Science Board of Studies and Co-ordinator of the former Quaternary Environmental Change Research Centre (which is now GeoQuest).

Professor Nanson was instrumental in the early development of the thermoluminescence dating laboratory in the Department of Geography and subsequently attracted one of his former PhD students, and now Laureate Professorial Fellow, Professor Bert Roberts, to return to UOW to establish an Optically Stimulated Luminescence Dating laboratory.

Gerald has been, and remains today, a very active and inspiring researcher and university educator. One of his life goals is to be “a stimulating undergraduate teacher and an effective teacher and mentor” to his research students and, to that end, he has successfully supervised 19 PhD students and seven postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have become respected researchers at the international level, obtaining academic positions in universities both in Australia and abroad.

Professor Gerald Nanson w colleagues

Pictured: Professor Bert Roberts, Professor Gerald Nanson, Tim Cohen (both former PhD students of Professor Nanson)

Professor Nanson has published 125 peer reviewed articles in scholarly journals and served as a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Geomorphology. He is a member of the British Society of Geomorphologists, Founder and member of the Australian and New Zealand Geomorphological Research Group, member of the Australian Quaternary Associate and a member of the Geological Society of America.

Gerald gained international recognition for his research into the understanding of how the desert landscapes of Australia have evolved through the past one million years, and this has attracted wide international recognition for providing insights into arid zone geomorphology of other countries. In a career spanning more than four decades, Professor Nanson has greatly expanded understanding of the complex interactive geomorphology, palaeohydrology and Quaternary history of the rivers, lakes and associated dune fields of the Australian continent.

In addition to his interest in ancient landscapes, Professor Nanson has spent a large part of his career studying the geomorphology and hydraulics of modern rivers and floodplains. In the 1990s, he began a series of key studies, applying the ‘Principle of Least Action’ to alluvial channel behaviour and morphology.

Professor Nanson has received several awards in recent years, including the Farouk El-Baz Award from the Geological Society of America in 2006 for excellence in desert research, the Distinguished Geomorphologists Medal awarded in 2012 by the Australian and New Zealand Geomorphology Group, and the David Linton Award from the British Society of Geomorphologists in 2013, the first time that the Linton award was awarded to a geomorphologist who has done most of their research in Australia. Collectively, these awards are presented to scholars who have made a sustained and distinguished contribution to research at the highest level in geomorphology and are widely recognised by an international body of scholars.

Chancellor, for his distinguished contribution to Physical Geography and more specifically, Fluvial Geomorphology and Quaternary Science, and his exceptional service and dedication to this University, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Gerald Nanson for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.