Desert researcher wins international award
A lifetime of research in some of the world's driest regions has brought international acclaim to the University of Adelaide's Professor Emeritus Martin Williams.
Professor Williams received the 2008 Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Houston.
Professor Williams said he was delighted to receive this award. "I also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my desert travelling companions in four continents: they shared the simple joys and the occasional dangers and hardships with dignity and stoicism."
Professor Williams came to the University of Adelaide in 1993 as Director of the Mawson Graduate Centre for Environmental Studies and Foundation Professor of Environmental Studies.
From his earliest fieldwork in the Libyan Desert in 1962, he has pursued an active program of research on landscape evolution and climatic change in the Sahara, the Nile basin, Rajasthan in India, Inner Mongolia, the Flinders Ranges and the Afar and Kenya rifts.
"Martin is unquestionably deserving of this award in light of his extensive, long sustained and high quality desert work executed in multiple continents," said research collaborators from the University of Illinois in the award citation.
"He has also amply demonstrated that he is an inexhaustible ditch digger, and a prodigious teller of tales of adventure and misadventure on every soil-bearing continent."
Professor Williams is author of over 200 scientific papers, including 12 in Nature, and is author or editor of 11 books.
His research interests range from early human origins, soils and landforms to the reconstruction of prehistoric environments and geologically recent climatic changes.
His work has often been applied to resolving issues of land degradation and poverty in semi-arid regions of the world.
He is a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility and has been a frequent adviser on the control of desertification in Africa, Central Asia and China.
Last year he was elected an Honorary Life Member by the International Union of Quaternary Research and was also awarded the highest honour of the Royal Society of South Australia, the Verco Medal.
Story by Robyn Mills