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World-renowned volcanologist heads Geological Society’s 2011 awards list

Professor Steve Sparks CBE FRS, former President of the Geological Society, is the recipient of the 2011 Wollaston Medal, the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award.

1 February 2011

Professor Sparks is currently a European Research Council Advanced Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, where he is also Director of the Volcanology and Geological Fluid Dynamics Research Group. His illustrious career has led to the publication of more than 300 papers cited over 100,000 times.

Among his research interests is the Soufrière Hills volcano (Montserrat,West Indes) which he has been studying since it became active in 1995. In 2010 he was a key adviser to government and the aviation industry during and after the Iceland Eyjafjallajökull eruption crisis.

“It would be difficult to name a more proficient modern leader in scientific research in the Earth Sciences” his citation reads. “His extraordinary depth and breadth of expertise have rendered him an outstanding adviser to government departments and institutions concerned with geophysical hazards and attendant risks”.

In addition to the Wollaston Medal, the Society’s senior medal first awarded to William Smith in 1831, GSL also made the following awards for 2011:

Lyell Medal: Christopher Paola (University of Minnesota); Murchison Medal: Bruce Watson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); William Smith Medal: Robert Stuart Haszeldine (University of Edinburgh); Aberconway Medal: Rebecca Lunn (University of Strathclyde); Coke Medal: Jon Paul Davidson (University of Durham); Coke Medal: Christopher Stringer (Natural History Museum); Bigsby Medal: Alexander Densmore (University of Durham); R H Worth Prize: Peter Kennett (Earth Science Teachers’ Association); Wollaston Fund: Heiko Pälike (University of Southampton); William Smith Fund: Daniel Le Heron (Royal Holloway, University of London); Lyell Fund: Emily Jane Rayfield (University of Bristol); Murchison Fund: Sarah Sherlock (Open University); Distinguished Service Award: Gerald Joseph Home McCall (Geoscientist magazine, formerly of Imperial College London).

The 2011 Awards will also include a number of President’s Awards, to be announced later in the year.

Notes for Editors

1. The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body, of almost 10,000 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. The Society offers advice to Parliament and Government, at individual and corporate levels. Registered Charity No. 210161.

2. The Wollaston Medal is named for William Hyde Wollaston 1766 – 1828, the discoverer of the element Palladium, in which the medal is struck. It was first awarded in 1831 to William Smith, known as “the father of English Geology”, who is credited with creating the first geological map of Britain, and was also bestowed on Charles Darwin in 1859.

3. The Geological Society 2011 Awards will be presented at President’s Day 2011, to be held at Burlington House on 8 June.

4. A complete list of the Society’s medal winners may be found at Awards Grants and Bursaries