Angela M. Gurnell
The 2021 Alfred Wegener Medal & Honorary Membership is awarded to Angela M. Gurnell for pioneering contributions to the emergence and consolidation of fluvial biogeomorphology.
Angela Gurnell is awarded the Alfred Wegener Medal in recognition of her outstanding contributions to linking hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology. Gurnell’s research foci have included: runoff and streamflow generation; discharge, solute fluxes, sediment transport, and channel geometry in glacio-fluvial channels; interactions among vegetation, runoff, and streamflow; human alterations and management of river corridors; and interactions of channel process and form with deadwood and living riparian vegetation. Her work linking process and form in river channels to interactions among physical, chemical, and biological factors is particularly groundbreaking and influential. Large deadwood in streams was much more abundant and widespread in forested regions prior to widespread deforestation and channel engineering. Gurnell has systematically evaluated how processes of large wood transport and deposition within river channels and floodplains vary in relation to river size and channel planform, as well as how the loss of large wood has altered river geometry and function.
Gurnell has also carefully documented the feedbacks by which fluxes of water and sediment affect the location and structure of riparian vegetation while being simultaneously altered by the presence of the vegetation. As a pioneer in viewing riparian vegetation as an active shaper of river process and form, rather than simply passively responding to fluxes of material in river corridors, Gurnell has transformed our understanding of how rivers function. This has particular implications for understanding river evolution over geologic timescales and for managing rivers into the future.
Angela Gurnell’s impact on the emerging discipline of fluvial biogeomorphology is also reflected in other aspects of her scholarly career. She has mentored more than 30 PhD students and served as an external examiner for more than 30 PhD dissertations completed in 10 countries outside of the UK. Most crucially, Gurnell has been a beacon of support to young women scientists, many of whom now hold prestigious appointments in hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology around the world. The European Geosciences Union’s Alfred Wegener Medal and Honorary Membership is therefore awarded to Angela Gurnell for pioneering contributions to the emergence and consolidation of fluvial biogeomorphology.