The 2022 Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award is awarded to Nicoletta Leonardi for contributions to a new understanding of the geomorphic evolution of coastal landscapes, and deconstructing the drivers of coastal change through development and application of novel modelling tools.
Nicoletta Leonardi has rapidly established themselves as a world leader in the study of geomorphic change in estuaries and salt marshes. They have played a key role in the development of new generation of quantitative tools, including stochastic and high resolution numerical models, which have unlocked new understanding of the evolution of coastal landscapes from years to centuries. In a series of key papers, Leonardi has neatly deconstructed the impact of different coastal processes on coastal landscape change, using these modelling tools to show the importance of wind waves on salt marsh environment stability and highlighting how waves are important in controlling the rates of salt marsh deterioration across the world.
Using the classical analysis of magnitude and frequency of geomorphic work first proposed by Wolman and Miller, Leonardi has been able to derive a universal law for salt marsh erosion, detailing how marshes at the continental scale tend not to be eroded by extreme events like hurricanes, but by average sized storms. These findings, published in Leonardi et al. (2015), are a seminal advance, because they show that salt marshes are very resistant to hurricanes, and can therefore be used as natural management barriers to protect shorelines from wave erosion and storm surges. These important findings have also fed into an improved understanding of the impact of coastal change on key ecological services provided by these wetland systems and have informed how these zones can be best-managed and utilised as natural protective coastal features.
In summary, Leonardi, as evidenced by a very strong set of papers that are both at the leading edge of their discipline as well as generating significant practical management impact, is a very worthy recipient of the EGU Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award 2022 for the Geomorphology Division.