The 2016 John Dalton Medal is awarded to Harry Vereecken for groundbreaking contributions on hydrogeophysics, pedotransfer functions and transport in heterogeneous media, for initiating a network of hydrological observatories, and for outstanding service.
Harry Vereecken is awarded for his contributions as a global scientific leader in the soil and water resources field. They cover a range of experimental and theoretical studies of subsurface flow and contaminant transport, from intricate laboratory experiments to controlled lysimeter studies, to elaborate field-scale observatories facilitating long-term multidisciplinary research. His very integrative work in the areas of soil science, pedology and hydrology has led to a new understanding of the hydrological modelling of terrestrial systems. Vereecken recognised early on the tremendous potential of linking geophysics and hydrology, which now appears obvious but was not the case a decade or two ago. As director of the Agrosphere Institute, Forschungszentrum Jülich, he made this a key component of its research programme. To this day, he continues to use his extensive scientific knowledge and abilities to bridge the gap between various disciplines and push back boundaries, gaining new insights into flow and transport processes in agrosphere systems. Jülich is now a centre of excellence in the European landscape. Vereecken influenced many aspects of contemporary hydrology, from his pioneering hydrogeophysical studies, to introducing pedotransfer functions for estimation of hydraulic functions (considered a key contribution to soil physics and hydrology), groundbreaking work on transport processes in heterogeneous media, to development of upscaling schemes and inverse modelling for parameter estimation. He promoted and initiated some of the most successful efforts to date towards establishing hydrological observatories in Europe (TERENO – the world’s top set of hydrological observatories) and is a leading force behind the development of instrumentation and data management from such platforms. Throughout his career, the research he performed and directed was always designed to test and improve our ability to quantify and manage the subsurface environment. This medal also recognises Vereecken’s exceptional service record. He has been a member or scientific director of a substantial number of scientific boards and committees. In these roles, he impresses with his leadership qualities, his insightful grasp of issues at hand, and his ability to formulate a constructive course of action. These qualities enable him to set future research priorities in soil and terrestrial research in national and international scientific communities.