The 2016 Philippe Duchaufour Medal is awarded to Heike Knicker for outstanding research in the field of soil organic matter, in particular on the impact of fire on humic materials, and for furthering the knowledge of the origin and properties of pyrogenic soil organic carbon and nitrogen.
Heike Knicker contributed to the Earth and soil system sciences through accurately analysing, understanding, and modelling the impact of fire on soil organic matter, strongly contributing to the knowledge of the nature and stability of pyrogenic soil organic carbon and nitrogen. Knicker also carried out several investigations on the formation and stabilisation of soil organic matter and humic material, and nitrogen stabilisation and sequestration in soils and sediments, developing and applying NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy in geochemistry and soil sciences. Knicker recorded the first 15N NMR spectra of soil organic matter in mineral soils, sediments and coals. Her research involved collaboration with colleagues from USA, South America, Australia, and across the whole of Europe. Moreover, she has contributed considerably to the formation of new research and promoted the exchange of knowledge through organising meetings and promoting the participation of many research teams in joint projects. Knicker is a remarkably energetic, intellectually alert and enthusiastic scientist, and her charismatic role at meetings and conferences has been an important driver for the work of other scientists and for the entire soil sciences community. The impact of Heike Knicker on soil organic matter research, teaching, and service to the community is fruit of her contagious enthusiasm for soil science, which has inspired students and colleagues alike. For these reasons, she is a worthy recipient of this year’s Philippe Duchaufour Medal.