Benjamin P. Horton
The 2016 Plinius Medal is awarded to Benjamin P. Horton for outstanding research on the mechanisms and nature of past sea-level changes, their association with earthquakes, tsunamis and storms, and how these processes will impact future coastal environments.
Ben Horton is Professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, Rutgers University and Visiting Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is an established leader in a new, multi-disciplinary research specialty in the forefront of global climate science, coastal hazards, and palaeoecology applied to understanding environmental change. His innovative research examines sea-level change, aiming to understand and integrate the external and internal mechanisms that have determined sea-level changes in the past, and how these will shape changes in the future. He uses multi-disciplinary teams to focus on a variety of interlinked hazards that impact the coasts, including sea-level rise on human timescales, earthquakes, tsunamis and storms. Horton’s scholarly output and impact are impressive. He has published over 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Geoscience and Geology. He is an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, and has been author and editor of six books, including the Handbook of Sea-Level Research, which will be a reference for sea-level scientists for decades. He has developed a new quantitative approach to reconstruct former sea-level changes and established the Holocene sea-level database for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, Caribbean and Malay-Thai Peninsula. These databases provide baselines to understand coastal hazards and hence are instrumental for the development of risk mitigation policies for some of the most sea-level vulnerable coastlines worldwide. His recent contributions to both the IPCC and US National Research Council committees on sea-level rise exemplify his exceptional promise for continued leadership in coastal ocean science with a hazards focus. His research was recently cited by US President Barack Obama in his 2015 State of the Union address. In addition to the impact and high quality of Horton’s scholarly contributions, he exemplifies as a mid-career scientist many additional qualities that speak to his promise for continued leadership in the natural hazards community, both within academia and beyond. He has developed very strong networks of interdisciplinary collaborators and is particularly effective in designing and implementing collaborative research programmes that go well beyond his personal areas of expertise and extend worldwide, for example as project leader of the International Geoscience Programme 588. He has also built a strong research group, having successfully supervised 20 PhD students, of which 11 now occupy academic positions. There is no doubt Horton has already had a significant impact on science in terms of training coastal scientists of the future. He is also a very talented public speaker and, despite his intense research activity, he devotes an impressive amount of time to outreach, which is increasingly important for climate scientists of our generation. As a scholar, educator and citizen of the ocean sciences and natural hazards communities, Ben Horton has emerged as one of the most energetic and productive Quaternary scientists of his generation, focussing on original and new research relating the mechanisms and nature of past sea-level changes to earthquakes, tsunamis and storms, and how these processes will impact future coastal environments.