Kurt O. Konhauser
The 2019 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal is awarded to Kurt O. Konhauser for seminal contributions to biogeosciences, in particular for exploring the role of microorganisms in mineral precipitation.
Kurt Konhauser is Professor at the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Geomicrobiology. After obtaining a PhD from the University of Western Ontario, he held positions at the University of Toronto and Leeds University. Konhauser received the Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Contribution Award of the Geological Society of America in 2013 and several awards for excellence in teaching. He is fellow of the Geochemical Society (2017) and a member of the Royal Society of Canada (2017). In 2019, he receives the EGU Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal for his exceptional contributions to biogeosciences in general, and in particular, for linking bacterial metabolisms and the chemical evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.
Konhauser has led the field of biogeosciences by showing that metabolic processes occurring in restricted niches today once thrived at almost unfathomable scales. He recognised that bacterially driven mineral precipitation could easily account for Earth’s largest iron formations, revolutionising our understanding of these enigmatic deposits and altering modern thinking on the role of microorganisms in ancient sedimentary environments. His manifold lines of research have led to the concept that the biosphere of the early Earth was fueled in large part by iron redox cycling. Konhauser’s work has also contributed to a better understanding of microbial clay formation, silicification, and the role of bacteria and biofilms in metal sorption. Konhauser has published more than 200 scientific papers and has an exemplary citation record in high-rank journals.
In addition to his scientific contributions to geobiology and geomicrobiology, Konhauser has served the community in many ways. He played a key role in structuring these emerging fields, launching the journal Geobiology in 2003 and establishing the Geobiological Society in 2016. Konhauser holds an impressive number of editorial positions with international journals, has organised and helped organising several international meetings, has edited many special issues, co-edited books, and has written the most influential textbook in geomicrobiology. It is difficult to think of a more worthy recipient of the Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal than Kurt Konhauser, who truly upholds Vernadsky’s legacy. He has been an amazingly dedicated and gifted leader of the biogeosciences community through scientific innovation, outstanding editorial activities, and community service.