Dietrich Receives 2010 G. K. Gilbert Award

William E. Dietrich received the 2010 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, held 13–17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “a scientist who has either made a single significant advance or sustained significant contributions to the field of Earth and planetary surface processes, and who has in addition promoted an environment of unselfish cooperation in research and the inclusion of young scientists into the field.”


dietrich_william-eWilliam “Bill” Dietrich’s contributions to geomorphology, hydrology, and ecogeomorphology are unequaled in breadth and quality. We are particularly honored to recognize his accomplishments in this inaugural awarding of the G. K. Gilbert Award. Bill exemplifies the depth of insights and breadth of interests that characterized the award’s namesake, G. K. Gilbert. Bill’s status in the scientific community is manifest in his election to the National Academy of Sciences and in several other honors he has received, including AGU’s 2009 Robert E. Horton Medal.

Bill is largely responsible for establishing geomorphology in AGU in its strong present role in the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes (EPSP) focus group. He was instrumental in organizing geomorphology-oriented sessions at the AGU Fall Meeting through his leading role in the Erosion and Sedimentation Subcommittee of the Hydrology section. A very significant part of his success in making AGU a primary outlet for fundamental geomorphologic research was his establishment of the Gilbert Club 25 years ago. This annual gathering immediately follows the AGU Fall Meeting and has become the premier scientific and social gathering for geomorphologists.

Many of the graduate students and postdocs working with Bill have become leading scientists in academic and government organizations. Beyond this traditional mentoring, however, Bill has been unselfish in cooperation and collaboration with the geomorphic community. He serves as a sounding board about research for many of our colleagues, and most of us have seen our theories and conjectures wither in the face of his incisive analysis.

Alan D. Howard, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville


In the early 1980s I started an annual 1-day gathering to discuss geomorphology in Berkeley on the Saturday after the annual AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. I whimsically called it the “Gilbert Club” and offered an open invitation to anyone to come join us. The whimsy, of course, was the use of the word a “club,” as there was no organization or affiliation, and in fact no “club”—rather just a deep admiration for G. K. Gilbert. We grew from 7 to nearly 300 attendees, and now “grandstudents” of the meeting are coming, doing pop-up statements, and painting the future for us. Geomorphology is a vibrant community, enabled with new tools, and rich with great unsolved problems.

The AGU Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group decision to award me its first G. K. Gilbert award was a shock and, as everyone saw at the awards ceremony, left me speechless. It is an exceptionally kind act. I share this award with the fantastic group of students and postdocs at Berkeley with whom I have been lucky enough to work. There are too many individuals to thank for this honor, but I must mention three. I am in this field because when I arrived at the University of Washington hungry to begin my graduate studies, I had the great fortune to be mentored by Tom Dunne and Jim Smith. We worked together in the field, debated at the blackboard, and continued the debate as we wrote papers. The joy of discovery was ever present. I must also thank Alan Howard, who has continuously shared his deep understanding of geomorphology and guided me in many research adventures. Finally, I thank the entire geomorphology community for being what it has become. We are truly fortunate.

William E. Dietrich , Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley