Howard Receives 2013 G. K. Gilbert Award

Alan D. Howard received the 2013 G. K. Gilbert Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 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.”


howard_alan-dAlan Howard is the recipient of the 2013 Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group’s G. K. Gilbert Award.

Since 1963, Alan Howard has written papers that have defined the research frontier of Earth and planetary surface processes. Importantly, for this focus group, Alan has contributed significantly to both Earth and planetary science. It is difficult to find fundamental questions in geomorphology that Alan has not tackled and advanced our understanding of. His terrestrial research began with karst evolution and led to seminal papers in which theory is introduced to explain such key processes as channel network development, river meandering and floodplain formation, groundwater seepage erosion, and river incision into bedrock. Alan developed the first numerical landscape evolution model that coupled advective, diffusive, and threshold-controlled processes to explain controls on the topography under varying boundary conditions. Through this model he introduced the concept of detachment-limited processes.

Alan’s planetary research began in the 1970s, with a focus on Mars. Alan brought his considerable insight and modeling skills to the challenge of deciphering the landscape evolution and climate history of Mars. His initial work was on the polar caps of Mars. With his colleagues and students, he then made key geomorphic observations that make a compelling case that early Mars was likely warm and wet and that there was a subsequent period of large alluvial fan construction on crater walls.

Alan’s generosity in sharing ideas and models has inspired many. His leadership as the focus group chair has emphasized inclusion of young scientists. He has provided guidance and insight to generations of geomorphologists, helping us to see deeper into landscape processes and to read landscape morphology.
For all this Alan Howard is richly deserving of the G. K. Gilbert Award.

—WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley


I am deeply honored to receive this award associated with the luminous heritage of G. K. Gilbert. My interest in geology and, in particular, in landforms was triggered by family vacations in the western United States. These trips fostered the theme of the process controls of landscape morphology that has been central to my research.

As a consequence of funding obtained by my thesis advisor, Charlie Hunt, I had the great fortune to base my dissertation in the Henry Mountains region, the site of Gilbert’s great insights and a desert landscape where landscape form and function are readily decipherable. I was also indebted to the founders of the quantitative revolution in geomorphology, including Horton; Strahler; Leopold; and my “spiritual” advisor at Johns Hopkins, Reds Wolman. My entire career has been in the welcoming environment of Mr. Jefferson’s University and the Department of Environmental Sciences.

My research has greatly benefitted from interactions with many professional colleagues, most notably with Bill Dietrich, who has provided immeasurable inspiration during many field trips and late-night conversations. My venture into planetary aspects of geomorphology was initiated and fostered by Stephen Dwornik, erstwhile head of NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program. I am grateful to the many students from undergraduates through Ph.D. who have contributed time and insights into my research activities and productivity. Finally, my research would not have been possible without the support and nurture of my wife, Marlowe, who has been a constant companion and partner for 4 decades.

—ALAN D. HOWARD, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville