Porporato Receives 2016 Hydrologic Sciences Award

Amilcare Porporato will receive the 2016 Hydrologic Sciences Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology.


If a researcher asked me why hydrology is important and what beauty it encompasses, I would answer: “read some articles by Porporato.” He has explored many facets of this discipline, finding new links between processes, and advancing fundamental knowledge. He has written works that are exemplary for clarity, elegance, and deep understanding.

Amilcare is recognized as one of the “fathers” of ecohydrology. His groundbreaking research about the interactions among climate, soil, and vegetation; the ecohydrologic drivers of carbon and nitrogen cycles; and the complex relationship between soil moisture and microbial activity are landmark studies. And these are only examples of how his work has contributed decisively to move hydrology’s boundaries toward important and fascinating new horizons. I’d like to recall here also his strong interest in fluid mechanics. Amilcare’s interest in a variety of new research areas speaks for his intellectual curiosity and love for knowledge, which have allowed him to break down artificial barriers between disciplines and unleash his creativity.

Amilcare has been an exceptional mentor for students and postdocs, as testified by a remarkable placement record in faculty positions at major research institutions around the world. Many of us have appreciated his generosity of ideas and time. He mentors junior scientists, collaborates with colleagues, and serves the science community with energy and the same youthful and contagious enthusiasm as when I first met him many years ago.

I have known Amilcare for almost 3 decades. I was lucky to see him grow as a scientist, showing from the start his great originality and depth of thought, capacity to grasp the essential aspects of the questions, and his genuine passion for study and research. These are all qualities he has kept, refined, and nurtured over the years. We expect from him still so many good ideas and new topics.

—Luca Ridolfi, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy


Thank you, Luca, for your very generous words. They bring me back to 1992 when you invited me for a Ph.D. and told me: “You’ll have the opportunity to study interesting things and to travel.” I can confirm now that you were absolutely right! Indeed, I find hydrology very interesting for its connections to many aspects of physics and life. The elegant theories of fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and probability help us deal with its complexity, while biology is required if we are to advance toward sustainability.

I accept this honor with gratitude and humility. The journey has been exciting and I owe much of the little I deserve of this award to many wonderful people: my family, the mentors and colleagues at the Polytechnic (Luca Ridolfi, professors Sordo and Butera, Roberto Revelli, Paolo Perona, Francesco Laio, Davide Poggi, Carlo Camporeale, and many others), and the inspiring and life-changing encounter with Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe. Here in the U.S., I’ve had the good fortune to meet new friends: especially Paolo D’Odorico, John Albertson, and Gaby Katul. Duke provided me with the freedom and support to pursue my research with exceptional students: Edoardo Daly, Stefano Manzoni, Giulia Vico, J.R. Rigby, Federico Maggi, Annalisa Molini, Francesco Viola, Gianluca Botter, Samir Suweis, Simonetta Rubol, Xue Feng, Jun Yin, Tony Parolari, Yair Mau, Mark Bartlett, Sara Bonetti, Norm Pelak, Salvatore Calabrese, and Samantha Hartzell. I have interacted with a fine group of editors with WRR and HYP. The list of thanks would be incomplete if I did not mention fruitful interactions with Mark Parlange and Andrea Rinaldo and the memorable discussions with Wilfried Brutsaert at EPFL, friends at UFPE (Brazil), and more recently Jeff McDonnel.

I am deeply grateful for the support of the hydrologic community and AGU and to the distinguished colleagues who sponsored my nomination.

—Amilcare Porporato, Duke University, Durham, N.C.