Special Presentation: Walling Receives 2008 Hydrologic Sciences Award

Desmond E. Walling was formally presented with the 2008 Hydrologic Sciences Award at the Atmospheric Sciences, Biogeosciences, and Hydrology joint reception during the 2009 Joint Assembly, held 24–27 May 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The award is for outstanding contributions to the science of hydrology.


walling_desmondDes Walling’s award is based on his fundamental contributions to understanding the behavior of fine-grained sediment in the hydrologic cycle. For more than 2 decades he has been the major force behind international collaboration in research on fine sediment transport, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of sediment transported by rivers, as well as related work on contaminant transport, water quality, landscape dynamics, and sedimentation.

His career is characterized by a scientific approach aimed at in-depth analysis of mechanisms, sources, and rates. For example, he elucidated the role of flocculation in suspended sediment transport and explained the spatial variation of floodplain sedimentation. He used 137Cs and other radionuclides to determine sources of sediment while pioneering the use of fingerprinting approaches. He developed in-depth understanding of suspended sediment and solute rating curves and, at a much larger scale, yields of sediment to the world oceans.

With more than 350 refereed publications spanning a research career of 40 years, Des Walling’s exceptional productivity and impact continue today. Among his recent publications is the highly cited paper “Recent trends in the suspended sediment loads of the world’s rivers” (Global and Planetary Change, 39, 111–126, 2003). He and his coauthor assembled data from 145 major river systems to explore influences of climate change and other factors on sediment fluxes from land to the oceans.

While no other investigator has made comparable contributions to understanding the behavior of fine sediment transport, his exceptional scientific contributions are magnified by a warm, friendly personality and a lecture style that endears him to the students, colleagues, and numerous friends who have been fortunate to interact with him.

John L. Wilson, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro


In early November 2008, it was a shock to receive an unexpected telephone call from John Wilson informing me that I was the recipient of the 2008 AGU Hydrologic Sciences Award. That shock is now a source of pleasure. It is a great honor to be here at the AGU Joint Assembly in Toronto to receive the award and to respond briefly to the very generous comments on my achievements provided by John Wilson. I would like to make five points.

First, I would like to extend my thanks to those who nominated me. I am grateful to them for judging me worthy of nomination and for preparing what must have been seen as a very convincing case! Second, I would like to express my gratitude to AGU and its Hydrology section for giving me this award. It is indeed a great honor to have my name added to a list that includes so many key figures in the world of hydrology. Third, I would like to recognize my many coworkers, who have provided major input to my work over the past 40 years. I would like to share the award with them. Fourth, I would like to thank my mentors, and particularly Ken Gregory, who encouraged me to develop an interest in the sediment-related field, when others suggested that it was of little importance in a country such as the United Kingdom.

Finally, I would like to refer to what I see as my own journey during the course of my career. When I started my research, back in the late 1960s and 1970s, I looked to North America for inspiration and guidance. The latter was generously provided. It is a source of considerable pleasure to now return to North America to receive this award from AGU.

Desmond E. Walling, Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK