The Society’s medals and awards have been recognising outstanding achievements in geography since 1831. From geographical research, fieldwork and teaching, to photography, public engagement and policy impact, the awards acknowledge the work of geographers, scientists, teachers, early-career researchers, policy makers and artists.
The first award, given just a year after the Society’s inception, was a gift of 50 guineas that was awarded with royal approval ‘for the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery’. Five years later, this monetary award was presented as a royal medal. By 1839, the single royal medal had been split into the Founder’s Medal and the Patron’s Medal, both of equal standing. These medals are among the highest honours of their kind in the world and are still approved by HM The Queen. Previous royal medallists include Sir David Attenborough, Sylvia Earle and Professor Edward O Wilson.
This year’s medals and awards were presented by the Society’s Immediate Past President, Nicholas Crane, during a prestigious ceremony in the Ondaatje Theatre, where 21 individuals were recognised for their outstanding achievements and contributions to geography.
Explorer, broadcaster, field scientist and author Paul Rose received the Founder’s Medal for his work on scientific expeditions and enhancing public understanding. One of the most experienced science divers and polar explorers alive today, he said: ‘In 1965, on a school trip to the Brecon Beacons, my geography teacher proved to me that I was right to have the desire for travel, field science and adventure. I’ve followed those instincts and have admired geographers ever since!’
Nicholas Crane said: ‘Paul Rose has been leading expeditions for over 30 years, collaborating with the world’s top field scientists to unlock the secrets of remote and challenging parts of the globe. He not only makes expeditions happen, but ensures they deliver in terms of science and greater public understanding. Paul exemplifies the power of scientific expeditions to transform lives and
is an inspiration.’
Professor Yadvinder Malhi was presented with the Patron’s Medal for world leading studies on the impact of climate change on tropical ecosystems. An inspiring speaker and teacher, Yadvinder has been the catalyst for many of his students to become involved in rainforest research. He said: ‘I am delighted and humbled to be awarded the Patrons’ Medal, not only for myself but also in recognition of the many colleagues and students across the world, and especially in the tropics, with whom I have worked. I also see this as an indication of how central the subject of geography, with its inherent multidisciplinary nature, can be in addressing some of the most fundamental challenges of our century.’
Meanwhile, Professor Wendy Larner and Professor Bhaskar Vira join both Paul and Yadvinder on the medals boards at the Society, having been awarded the Victoria Medal and Busk Medal respectively.
Natasha Wallum has been awarded the 2018 Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize for her undergraduate dissertation: Modelling the Effects of Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise on Complex Soft Cliff Coastlines. Her work was commended by the judges as a study that develops a practical and valuable tool for both coastal management and land use planning.
Natasha said: ‘I am very proud and honoured to be awarded this prestigious prize. I am delighted that my hard work and dedication have received such a high level of recognition and am most grateful to my lecturers at the University of Southampton who have inspired and supported me throughout.’
This was published in the August 2018 edition of Geographical magazine
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