Mentoring inspires donation to honour outstanding Earth sciences research

July 14, 2017
The Anton Hales Medal gives career encouragement to young earth scientists.
Associate Professor Juan Carlos Afonso was awarded the medal in 2017.

The Academy’s Anton Hales Medal has so far rewarded the extraordinary achievements of nine early-career researchers who are studying our planet. 

The medal is named in honour of the late Professor Anton Hales FAA. Originally from South Africa, the geophysicist’s impressive career spanned three continents and covered nearly nine decades.

The first recipient in 2009 was Professor Jeffrey Walker, a leading Australian expert on the remote sensing of soil moisture.

Walker has gone on to make further significant contributions in the field, including developing algorithms to derive high resolution soil moisture imagery from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite of NASA. The orbiting observatory measures the amount of water in the top five centimetres of soil everywhere on Earth’s surface.

The ninth and most recent recipient of the Medal is Associate Professor Juan Carlos Afonso. He is at the forefront of revolutionising the way that geoscientists interpret the signals they obtain from deep in the Earth by geophysical methods.

The other recipients were rewarded for their research into fossil records, seismic data, global climate, the evolution and dynamics of the solid Earth, weather, groundwater, and seabed sediments.

Professor Hales moved to the Australian National University from the United States as foundation Director of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the age of 62.

Professor McDougall was one of the first members of staff recruited to Hales’s new school, where they worked together over the following decades. Like Hales, McDougall is also an internationally distinguished Earth scientist.

Following Hales’s death in 2006 at the age of 95, a gift from the McDougalls saw the establishment of an award named in his honour.

Known for his capacity for mentoring, the award not only honours Hales but gives career encouragement to young Earth scientists. 

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