2018 President's Medal

Presented to Iain Stewart

Citation by Isabel Montanez

It is a great pleasure to present the 2018 President’s Medal to Iain Simpson Stewart in recognition of his exceptional and wide-ranging efforts in communicating and promoting the geosciences to the international public and scientific community and in promoting Earth science education in the U.K. A geologist with a fantastic Scottish trill, Iain holds at the University of Plymouth what may be the world’s sole professorship in Geoscience Communication. In tandem with an active research program in natural hazards and the interplay with humans, he has introduced the world to the element of surprise in the geosciences through several landmark Earth Science documentaries for the BBC, National Geographic, and Discovery. In turn, he has selfishly translated his ‘geocelebrity’ to promote the critical role that Earth Science plays in school curricula and the Geoparks initiative. His efforts to bridge the gap of communication between the scientific community and the public have been recognized by several previous awards including the Athelstan Spilhaus Award by the American Geophysical Union, the Senior Public Engagement Prize by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Outstanding Contribution to Public Understanding of the Geosciences award by the American Geosciences Institute.

2018 President's Medal — Response by Iain Stewart

It’s such a delight to receive the President’s Medal from the GSA, not least because my forays into public geoscience were guided by a past awardee, Roy Schlemon. At a 2002 London conference that I organised, I mentioned to Roy that I was leaving academia to try to make television shows around my research interests in seismic and volcanic hazards. Despite being a hazards specialist, Roy proffered that documentaries about geo-disasters might be a rather barren road to go down - geology should be about more than just how the planet could kill you. Months later, a television series that the BBC had commissioned from me on the Mediterranean’s violent geological history became recast as geology’s influence on the region’s architecture, art, food, and beliefs. Roy’s recognition that popular geoscience ought to connect with what ordinary people are interested in has been my template for a 15-year partnership with BBC Science and continues to shape the way that I convey Earth science to the public.