Land & Environment

QCNR Professor Joseph Wheaton Recognized with 2020 Gordon Warwick Award

By Traci Hillyard |

The year 2020 has changed how so much of the world is delivered, including the delivery of recognitions and awards. Joseph Wheaton, associate professor from the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources Watershed Sciences Department at Utah State University recently received the 2020 Gordon Warwick Award, for excellence in geomorphological research from the British Society for Geomorphology. 

Instead of delivering his acceptance lecture in the United Kingdom, Wheaton virtually appeared when he addressed his colleagues and challenged them to come together to collectively contribute to addressing and reversing urgent threats to the riverscapes. The presentation is available online at "Riverscape Health?  Science, Standards, Actions & Community."

Wheaton noted that riverscapes are the most impacted ecosystems on the planet. He stated that geomorphology is well poised to provide the science that could not only help underscore and quantify this scope of degradation, but also give the process insights into what could help improve riverscape health. Wheaton cautioned that the science is there and does not need to be reinvented, but rather, built from both past and current contributions. He argued that there is an urgent need to adopt standards for models, tools, analyses and datasets. 

“To truly innovate, we need to invest not just in research and development, but in deploying these solutions to tackle real-world problems at scale,” Wheaton said.
Watershed Department Head Patrick Belmont said that Joe is a trailblazer in watershed science and restoration. 

“Much of his early career involved utilizing and developing highly sophisticated techniques for mapping landscapes, measuring change over time and tracking gravel grains on their complicated path through braided channels,” Belmont said. “His more recent work is characterized by thinking holistically about river-landscape systems, understanding how humans, organisms and physical processes interact, and developing the most practical and feasible approaches possible to restore the health of riverscapes around the world.”

Belmont says that perhaps even more impressive is that Wheaton’s not only developing theory and writing impactful academic papers, but he’s putting it to work, leading restoration projects all throughout the Western U.S. and tirelessly offering workshops to train practitioners all over the world. 

“We are honored to have Joe as one of our colleagues here in the Department of Watershed Sciences and Quinney College of Natural Resources,” Belmont said.
The Gordon Warwick Award is presented by the British Society for Geomorphology by anonymous nomination for someone who is within 15 years of receiving their doctorate. It speaks highly of those who work hard in their field and are recognized for their efforts on a global scale. 


Traci Hillyard
Administrative Assistant
College of Science


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