The first Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Gold Medal was awarded to Donald R. Nielsen, University of California-Davis. He was presented with the medal at the Third Kirkham Conference, held February 24-26, 2008, and sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and the Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF). The Kirkham Conference focuses on critical issues in soil physics and hydrology and is held every four years in honor of the late Don Kirkham, Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Professor of Physics at Iowa State University, and his wife Betty.
Dr. Nielsen is an Emeritus Professor of Soil and Water Science at the University of California-Davis, where during his tenure he was Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science and Chair of the Agronomy and Range Science Department and the Land, Air, and Water Resources Department. Nielsen received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arizona in Agricultural Chemistry and Soils, and in Soil Microbiology, respectively, and Ph.D. in Soil Physics at Iowa State University in 1958. He then joined the faculty at the University of California-Davis, remaining there for the duration of his distinguished career.
In spite of extensive administrative duties, Nielsen maintained a very active research and teaching program and guided 37 students through graduate degrees, many of which are current leaders in the field of soil physics. He was a pioneer in several areas of soil physics research, including linking theory with field measurements, the mixing and displacement of soil solution, and the application of statistics in spatial variability of agricultural soils. His initial work, Spatial variability of field-measured soil-water properties, was published in 1973 and is one of the most cited papers in all of scientific literature. Nielsen has been an author of more than 300 scientific publications and has served on editorial boards of numerous journals.
Nielsen has received numerous awards and achieved many distinctions in his field. He was president of SSSA in 1984 and the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) in 1991. He is an honorary member of the European Geophysical Society and the Romanian Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Science. He is a Fellow of SSSA, ASA, and the American Geophysical Union. In 1986, together with his colleague Dr. James W. Biggar, jointly received the first SSSA Soil Research Award and in 2001 received the Robert E. Horton Medal from the American Geophysical Union.
The Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Gold Medal is presented every eight years to commemorate career achievements of those most extraordinary individuals throughout the world who uniquely and consistently contribute to soil physics because of their inspirational teaching, research, and professional activities.
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Soil Science Society of America