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11th Symposium Obituaries

At the 11th International Symposium in Guadalajara the IPA honoured the lives of Michael Richard Ronald Talbot and Jaan-Mati Punning for their lifetime contributions to palaeolimnology.

Mike Talbot (1943-2009)

Mike was born in Wales in 1943. His PhD in Geology at the University of Bristol was on “The Deposition and Diagenesis of the Corallian Beds of Southern England”. After several University positions, including a Lectureship in the University of Ghana, he moved to Bergen, Norway in 1981, becoming a Professor in 1984. He remained in Bergen at the Department of Earth Science, until his very untimely death just a few weeks ago.

As the title of his PhD suggests he started his professional career as a carbonate sedimentologist and he maintained an interest in carbonates throughout his career working on sediments from the Late Palaeozoic to Miocene.

In our community we know him best for his limnogeological research beginning with his pioneering work on the lake levels of lake Bosumtwi, stemming from the time he was at the University of Ghana. His first paper on Bosumtwi, published in Nature in 1977, was the start of a life-long interest in Bosumtwi and it was the beginning of a broader research programme that eventually encompassed almost all the large lakes in East Africa, carried out under the auspices of the IDEAL project (the International Decade for the East African Lakes project), focussing especially on the isotopic composition of organic matter as a proxy for lake level and climate change.

His career was also marked by his service to our research community in many different ways, through his helpful and influential reviews, most notably his paper on “Nitrogen isotopes in palaeolimnology” in the DPER Handbook series, through his work on the IDEAL project, as a co-founder and an executive committee member, through his major efforts to raise European funding for East African lake research through his Euro-Ideal initiative in 2001, through his membership of the Lake Drilling Panel for the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP), and closest to home as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Paleolimnology (2003 – 2009), a role he was filling up to the time of his death.

He was a complete academic – a devoted teacher and supervisor with extensive teaching experience from introductory undergraduate to postgraduate levels. He was an adviser to 60 M.Sc. and 14 Ph.D. students, an author of over 100 papers in refereed journals, books and special publications and in 2007 he received the W.H. Bradley medal for “his stellar research career as well as his dedicated services to the Limnogeology community.”

We will remember Mike as an outstanding scientist and a generous and sympathetic friend.

Jaan-Mati Punning (1940-2009)

We also remember Jaan-Mati Punning.

Mati was one of the most remarkable natural scientists and scientific leaders in Estonia. He was a professor of Geoecology in Tallinn University, the founder, director and leading scientist in the University’s Institute of Ecology and the long-term President of the Estonian Geographical Society.

He was born in Mooste in 1940 and graduated with a degree in Chemistry at Tartu University. His doctoral thesis in 1982 was on ‚the dynamics of glaciation processes during the Late-Pleistocene in Northern Eurasia‘ and he became the first person in Estonia to be awarded a doctor’s degree in the field of physical geography.

Mati had a wide vision, and his interests spanned many fields of environmental science, but he is best known in palaeolimnology for his work on lake-level fluctuations during the postglacial period, the impact of human activity on lake ecosystems, and the formation of the bottom sediments of Lake Peipsi and their palaeolimnological value. In all he published over 500 scientific articles and his research team received the Scientific Award of the Republic of Estonia in 1995.

Beyond his own research interests he contributed strongly to the development of environmental science in Estonia and in the nation’s science policy strategy taking an active role in the formation of Estonia’s scientific, educational and environmental policies and in particular leading the formation of the Estonian Council for Sustainable Development.

He was also a dedicated teacher, establishing a teaching programme in natural sciences at the Tallinn Pedagogical University and laying the foundation for masters and doctoral programmes.

His close colleagues have reported that his initiative and energy was hard to keep up with. He combined uncompromising science-based thinking and dynamic scientific leadership that was conducted with „an intense internal flare“ which inspired and illuminated several generations of scientists, allowing them to pursue their own goals. Estonia has lost one of its great natural scientists and we have lost a great palaeolimnologist, colleague and friend.


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