National medal for Flinders groundwater scientist

craig-simmonsThe Australian Academy of Science has acknowledged the outstanding work of Flinders hydrogeologist Professor Craig Simmons with the award of the 2011 Anton Hales Medal for research in the earth sciences.

The prestigious national award, established in 2009, is made to outstanding researchers under 40 years of age, and recognises Professor Simmons’ “transforming” influence in the discipline of hydrogeology.

An internationally acknowledged expert in the study of groundwater hydrology, Professor Simmons’ numerous publications have been widely cited. He was appointed Director of the Flinders-based National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training in 2009.

Flinders Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber warmly congratulated Professor Simmons on the award.

“Craig Simmons is an outstanding scientist. He is now recognised among the world leaders in the field of hydrogeology. This is vital work: how we use our groundwater resources is one of the major issues affecting Australia’s future growth and sustainability,” Professor Barber said.

Professor Simmons said his special interest, variable density groundwater flow phenomena, is an important groundwater process where the salinity and temperature of groundwater control its movement. It is important in a wide range of settings including processes beneath salt lakes, geothermal systems, seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers, and in understanding how plumes of contaminated water move underground.

Professor Simmons is responsible for major advances in computer modelling and laboratory experimentation that have significantly improved our understanding of the action of underground density driven convection. He and colleagues recently published pioneering work on the very first field based detection of free convection in a groundwater system – a major international discovery. Professor Simmons has also contributed major theoretical advances on how geologic heterogeneity controls dense plume migration.

“A lot of work has assumed that the underground world is a simple, homogeneous sandy aquifer: in reality it is geologically complex and messy. Understanding how a dense plume moves through this geological maze has posed major theoretical and practical challenges for hydrogeology. Our recent work has shed a great deal of light on this matter,” Professor Simmons said.

As well as its implications for water resource management, Professor Simmons said that a better fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of variable density groundwater flow phenomena also has applications in areas that include mineral exploration, the disposal of nuclear waste and carbon sequestration.

Professor Simmons will receive his Academy Medal at the Academy’s annual 3-day celebration of scientific excellence and achievement being held from 4 to 6 May 2011 at the Shine Dome, Canberra.

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