Professor Angela Gurnell
Professor of Physical Geography, Queen Mary University of London
Angela Gurnell commenced her research career with a BSc in Geography (awarded 1970) and subsequently a PhD (1973) and DSc (2000) from the University of Exeter. She was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Southampton in 1973 and then to Senior Lecturer and Reader. In 1994 she moved to the University of Birmingham, where she was awarded a personal chair in 1995. From 2002 to 2009, she was Professor of Physical Geography at King’s College London, serving as Head of the Department of Geography from 2003 to 2006. She then moved to her current post at Queen Mary University of London as Professor of Physical Geography.
Over five decades, Angela has conducted research within the field of river science. Her main interests are in the natural functioning of river systems and the ways in these systems respond to human interventions and pressures. At an early stage, she investigated the important but often overlooked role of vegetation in river system functioning, emphasising vegetation as a third crucial control on river channel dynamics in addition to the river’s flow and sediment transport regimes. This fundamental work led to applied research on the impacts of human actions on the character and condition of rivers. This applied research has included consideration of river flow regulation, sediment delivery to rivers resulting from land use change, vegetation management, invasions by non-native plant species, and the dynamics of all of these in the context of climate change. Recently, she has devoted considerable time to the promotion of Citizen Science, developing methodologies through which volunteers can contribute to understanding the physical condition of river systems. She also devised a method for professionals to assess river condition within the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ methodology for assessing Biodiversity Net Gain.
Throughout her career, Angela has led and contributed to numerous international and national projects in river science funded by both UK and European Union funding sources. She has also served on committees awarding research funding (e.g. chair of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s Freshwater Sciences Peer Review Committee); providing guidance on the management of rivers (e.g. member of the writing group: European Guidance Standard for Assessing the Hydromorphological Features of Rivers) and supporting NGOs in their work on river conservation and restoration (e.g. member of the Board of Trustees of The Rivers Trust).
In recognition of her fundamental and applied research contributions, she was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Victoria medal in 2002; the British Society for Geomorphology’s Linton medal in 2012; and the European Geosciences Union’s Alfred Wegener medal in 2021.