The Ruth Patrick Award is given to aquatic scientists who have made sustained contributions towards solving an environmental problem. ASLO has awarded Drs. Josette Garnier and Gilles Billen of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris with this year’s Ruth Patrick Award in acknowledgement of their sustained, innovative, high-impact contributions to the science and policy of eutrophication in rivers and estuaries, both at home and around the globe. The award will be presented at the ASLO 2016 Summer Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 5-10, 2016.
Garnier and Billen have amassed an impressive record of sustained research on the biogeochemistry of rivers and estuaries, spanning scales from individual rivers to multi-river basin, ecosystem-level concepts. In nominating the team, colleagues noted Billen and Garnier’s knack for creating elegant interpretations of complicated concepts: "Elegance is a signature of their work, and is particularly valuable in translating environmental science to policy."
Indeed, Garnier and Billen’s research has had a significant impact on policy, both in their home country of France and at the European scale. Their sustained, combined efforts to advance the science and policy of the Seine River Basin have been particularly impressive. As founding members, participants, and leaders of the Programme Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur l’Environnement de la Seine (PIREN-Seine) program, Gilles and Josette have carried out a program of science that has significantly increased knowledge of aquatic biogeochemistry. Their work has supported sound environmental policy through activities such as their involvement in writing the Seine Basin water management plan (SDAGE) and development of the river models that are utilized daily by local authorities to make decisions about investment priorities or manage the complex sewerage system of Paris. They have also participated in the development of "water prospectives" for the basin, a mechanism to share knowledge between scientists, managers and other river stakeholders. Extending the reach of their work, the duo have been proactive in using the Seine as a model system to improve understanding of river nutrient and carbon cycling in other regions.
Garnier and Billen have sought to improve the ability to forecast future water quality. Garnier recently developed the Indicator for Coastal Eutrophication Potential, which indicates potential impact of coastal nutrient loading on phytoplankton communities, while Billen’s research has been incorporated into the influential Riverstrahler model, used to explore scenarios for water resources management.
The joint award to Garnier and Billen acknowledges their enduring professional collaboration. In nominating the pair, John Harrison of Washington State University noted the positive impact of their partnership: "Impressive as individuals, it is clear that the two have a synergistic effect on each other. Since they started publishing together in the mid-1990s, their productivity has truly soared, and they have published, advised students, and worked together at a level that is unusual and truly inspiring."
Josette Garnier and Gilles Billen have successfully developed an internationally recognized scientific activity (PIREN-Seine); constructed scientific networks at the regional, European and global levels; and contributed their time and expertise to the development of water and agricultural policies for the Seine River basin. "Ruth Patrick once stated that her ‘great aim has been to diagnose the presence of pollution and develop means of cleaning things up’. Through their outstanding body of research on biogeochemistry and their application of that work to water resources management, Gilles Billen and Josette Garnier have helped move society closer to achieving Ruth Patrick’s goal. It is very fitting that they be awarded with the award bearing Ruth Patrick’s name," said ASLO President Jim Elser.