The 2014 Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award is awarded to Robert Hilton for innovative contributions to the identification of the role of mountain belts in the global organic carbon cycle.
Robert Hilton is at the forefront of a new and rapidly growing research field: the identification of the role of mountain belts in the global organic carbon cycle. He was among the first to recognise the role of surface processes, including landslides and runoff in steep mountain streams, in mobilising (and potentially sequestering) organic carbon in active mountain belts. His work has revealed that the fluxes of organic carbon in such settings, especially after major storm events, are globally significant and may represent a previously overlooked component of the carbon cycle. Hilton has also carried out pioneering work on the use of isotopic analyses to understand organic carbon mobility and dynamics in active orogens. His current research is concerned with further details of the role of geomorphic processes in the global carbon cycle. Using the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan, China, as a case study, he looked at the effects of major earthquakes on carbon cycling and sequestration in tectonically active mountain belts. In addition, Hilton’s work is concerned with the geomorphic controls on nitrogen isotopes in mountain forests, and the oxidation of fossil carbon in stream systems. His work at the forefront of geociences makes him an outstanding recipient of this award.