The 2016 Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award is awarded to Pierre Valla for his contributions to the study of surface processes and landscape evolution through innovative dating approaches.
Pierre Valla’s research is at the forefront of geomorphology and thermochronology, and has produced important contributions to our understanding of the impact of glaciations on the evolution of the Earth’s surface. His efforts have included involvement in the development of emerging high-resolution, ultra-low temperature thermochronometry techniques, including luminescence and 4He/3He thermochronometry, which are revolutionising our abilities to reconstruct landscape evolution on the timescale of glacial-interglacial cycles. During his PhD work, Valla used a multidisciplinary approach including thermochronometry, forward and inverse thermo-kinematic modelling, and modelling of landscape evolution by both fluvial and glacial processes to demonstrate that glacial erosion profoundly modified the landscape of the European Alps, carving deep glacial valleys starting about 1 My ago.
During successive post-doctoral fellowships after obtaining his PhD in 2011, Valla continued studying the glacial impact on landscapes and the interplay between tectonics and glaciations in controlling landscape development in areas including Norway and the St. Elias Range of Alaska. This work has led to the recent realisation that the glacial impact on erosion rates is not globally synchronous but is recorded earlier at high latitudes and subsequently migrates to lower latitudes. He also became increasingly involved in efforts to establish luminescence-based methods for both thermochonometric and surface-exposure dating applications.
Valla’s work has been widely recognised as original and thorough, reflecting a powerful combination of his complementary skills in field geomorphology, geochemical methods, and numerical modelling. Valla, who currently holds a prestigious Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Fellowship at the University of Lausanne, has developed a wide range of collaborations and already published on a broad range of topics. He is actively serving the community as a reviewer of numerous manuscripts and research proposals and a convener of multiple scientific sessions, in particular at the EGU General Assemblies. For all these reasons, Pierre Valla is a worthy recipient of the Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award.