Tribute to Mike Edmunds 1941-2015
Professor Mike Edmunds 1941 – 2015
The UNESCO water community mourns the passing of Professor Mike Edmunds, a professor at Oxford University and one of the founders of G-WADI. He died after a short illness. Among his many contributions to the international community is G-WADI’s Geochemical and Isotopic Tracer section at http://www.gwadi.org/tools/tracers.
An obituary from his home institution, Oxford University, may be found at http://www.water.ox.ac.uk/in-memoriam-professor-w-mike-edmunds/. A 2009 summary of his academic career, in connection with his receipt of the Geological Society of America’s O.E. Meinzer Award (their highest honor for hydrogeology) is at http://www.geosociety.org/awards/09speeches/meinzer.htm.
That said, Mike’s lifetime contributions went far beyond academia, and a more personal tribute from one of his many UNESCO-IHP and G-WADI friends and colleagues may be found below:
Mike Edmunds: The Great Friend I Lost
(By Prof. Abdin Salih)
It is hard for me to write about the great loss we have suffered by the departure of Prof. Mike Edmunds from our world last month. What should I write? Is it about him, a great pillar in water sciences in arid zones; or the man who devoted a great part of his life in contributing to UNESCO’s water programs all around the globe; or about the outstanding lecturer who shared his great knowledge, in the most attractive way, to diverse listeners in universities, conferences, workshops and the public at large; or one of the key founding fathers of many UNESCO/IHP networks including the “Groundwater Protection” and “Wadi Hydrology” networks of the Arab region and the global G-WADI and its branches in Africa, the Arab region, Asia, Latin America and Europe; or above all, one of the most trusted and liked friends among our close water family circle.
I got to know Mike closely around 1995 when I invited him and Prof. Howard Wheater of Imperial College, at the time, to assist me, as the regional hydrologist of UNESCO for the Arab Region based in Cairo, in establishing two networks on “Groundwater Protection” and “Wadi Hydrology” in the Arab Region. The networks were thought of as solid contributions to the themes of the Fifth phase of the UNESCO IHP. With great dedication, volunteering attitude, willingness for knowledge sharing, and remarkable devotion, Mike and Howard provided high quality technical and management support to the establishment and running of the network for many years. When the fifth phase of IHP was evaluated in around 2002, these two networks received the highest praise by the evaluating external panel and by the UNESCO’s IHP Intergovernmental Council. This high quality level of performance would not have been reached, if it is not for Mike’s and Howard’s devotion and remarkable continued advice.
Based on the success of these two networks, the Intergovernmental Council of the IHP requested the continuation of this direction at a global level, focusing on arid zones. By that time I was transferred as the deputy secretary of the IHP in Paris and with the then secretary, Prof. Szollosi-Nagy, we thought that the best implementation of this order of the Council could start with inviting the experience of a few outstanding and devoted scientists to advise IHP on how to progress with this important initiative. The first names that came to our minds were: Prof. Mike Edmunds, Prof. Howard Wheater and Prof. Soroosh Soroshian of the University of Arizona at the time. They immediately accepted our invitation and we met together in Paris, where the idea of the current flagship of the IHP “G-WADI” was born in early 2003.
G-WADI stands for Global Network of Water and Development Information in Arid Zones. The selection of the acronym was meant to link with the successful achievements of the “Wadi Hydrology” and “Groundwater’’ Networks. Since 2003 the three men, with support from my side, have continued their leading commitment to G-WADI, till the sad departure of Mike, as the founding fathers of this successful network. Certainly Mike’s leadership and devotion to this network will be missed the most, not only at the global level, but also at the regional branches of G-WADI that he contributed significantly to their establishments in Asia, Africa, the Arab region, Latin America and Europe. Mike’s limitless and quality advice to the Asian G-WADI network, Arab network and African networks continued till his last days and thus will be missed all the more.
Mike’s contributions to UNESCO water programs continued after my transfer from Paris to Tehran from 2003 to 2007 as a Director of a cluster office covering a number of countries in the region. He remained, on my request, my main advisor in many water projects in Iran and West Asian Countries. Within that framework, he developed close professional links between his program at the University of Oxford and key water scientists and institutes in the countries of the region, particularly in Iran, Pakistan, India and China. No doubt they will all miss him as I do.
My close work with Mike continued beyond UNESCO’s program to cover the successful link we created between our Water Research Center at the University of Khartoum and his programs at the University of Oxford. This link is valued very much by my colleagues in the Center who on their part were shocked by his sad departure. I take this opportunity to assure his family and his colleagues in Oxford that from our side, we are firm in working hard to keep this relation active as a recognition of his devotion to sharing scientific results beyond political boundaries. He also responded to my call to provide high level technical advice to a groundwater project in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. His contribution was well appreciated by the high level team of scientists and Saudi colleagues at the High Commission for the Development of Riyadh. His lively presence created a friendly and enabling environment between all of us who worked with him in that project. They all expressed great sadness in his departure.
In spite of his family and academic commitments in Oxford, Mike was always there whenever I needed his professional and scientific advice. We were together in Sharm El-Sheik in Egypt last November and in January, this year, in Riyadh of Saudi Arabia, among colleagues and friends who loved him, being central in our working and leisure times. All of us always enjoyed his pleasant company that made our technical sessions more of a pleasure than mere formal technical meetings. We shall all miss him very much as a devoted scientist and a trusted friend, but in my case the loss is even greater.
My deep condolences and sympathy go to his wife and children who have to cope with his daily absence. I assure them that all of us (his close friends) share this great loss with them and I promise that, we (his close friends) shall keep his memory present in our meetings and always remembering the good times we had with him as a guiding ammunition to continue the noble work that he devoted his life to.
Prof. Abdin Salih
The University of Khartoum - Sudan
Former Member of the Secretariat of UNESCO