Oxford University Professor Heather Viles has been awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s 2020 Founder’s Medal for her work in the field of biogeomorphology.

The Royal Geographical Society has been recognising excellence in geographical research, fieldwork, and teaching since 1832. This year, 22 people and organisations were awarded medals for their contributions.

Previous recipients include Sir David Attenborough, Professor Diana Liverman, and Professor Andrew Goudie. Medals are approved by the Queen each year. Professor Viles has been recognised for establishing the new field of biogeomorphology, which is centred on the interplay between organisms and geomorphology.

Professor Viles’s main areas of interest include geomorphology and heritage science. In recent years her research has focused on biological contributions to geomorphology, weathering, geomorphology and landscape evolution in extreme environments, and building stone decay and conservation. Last year, she was awarded the Geomorphology Specialty Group’s Melvin G. Marcus lifetime career award. She currently holds the title of President of the British Society for Geomorphology.

On receiving the award, Professor Viles told Cherwell: “I am delighted and amazed to receive this award and thank everyone who has helped, and continues to help me in my geographical journey.”

Baroness Lydia Chalker, President of the Royal Geographical Society, said: “Professor Viles has been instrumental in establishing the field of biogeomorphology and the development of nature-based solutions for heritage conservation. Her quality research has made significant contributions on topics from extreme landscape evolution to building stone conservation, yet her commitment to the advancement of geographical science is also demonstrated by her leadership. Her championing and support of the discipline among students, academic peers, and the wider public are why Heather is a worthy recipient of the Society’s highest recognition.”

The Royal Geographical Society will host a ceremony presenting the medals when social distancing measures have been lifted later on in the year.