Gary Parker

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Election Year: 2017
Primary Section: 15, Geology
Membership Type: Member


Gary Parker is a specialist in the field of river and deep-sea sediment morphodynamics. He works with theoretical, numerical and experimental techniques to explain such problems as why and how rivers meander, how rivers self-construct their own channels, how rivers sort sediment, how turbidity currents run out long distances in the ocean and how they excavate submarine canyons. Parker’s interest in sediment transport in rivers was sparked by a class on the subject taught by Prof. L Brush of Johns Hopkins University in 1971. In 1972, Dr. Alvin Anderson offered him the chance to perform doctoral research on river meandering at the University of Minnesota. At the same university, Dr. Roger Hooke of the Department of Geology introduced him to supraglacial meltwater meandering. Parker was first a faculty member at the University of Alberta, Canada (5 years), and then at the University of Minnesota (25 years). He is presently at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he has been located for 12 years.

Research Interests

Gary Parker’s essential interest concerns how the flow of water and the transport of sediment interact to create patterns, indeed often highly appealing ones, in nature. These patterns include deltas, continental shelves, dendritic drainage networks, river meandering and braiding, submarine canyons, patterns of sediment sorting, cyclic steps in alluvial and bedrock rivers, as well as the deep sea, dispersal of tracer stones, formation of channel-floodplain complexes, deep-sea minibasin sedimentation and turbidity current dynamics. Applications include delta rehabilitation, design of mine waste disposal plans, reservoir sedimentation, riverbank protection, restoration of streams for salmonid spawning, dam removal and floodwater extraction. Parker’s tools are primarily theoretical, numerical and experimental. He partners with experts in field research to add this essential component. Parker has strong international research connections, in particular to Japan, Italy, the Netherlands and China. His research has been enriched by interaction with researchers from diverse fields and countries.

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