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Robert (Bob) Carter

(1942–2016)

Hon FRSNZ

 

Bob Carter Hon FRSNZ

Bob Carter Hon FRSNZ

 

Professor Robert (Bob) Carter was a renowned geologist and a brilliant teacher, research academic and public speaker. He was admired and respected across the globe for his many contributions to the geology of New Zealand, both on and off shore, the marine geology of the SW Pacific and, in later years, his profound scientific perspective on climate change.

Bob was born in the UK and at the age of 14 moved to New Zealand where he completed his secondary education at Lindisfarne College in Hastings.

In 1963 he completed an honours degree in geology at the University of Otago Dunedin and after a year of teaching there as an assistant lecturer in Geology, moved with his Invercargill-born wife Anne (nee Verngreen) to Cambridge in the UK to study for a PhD in Palaeontology. On completion of his degree Bob returned to Dunedin in 1968 where as a Senior Lecturer at Otago, he reinvigorated the geology department with his energy, enthusiasm, love of geological field work and his natural ability to inspire students and fellow staff members. Otago University funded his trip back to Dunedin on his undertaking to extend the geology department’s fossil reference collection. The four months of adventurous road travel by Bob and Anne involved collecting fossils throughout France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

During and after his tenure at Otago Bob, with fellow researchers and his students, published innovative papers on the stratigraphy and formational histories of the sedimentary basins in Southland, Canterbury and Wanganui and in similar terrain along coastal California. Some of their interpretations are still cited today.

By the mid 1980s Bob recognised that the Plio-Pleistocene basins of New Zealand presented an opportunity to contribute to the rapidly developing sub-discipline of sequence stratigraphy. The research program ran for about a decade and was based around PhD projects in the Hawke’s Bay (Doug Haywick), Wanganui (Gordon Saul and Steve Abbott), and Wairarapa (Paul Gammon) basins. Bob enjoyed renewing his interaction with the New Zealand Geoscience community including Brad Pillans, Alan Beu (molluscs) and Norcott de Hornibrook (forams). Along the way there were journal articles published as well as NZGS conference field trips, a JCU field workshop, a visit to JCU by Peter Vail (a co-inventor of sequence stratigraphy), and Bob’s AAPG Distinguished Lecturer tour. In the late 1990s Tim Naish, (then a JCU Post Doctoral Fellow), led the synthesis of the Wanganui Basin work that culminated in a series of papers that presented an integrated cyclostratigraphy for the basin. The New Zealand outcrop work led by Bob continues to be well cited in journal articles and textbooks

In 1981 Bob, with Anne and their two children, moved to Townsville in Queensland to take up the Geology Chair at James Cook University, a position he held until he retired from full time teaching in 1998. During that period Bob moved the JCU geology department beyond its narrow focus on mineral deposits and added several other disciplines, including marine science that achieved international repute under his leadership.

Although based in North Queensland, Bob still maintained his research focus on NZ sequence stratigraphy. Bob recognised that the Plio-Pleistocene basins of New Zealand presented an opportunity to contribute to the rapidly developing sub-discipline of sequence stratigraphy. From the mid 1980’s his research program ran for about a decade and was based around PhD projects in the Hawke’s Bay (Doug Haywick), Wanganui (Gordon Saul and Steve Abbott), and Wairarapa (Paul Gammon) basins. Bob enjoyed renewing his interaction with the New Zealand Geoscience community including Brad Pillans, Alan Beu (molluscs) and Norcott de Hornibrook (forams). Along the way there were journal articles published as well as NZGS conference field trips, a JCU field workshop, a visit to JCU by Peter Vail (a co-inventor of sequence stratigraphy), and Bob’s AAPG Distinguished Lecturer tour. In the late 1990s Tim Naish, (then a JCU Post Doctoral Fellow), led the synthesis of the Wanganui Basin work that culminated in a series of papers that presented an integrated cyclostratigraphy for the basin. The New Zealand outcrop work led by Bob continues to be well cited in journal articles and textbooks

Throughout his so-called retirement, Bob did not let up but continued his studies on the Great Barrier Reef, palaeoclimatology, sea level rise and stratigraphy. He was a research scientist on two International Ocean Drilling Program cruises in the Pacific, and he participated in several ship-borne geophysical and geological surveys on the continental shelf around New Zealand in collaboration with Dr. Lionel Carter of the New Zealand Geological Survey. Many ground breaking scientific papers stemmed from this work.

During his 50 year long scientific career, Bob mentored hundreds of students, travelled and lectured on almost every continent, spoke at scores of international science conferences, published 128 peer reviewed scientific papers (many with co-workers), served on a host of scientific organizations and advisory committees, edited innumerable publications and conference proceedings and wrote two books – Climate: The Counter Consensus (2010) and Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change (illustrated by John Spooner, 2013).

Bob received many honours and awards including the New Zealand Geological Society’s Outstanding Research Career Award, Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science Award by the Heartland Institute, USA.

Bob was better known in recent years for his outspoken and clearly articulated science-based views on climate and how recent changes and trends were nothing unusual when compared to historical climate fluctuations including those in the geologic past. Bob was a fearless and captivating public speaker on this subject and quietly fended off frequent ad hominem attacks with facts, logic and good humour. His reputation and credibility on climate science were such that he addressed select parliamentary committees in several countries, gave private briefings to politicians across the board including one head of state and was a witness to the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Bob was a primary science witness on the Project Hayes Wind Farm Environment Court Case in Otago, New Zealand and also on the U.K. High Court Case which identified nine major scientific errors in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”.

His final effort at bringing scientific rationality to the political climate juggernaut was in Paris last November during the United Nations COP21 Conference where he delivered three public lectures.

Bob Carter was a gentleman scientist of great passion, conviction and intellect who loved debate and treated everyone, including those who opposed and attacked him, with civility and respect. Bob has left a positive mark worldwide on geological science, many institutions of learning, the climate change debate and hundreds of individuals, especially fellow warriors fighting to maintain freedom of speech, reinstate and strengthen the scientific method and minimize political and agenda influence on scientific discourse and related public policy. He will be greatly missed.

Bob is survived by his wife Anne and daughter Susan in Townsville and his son Jeremy and family in Sydney, Australia.

 

Anne C Carter

Lodged on website 8 July 2016