Past GSAQ medal recipients - image courtesy GSAQ

2006 Neville Stevens Medal Winner

Dr Malcolm Cox
Malcolm Cox's Citation

Malcolm Cox was nominated for this medal for his professional service to the broader geological community and government and, in particular, for his major contributions to public awareness and education about water issues and long-term professional training of hydrologists and continuing interaction with the public in the critical area of water management and environmental protection in southeast Queensland.


Malcolm Cox (left) and Neville Stevens (right).
Dr. Malcolm Cox is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Natural Resource Sciences at the Queensland University of Technology where he heads up the Quaternary Earth & Water Systems Program. He obtained a BA (Earth Science) from Macquarie University and a MS in Geochemistry/Hydrogeology from the University of Hawaii before attaining his PhD from the University of Auckland in 1986. He came to QUT in 1991 following a stint in Brisbaneas a consultant to the mineral exploration industry.  Since that time, apart from establishing a major strength at QUT in training many of Queensland’s hydrogeologists, Mal has been very active in a wide range of external activities, including consulting for government and non-government organisations and providing information and guidance to the public in areas of catchment management and environmental concerns. One of his major aims and strengths has been in producing community relevant research and then communicating the scientific outcomes in “community-friendly” formats specifically targeted at the wide variety of public end-users and stakeholders. This community-minded approach has been a major strength of Mal’s program and has gone hand-in-hand with efforts towards public education regarding water in southeast Queensland. It has also allowed him to attract some top student talent to the areas of hydrogeology and environmental quality research, thus feeding the state’s need for well trained professionals in these critical areas. Some of Mal’s major accomplishments are summarised below.

Service to the geological profession: Mal has been a member of Geological Society of Australia since 1971. He has been particularly active in the International Association of Hydrogeologists, serving as a Committee Member of the Queensland Branch from 1993-1994 and the President of the Queensland Branch in 1994. From 1995 to 1997 he was a member of the National Executive Committee and editor of the IAH National Newsletter.

Service to state, shire and local government: Mal served on the curriculum advisory committee for TAFE in 1995, and from 2000 to 2005 he was a member of several state government resource planning workshops and committees (e.g., CIRM). From 1999-2002 he ran a collaborative research program with the Gold Coast City Council under National Heritage Trust Funding (groundwater systems of the Pimpama area) in conjunction with the NE Albert Landcare, and From 2000 to 2002 he ran a collaborative research program with Caboolture Shire Council and DPI Forestry (groundwater systems of the Pumicestonecatchment and Bribie Island) in conjunction with PRCCA. He ran environmental/data planning meetings for the Caboolture Shire Council in 2003 to 2005. He has also run one day hydrogeological workshops at Beerburrum and Gympie. Mal maintains ongoing collaborative association in training, shared research, data and outcomes with NRM&W, mainly concerning groundwater and a number of funded projects for plantation hydrology and management at Bribie, Beerburrum and Fraser Coast Estate with DPI Forestry.

Service to community and catchment groups: Mal has interacted with a large number of community groups in relation to research generated in different catchments and has acted as scientific representative for groundwater and environmental issues for many of those groups. Some of his major involvement includes the following: Lockyer Valley Catchment Coordination Association – Forest Hill (1993-1996); Land Care and Salt Watch, Boonah-Mt Alford (1995-1998); Bribie Island Environment Protection Association (BIEPA)( 1995-1997); Wetlands Association of Concerned Citizens (WACC), Meldale (1996); NE Albert Land Care and Cane Growers Association (1997-2001); Pumicestone Region Catchment Coordination Association (PRCCA) – Caboolture (1998-2003). More recently Mal convened a two-day conference (PASSCON 2000) on Pumicestone catchment research and management issues, which was held at QUT Carseldine campus on 22-23 November, 2000. He then edited the Proceedings: “Science Informing Catchment Management.” From 2004-2006 Mal was on the Scientific Expert Panel, Lyngbya Working Group helping to plan science integration towards policy in association with Moreton Bay Partnership and Healthy Waterways. In 2005 and 2006 he is a member of the scientific expert committee of the Lockyer Water Users Forum (LWUF) on groundwater matters and is working with them and SEQC to develop a substantial application to the National Water Fund for water resource research and management.

Mal has also been very active in broader community education. In 2001 he presented a talk on “geology and groundwater of the Brisbane area” (in memory of John Laycock) to the U3A (University of the Third Age). In 2003 he made special presentations on groundwater and water quality studies in the Lockyer Valley to the Lockyer Catchment Association and gave a talk: “Groundwater in the sand islands of Moreton Bay” to the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences, Symposium - Water: Cultural and Scientific Perspectives. To reach much larger and younger audiences, Mal helped produce an educational CD entitled “Water Tours’ together with his postdoctoral student Michaela Preda. The CD contains a wide range of educational vignettes on the science of water and hydrological systems, using Australian and Queensland examples, and is distributed free to schools and community organisations. He also established the Lockyer Groundwater Web (ww.lockyerwater.com) in 2006 to support groundwater research in the Lockyer Valley, and to provide a scientific knowledge base for the community.

In Summary: Mal’s passion for hydrogeology has been a mainstay of research and research training in southeast Queensland in this increasingly critical area. However, far from conducting research from an ivory tower, Mal has continually striven to focus on the research needs of the community at large and to get his research outcomes into the public where they can be immediately utilised. This ‘pro bono’ approach to science and education is all the more critical at this time, when we face immense problems relating to water issues and land use. Mal Cox has certainly done more than his share and it is my pleasure to nominate him for the 2006 Neville Stevens Medal.

Response of thanks by Malcolm Cox
I thank the Queensland Branch of GSA for considering me for the Neville Stevens Medal.  It is both a surprise and an honour.

Some of you may not know me well.  I am a hydrogeologist, and my research and teaching lie mainly in groundwater and related disciplines.   As a result I am a member of IAH, however, I have been a member of GSA much of the time since I was a student at Macquarie Uni in 1970.

Geology in groundwater studies is very important.  Understanding of the physical framework of groundwater systems is essential in understanding hydrological processes.   In fact, many groundwater models are limited by poor initial conceptual hydrogeological models.

A basic part of my own research and that of my research students is working with individuals, community groups, and local and state government.  This has led to some effective collaboration, and also resulted in much grass roots interest in the geosciences.  We have found that the community responds remarkably well to scientific presentations in a “community friendly” format.

I am sure that all of you will have obtained much assistance and knowledge from local people in your field areas.  Personally I have not yet met someone who is not interested in groundwater in their region.  This usually leads to some interesting conversations, but it is important to correct some of the misconceptions.   For example, groundwater from Toowoomba does not recharge Stradbroke Island, nor does   groundwater flow from Papua New Guinea to Victoria via the Great Artesian Basin.

I greatly admire the user-friendly nature of the books and reports Neville Stevens has produced, and consider them a valuable educational resource.  This certainly also applies to his colleague Warwick Willmott who continues this traditional, and received the inaugural Stevens Medal in 2002.  I believe that enabling the community to better understand the total environment and how it works is crucial for future resource sustainability, and geoscience awareness is a major part of this.

Again I thank Queensland GSA for the award.