No. 31 - 2019-09-15: Letter of New President Trevor J McDougall

No. 31 - 2019-09-15: Letter of New President Trevor J McDougall
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To IAPSO scientists

Written by Trevor McDougall, President IAPSO

OPEN LETTER No. 31 - 15 September, 2019


Dear IAPSO colleagues

At the most recent General Business Meeting of IAPSO in Montreal on 11 July 2019, during the 27th General Assembly of IUGG, I had the honour of being elected as the President of IAPSO for the 2019-2023 period.

In this letter I will outline the tasks on IAPSO's agenda in the coming years, but I also invite you, the ocean community, to provide feedback about new initiatives that you would like to see IAPSO undertake.

What does IAPSO do?

IAPSO has the prime goal of 'promoting the study of scientific problems relating to the oceans and the interactions taking place at the sea floor, coastal, and atmospheric boundaries insofar as such research is conducted by the use of mathematics, physics, and chemistry.' IAPSO works mainly through 1) biennial scientific assemblies; 2) working groups; 3) commissions; 4) services and 5) website information. Of special importance to IAPSO is the involvement of scientists and students from developing countries in oceanographic activities.

IAPSO maintains formal liaison with other scientific commissions and committees. These include the ISC's Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), and UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

IAPSO is the international body that is responsible for the scientific standards in our field, and it is this aspect of IAPSO activity that we seek to enhance with the IAPSO Best Practice Study Groups (see below). The remit of the IAPSO Best Practice Study Groups includes software and analysis procedures, and this is broader than the traditional remit of IAPSO which has concentrated its standards activity on the measurement of salinity and the calculation of the thermophysical properties of seawater.

Executive Committee for 2019-2023

Denise Smythe-Wright (UK), having completed her term as President, now becomes Past President. It is a pleasure to thank Denise for her leadership over the past four years and I welcome her help and guidance over the next four years. Stefania Sparnocchia (Italy) will continue for another term as Secretary General and Ken Ridgway (Australia) will also continue as Treasurer for 2019-2023.

The two Vice Presidents for 2019-2023 are Agatha de Boer (Sweden) and Hans van Haren (Netherlands). Christa von Hildebrandt-Andrade (USA and Puerto Rico) continues as a member of the executive. New members of the executive are Edmo Campos (Brazil), Juliet Hermes (South Africa), Yukio Masumoto (Japan), Jae-Hun Park (Republic of Korea) and Peter Zavialov (Russia).

Isabelle Ansorge and Eugene Morozov have been long-standing members of the IAPSO Executive Committee (in Eugene's case, 20 years, including a term as President), and we thank them for their valuable service, and farewell them from the committee. Also leaving the committee in July 2019 were Toshiyuki Hibiya, Chris Meinen and Satheesh Shenoi, and they are sincerely thanked for their many contributions to IAPSO.

The IAPSO Executive Committee membership for 2019-2023 is then as follows:
President: Trevor McDougall (Australia)
Past President: Denise Smythe-Wright (UK)
Secretary General: Stefania Sparnocchia (Italy)
Treasurer: Ken Ridgway (Australia)

Vice-Presidents: Agatha de Boer (Sweden)
                        Hans van Haren (The Netherlands)

Members: Edmo Campos (Brazil)
               Juliet Hermes (South Africa)
               Yukio Masumoto (Japan)
               Jae-Hun Park (Republic of Korea)
               Christa von Hildebrandt-Andrade (USA and Puerto Rico)
               Peter Zavialov (Russia)

IAPSO Activity in 2018/19

During 2018 and early 2019 much IAPSO activity was focused on planning for the IUGG 2019 General Assembly held in Montreal, Canada, from 8-18 July, 2019. The IAPSO scientific sessions included 11 IAPSO symposia (216 oral presentations and 94 posters) and 5 IAPSO-lead Association Joint symposia (111 oral presentations and 51 posters). IAPSO also co-sponsored 12 Joint symposia led by another Association (189 oral presentations and 104 posters). The program details can be found on the Assembly's website: The IUGG General Assembly attracted approximately 4000 participants, of which 360 registered as IAPSO. There were many quality presentations and much networking in the corridors. IAPSO is very grateful to the conveners for their extraordinary efforts both before and during the Assembly.

Prince Albert I Medal

A highlight of the Montreal Assembly was the awarding of the Prince Albert I Medal to Prof. Corinne Le Quéré FRS (University of East Anglia, United Kingdom), who gave her medal lecture on 'Decadal variability in the ocean CO2 sink'. Corinne is the tenth recipient of this medal.
An official call for nominations for the 2021 Prince Albert I Medal will be made towards the end of 2020 and I encourage IAPSO members and the international oceanographic community to start thinking about possible future candidates. The guidelines can be obtained from the IAPSO website (

Early Career Scientist Medals

During the Montreal IUGG General Assembly IAPSO awarded its first Early Career Scientist (ECS) Medals. The ECS Medal in Physical Oceanography was awarded to Gerard McCarthy (Maynooth University, Ireland) who gave a medal talk entitled 'Overturning variability with observations'. The ECS Medal in Chemical Oceanography was awarded to Dr. Mar Benavides (Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, France), who gave a medal talk entitled 'Nitrogen fixation across scales'. The award committee was greatly impressed by the number of high quality nominations for these ECS medals, and the two successful medallists gave brilliant talks.

Eugene Lafond Medal

IAPSO also awarded the Eugene Lafond Medal, to a developing world scientist who gave a notable paper at an IAPSO sponsored or co-sponsored symposium. Following the procedure, presentations (oral or poster) of self-nominating candidates were attended by a subset of the IAPSO Executive Committee and the Eugene LaFond Medal, 2019 was awarded to Mr. Rohith Balakrishnan, for his oral presentation 'Basin-wide sea level coherency in the tropical Indian Ocean driven by Madden-Julian oscillations' delivered on July 11, 2019 within the IAG-IAPSO joint symposium 'Monitoring Sea Level Changes by Satellite and In-Situ Measurements'.

IUGG 100 years anniversary

Formed in Brussels (Belgium) on 28 July 1919, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019. At the meeting in Brussels a Section of Physical Oceanography was also formed, which gave birth to the current IAPSO. To celebrate the centenary of the IUGG and its Associations, various initiatives have been implemented including:

  • a website that traces the history:;
  • the publication of the special issue of History of Geo- and Space Sciences (HGSS), 'The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics: from different spheres to a common globe',, including the paper led by Denise Smythe-Wright entitled "IAPSO: tales from the ocean frontier",;
  • the event 'Centennial International Cooperation in Earth and Space Sciences at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, FRANCE, 29 July 2019, program:¬† The Guest of Honour was HMSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and he made reference to the work of his great great grandfather who was the first President of IAPSO and applauded IAPSO's work. In turn Denise Smythe-Wright was able to thank him personally for his support of IAPSO and the IAPSO Prince Albert I medal.

IAPSO Early Career Scientist Working Group

An important initiative during 2018 was the establishment of the IAPSO Early Career Scientist Working Group. As a leading international association in ocean physics and chemistry, IAPSO will provide a significant platform for early career scientists to network and integrate into the scientific community. In November 2017, the President invited expressions of interest in setting up such a network and at the end of January 2018 the Group was established, chaired by Alejandra Sanchez-Franks (United Kingdom) and co-chaired by Malin √Ėdalen (Sweden). The first IAPSO ECS networking event was organized on 9 July, 2019, during the IUGG 2019 General Assembly in Montreal. About 30 young scientists participated. The email address, is active, and the working group welcomes new members.

IAPSO Best Practice Study Groups

In a new initiative, IAPSO has sent out a call (in early September 2019, to fund IAPSO Best Practice Study Groups. We expect to fund one of these per year. In carrying out oceanographic research, a choice must frequently be made between a few options for measuring data, analysing data, processing software, or modelling a system. The reasons for choosing between competing methods are often not well documented and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the options are usually not published or well known. An IAPSO Best Practice Study Group will address an issue such as this whose resolution will assist in the conduct of oceanographic research. Each Best Practice Study Group will receive up to US$10,000 towards the costs of a meeting.

The next IAPSO Assembly ‚Äď Busan 18-23 July 2021

IAPSO is now organizing the IAPSO-IMAS-IACS Joint Assembly in Busan, South Korea, from 18-23, July 2021. This will be a joint assembly between we oceanographers, atmospheric researchers, and the ice research community. A first planning meeting was held in Montreal, involving IAPSO, IAMAS and IACS officers. Information about the conference will be posted at The IAPSO Executive welcomes suggestions for symposia and for offers to act as convener. Please send these to Stefania Sparnocchia, our Secretary General (

The next IUGG General Assembly 2023

The next IUGG General Assembly will be held in Berlin in the northern summer of 2023.

With very best wishes,

 signature Trevor

Trevor J McDougall AC FRS FAA
Scientia Professor of Ocean Physics & ARC Australian Laureate Fellow
School of Mathematics and Statistics,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


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