Jim Best holds the Jack and Richard Threet Chair in Sedimentary Geology in the Department of Earth Science and Environmental Change at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also Professor of Physical Geography and holds affiliate positions in Mechanical Science and Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He gained his BSc Combined Honors degree in Geology and Geography from the University of Leeds, UK, and his PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London. He was then appointed as a Lecturer in Geology, University of Hull, before moving to the University of Leeds, where he held positions as Lecturer in Earth Sciences, Reader in Experimental Sedimentology, and Chair in Process Sedimentology. He moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
Jim’s research interests center around understanding the physical processes of sedimentation and their products in both contemporary and ancient sedimentary environments. His research has included investigating the interactions between fluid mechanics, sediment transport and bedform development; turbulence modulation in sedimentological flows; the fluid dynamics of porous sediment surfaces; bedform dynamics; alluvial channel dynamics and deposits; the morphodynamics of river channel confluences; the sedimentology and geomorphology of large rivers; the physical scale modelling of braided rivers; development of fluid dynamic techniques for experimental sedimentology; turbidity current dynamics and deposits in modern and ancient lacustrine and deep-sea basins; the sedimentology of deltas; and the application of multibeam imaging within sedimentary environments.
He was elected a fellow of the AGU in 2015, and in 2018 was awarded the Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal by the European Geosciences Union for his ‘major contributions to our understanding of physical sedimentary processes and their products in the geological record’. He has held research fellowships from the Royal Society of London and Leverhulme Trust, and has conducted field work in many countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Eire, England, New Zealand and the USA. Relevant to this Distinguished Lecture Series, he has conducted field research on the Jamuna, Meghna, Amazon, Mekong, Huang He and Mississippi rivers. A focus of his research over the past twenty years has been the geomorphology and sedimentology of large rivers and the influence of anthropogenic stresses, including the impacts of damming, sediment mining and sedimentation.