IBED-researcher Jan van Mourik unexpectedly passed away on 22 December 2020. We will always remember Jan for his incredible energy and great drive for all the things he was working on, as well as for his striking personality.
Jan did his PhD, with Pim Jungerius as promotor, on the topic of pollen in slope deposits in Galicia in Spain. After joining the Physical Geography and Soil Science Lab of the University of Amsterdam, at that time still at the Dapperstraat, he lectured many students, especially in field courses.
Jan’s involvement in teaching continued even after his retirement. For instance, only three months ago he designed and advertised a new Master’s research project idea on the use of amino acids as paleo-pedological proxy. His vast physical geographical knowledge and unique personality left an indelible impression on the students he taught.
Jan’s research revolved around studying soil archives in the broader sense, but especially ‘plaggen soils’ (Plaggic Anthrosols). He was known internationally as an expert on the pedogenesis of this soil type, and used his impressive physical geographical knowledge to study them within the context of both landscape and human activity.
For this, also after retirement, he kept abreast of the development of new paleo-ecological proxies such as biomarker analyses, and used them to advance our insight in soil development. As such he played an important mentoring role for younger soil scientists. Particularly his enormous field research experience was truly invaluable. If you were looking for a field site to study a certain soil type in The Netherlands, Jan was only a phone call away. He would not only point you to the perfect location, but also accompany you in the field and help you dig and sample the soil pit.
Jan remained very active in scientific research and a regular visitor of the lab, and presenter at scientific conferences until the very end. Jan’s research has culminated in scores of scientific papers and also the recent book “Reading the Soil Archives” (Springer) that he led together with Jaap van der Meer, and which contains contributions of many IBED colleagues. Jan was very proud of this book, which he considered his scientific testimony.
Jan was also very active in connecting science to society, and especially to secondary school teachers through his many contributions to the journal ‘Geografie’ and the master classes he organized. In addition, over the course of his many years at the University of Amsterdam, Jan served amongst others as Programme Director for the BSc and MSc Earth Sciences, as Chair of the ‘Ondernemingsraad’ (the Works Council) of the FNWI, and until very recently as Chair of the alumni organization Lulofs. Also in this last endeavor Jan remained active until the end, and was for instance still very actively involved in organizing the next alumni event to be held in 2021, where he had hoped to present his new book.
In short, Jan truly died with his boots on, and in him we lose an incredibly dedicated scientist, an enormously engaged physical geographer and a very kind person with an exceptionally wide interest.
Our thoughts are with his family.