Professor James Maurice Bowler OA FRSV b.1930 Geomorphologist/ Archaeologist/ Campaigner
Jim Bowler. educated at The University of Melbourne BSc 1958; MSc in 1961; then on to ANU in Canberra for a PhD. To ANU in 1965; PhD 1970 (or 1971)
Bowler, J.M. 1971. Late Quaternary Environments: A study of lakes and associated sediments in South Eastern Australia. PhD thesis ANU Canberra
Bowler, J.M. 1973. Clay dunes: their occurrence, formation and environmental significance. Earth Science Reviews 9(4), 315-338.
PhD at ANU. He was directed towards the Willandra Lakes region by Joe Jennings. JJ was a reader at ANU; he moved to ANU from Leicester University in 1952. He left Leicester just around the time when Norman Pye was being appointed Professor of Geography and Head of the Geography Department. He had carried out some very successful studies on the Norfolk Broads but chose to abandon this wet region of Eastern England for the drier regions of Australia. One day when he was flying from Broken Hill to Sydney he noticed some interesting aspects of the Willandra Lakes region- a series of dry lakes showing some interesting geomorphology. When JB turned up needing a PhD topic he was guided towards the Willandra Lakes region and, riding his motor-cycle there in 1968 he discovered the remains which eventually became known as Mungo Lady. Named after Lake Mungo- a name which JB bestowed on the critical lake.
JJ went on the Australian Academy trip to China in 1975; one speculates that he was responsible for JB going as well; JB was a relatively junior ANU person but JJ was probably influential enough to request his presence.
Lake Mungo is in the Willandra National Park, 300+km from the Australian Capital Territory.
Australian Quaternary Studies: A tribute to Jim Bowler. J. Magee, P. De Deckker eds Quaternary International 83-85, 1-292. 11 Sept 2001
J.Magee, P. De Deckker pp.1-4. Jim Bowlers contribution to Australian Quaternary Studies.
Liu Tungsheng.(1917-2008) Liu Tungsheng- the doyen of Chinese loess investigators. The 1975 encounter with JB and the rest of the Australian party had a major effect on the life and career of Liu Tungsheng. His interest in loess had been waning in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution but it was revived by the requirements of the visit. Liu, in preparing material for the loess excursions, found his interest rekindled and his life work re-energised. Bowler was determined to spread the word on Chinese loess and to promote loess studies and for several years he and Liu cooperated on these projects.
Yuhong Zhang, Li Guan, Qiang Liu 2018. Liu Tungsheng: a geologist from a traditional Chinese cultural background who became an international star of science. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 155, 8-20.
Bowler, J.M. 2009. Interview with Professor Liu Tungsheng (conducted in October 2004 in Beijing). J.M.Han et al (eds) Memory of Tungshen Liu. Commercial Press Beijing (in Chinese, original articles in English included) ISBN 978 7 100 06571 9)
"In a rare interview between two academic friends from two different countries, James Bowler (from Australia) and Liu Tungsheng, two great masters of science, conducted an intensive dialog about Quaternary Science, and its past, present and future prospects" (Zhang et al 2018)
A quote from Liu: "So 1975 was the turning point for renewing my (loess) studies, otherwise I may have continued to work on other environmental issues."
Loess Commission. The INQUA Congress in 1977 was held in Birmingham UK. This was an important moment for the Loess Commission. The President, Julius Fink of the University of Vienna, handed over to Marton Pecsi of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Commission took on a 'new look'. The Commission was founded as a full commission in 1969 (at the Paris INQUA Congress);up to then it had functioned as a sub-commission of the Stratigraphy Commission and had focussed its investigations mainly into Central and Eastern Europe. Pecsi wanted to broaden the scope so he determined that the new look Loess Commission should look at world-wide loess deposits and should extend the field of studies into applied regions; engineering geology and ground engineering were valid topics. This expansion came at an ideal time for JB because he proposed that a 'Western Pacific Working Group' be founded which would concentrate on loess deposits in the Western Pacific region i.e. China, Australia and New Zealand. This was his way of promoting the loess deposits in China and supporting his friend Liu Tungsheng. The WPWG was announced in Birmingham in 1977 and functioned for about 10 years. In the INQUA system working groups were supposed to be set up to consider specific problems, and to run for limited periods.
Next, on to the ANZAAS conference in Auckland in early 1979. The Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science met in Auckland and this was chosen as the official launching point for the WPWG. There were no Chinese delegates present but the Australian and New Zealand delegates decided on a programme and a plan of action. Three field trips would be held- in China, Australia and New Zealand- these would be discussion trips like those Fink organised in the early days of the Commission. The first would be in Australia in 1980; the New Zealand group would organise a newsletter to record the activities and spread the word.
The newsletter was to be Loess Letter, which was first published in 1979; to appear twice a year. The early issues contain details of the setting up of the WPWG and give some details of the discussions which JB had in Beijing organising the Chinese involvement. Liu Tungsheng visited the NZ Soil Bureau in 1980 and wrote the title. Also in 1980 was the first WPWG field trip to S.E.Australia. Logically enough to the JB field area in the Willandra Lakes region, to see the aeolian landforms, to admire the'walls of China'- to actually fly in a light plane over Lake Frome and the edge of the Flinders range- and to have dinner in Broken Hill with Bruce Butler. The Chinese delegation should be recorded: Liu Tungsheng, Wu Zirong, Yuan Baoyin, Zheng Honghan, An Zhisheng & Wen Qizhong. A proceedings volume edited by Bob Wasson (mostly of CDU) was produced.
The next WPWG meeting was in China in 1985 and by then the whole world had changed. Chinese loess research had made a quick recovery and the first steps were being taken towards the huge effort and output of today. The meeting in China was a major conference; the proceedings volume contained 85 titles + a large book of 43 papers. The JB initiative had succeeded; there was indeed great interest in the Chinese loess. New Zealand in 1987; the third and last of the WPWG meetings; starting in Christchurch and heading north to Auckland. A conference volume was produced- which was summarised in Loess Letter 21 and carefully reviewed by Ed Derbyshire in PPG. The Loess Letter timing was fortuitous, LL21 was the tenth anniversary issue, the WPWG had been running for just ten years. JB may not have been the 'onlie begetter' but he was largely responsible.
Derbyshire, E. 1990. Book Reviews: Eden, D.N., Furkert, R.J. eds. 1989. Loess: its distribution, geology and soils. Balkema Rotterdam. Progress in Physical Geography 14, 569-571.
Commentary. Rarther ironic that there is little loess in Australia; this remarkable loess based enterprise (the WPWG) was definitely aimed at China. Lucky that NZ was to hand to provide some real loess and to give the loess project a respectably loessic appearance. The granular landforms in S.E. Australia are great and granular but lacking in clastic material. This is the land of the clay-mineral-aggregate- the 'parna' which Bruce Butler described. The CMA material can behave like loess,. and larger CMA can behave like sand- this is a region where ideas can come together. The rainbowbirds can show us where loess-like material is to be found.
Ian Smalley 1977. New look for the Loess Commission. Nature 270, 300 only.
Ian Smalley, Slobodan Markovic, Ken O'Hara-Dhand 2010. The INQUA Loess Commission as a Central European enterprise. Open Geosciences 2(1), 3-8.
Ian Smalley, Ken O'Hara-Dhand 2010. The Western Pacific Working Group of the INQUA Loess Commission: expansion from Central Europe. Open Geosciences 2(1), 9-14.
Ian Smalley, Sue McLaren, Ken O'Hara-Dhand 2015. Loess and bee-eaters 4: Distribution of the Rainbowbird (Merops ornatus Latham 1801) in Australia. Quaternary International 399, 230-235.