Obituary: Professor W. G. C. Carter
Tuesday 27 July 1993
WITH the death of Bill Carter the world of environmental studies has lost one of leading coastal scientists in Great Britain and Ireland. Amongst his colleagues and friends Carter will be remembered not only for his academic scholarship, but also as an immense, engaging personality. If his personality had to be summed up in only one word, that word would be 'dynamic'.
Born in Bristol in 1946, Carter attended Bristol Cathedral school before going on to university in Aberystwyth and graduating with the University of Wales prize for geography in 1968. The same year he arrived at the New University of Ulster at Coleraine as a research student. Under the supervision of Professor Frank Oldfield, Carter's love ofthe Northern Ireland coastline was awakened, which later extended to coastlines throughout the world. After a year away from Ulster lecturing in geography at the City of London Polytechnic in 1972, Carter returned to lecture at the New University of Ulster, where he remained until his death.
Initially stimulated by geomorphology, his interest in coastal processes gradually encompassed ecological and human influences and the consequent coastal research management problems and their potential solutions. A holistic, interrelated approach to the coast is embodied in many of the books he authored or co-authored. His most significant and seminal work is his 600-page Coastal Environments (1988), a definitive textbook on the problems of contemporary and future coastal management around the world. He also wrote over 110 academic papers and reports. Carter delivered conference papers at over 70 international conferences and took on editorship or assistant editorships of numerous journals including Irish Geography, Journal of Coastal Research, Journal of Shoreline Management and Aquatic Conservation, which helped establish and consolidate his worldwide academic standing.
In the early 1980s, Carter began to build a research team, initially local and later national and international in character. Throughout the Eighties and early Nineties, Carter's coastal team's research findings were consistently impressive. National and international research awards were secured from organisations such as Nato, the US National Parks Service, the EC, the Royal Society, the NERC and a host of government departments.
Widely known and admired in Irish environmental circles for his committee work with the Ulster Countryside Committee, National Trust, and Irish Geographical Society, Carter was also recognised in the broader community for his frequent media appearances on environmental issues. In 1992 his international standing was acknowledged when he was elected President of the European Union for Coastal Conservation, the largest coastal research group in Europe.
When taking part in joint research projects in Spain and Portugal, colleagues fondly remember Carter not quite coming to grips with the southern European lunch break; they bet their Spanish and Portuguese academic counterparts that Carter would not be persuaded to sit for more than half an hour at any lunch talk before being overtaken by the urge to get up and continue exploring. For over five years his colleagues never lost a bet.
At least 12 generations of Ulster students on Spanish field courses can testify to Carter's acerbic observations characteristically delivered in his broad West Country 'burr', decrying the anarchic development associated with the growth of mass tourism in the Malaga region.
When Carter became head of the Department of Environmental Studies at Ulster in 1988 his qualities of leadership, humour and compassion were never more apparent, engendering a tremendous loyalty amongst his staff, for whom he always baked individual birthday cakes.
Words which immediately spring to mind in remembering Bill Carter are humour (usually irreverent), infectious enthusiasm, caring, concern for people, unstinting generosity, intense optimism (essential in a lifelong Bristol City supporter) and superficial irascibility.
Last year he stood down as Head of Department in order to concentrate more on his research activities, and further develop the fruitful research partnership he had formed with his long-standing co-researcher Julian Orford, of Queen's University, Belfast.
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