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University remembers former geography professor, environmental studies director Bill Woods

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is remembering Bill Woods, a professor emeritus from the Department of Geography and former director of the Environmental Studies Program. Woods died Sept. 11.

“On behalf of the entire KU community, I extend my condolences to Bill Woods’ family, friends, colleagues and former students,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “He is remembered for his outstanding scholarship as well as his efforts to involve his students in his fieldwork as often as possible.”

Woods came to KU in 2005. He served as director for the Environmental Studies Program until 2008 and as a professor in the geography department until 2014, when he retired with emeritus status.

Woods’ main research interests were abandoned settlements, soils and sediments, and anthropogenic environmental change. His contributions to the discipline include a clearer understanding of the nature of the physical environment of the Amazon Basin and how the indigenous peoples there helped to shape it. He was a recognized world leader through research on Amazonian “dark earth” soils — islands of fertility in otherwise nutrient-poor soils.

Stephen Egbert, professor of geography and atmospheric science, recalls that encounters with Woods were filled with laughter, entertaining stories from the field and the enthusiastic sharing of a wealth of knowledge about how indigenous peoples used the land.

“To say that he loved his life as a professor and mentor would be a gross understatement,” Egbert said. “He loved to see the progress of his students and went the extra mile to see them through to completion of their degrees. He will be sorely missed as a colleague, a friend, a mentor and a first-rate scholar.”

Among Woods’ accomplishments while at KU were the Rip Rapp Award for outstanding contributions to the interdisciplinary field of archaeological geology and an honorary doctorate from University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Interment was private.

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