Dr. David John Gray (1961 – 2019)
David was a senior principal geochemist in CSIRO and one of the international leaders in exploration hydrogeochemistry.
David would be even more widely recognised had he not been such a selfless researcher. He always put the team, project and organisation before his own personal gain. David was a mentor for many, and he would engage with students and senior colleagues in the same manner; always constructive, supportive and considered. David formally supervised a number of students including three PhD students, not to mention the many more, like me, he unofficially mentored as undergrads, post grads or colleagues.
David was a Fellow of the AAG, a member and past President of the Australian Regolith Geoscientists Association and served on the Editorial Board for Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis.
David’s early years were in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Perth with his job in CSIRO. He completed his B.Sc (Hons) in inorganic chemistry at the University of Sydney in 1982, before completing his Ph.D. in Soil Science from the same institution in 1986 researching the geochemistry of uranium and thorium during weathering. David joined CSIRO in 1987 where he remained until his early retirement due to failing health in 2017.
David led the establishment of hydrogeochemistry as an exploration tool that is now widely accepted and implemented by Australian State geological surveys and mineral explorers.
David remained an active Honorary Fellow of CSIRO. He was still passing on his ideas of simplifying exploration transition metal indices for groundwater by scaling with pH right up to the last weeks before his death. He was always positive. His quality of life had been good until his last few days which I would attribute to David’s personality. David’s optimism is something that those that went into the field with him would know all too well. He was always convinced you could collect another few samples even as darkness was descending, and he would literally bounce in and out of vehicles all day, every day, to ensure he got as much possibly done in the field.
His dedication to his science in the office was also admirable – he spent years trawling through pdf water reports and pulling out data, doing QAQC checks that has resulted in the Australian continental scale hydrogeochemistry data well summarised in this recent news article (https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MRF/Areas/Resourceful-magazine/Issue-19/The-groundwater-explorer). The 320,000 quality groundwater data points are all thanks to David’s tenacious nature for collecting and curating results and being certain that “true backgrounds” and major element data would show patterns for application in mineral exploration and other fields if we just had enough samples (there was always more David would look for).
David was 58 and is survived by his wife, Celia, and children Ahren, Alex, Bec, Adam and Nathan.
As this is being written, I am taking a break from working on groundwater data, the interpretation of which is all based on the learnings I received from David over the last 15 years and his ongoing mentoring. I will raise a glass of wine (preferably David’s preferred sauvignon blanc) in his memory after I post this and continue to work on the data and further David’s legacy. I am forever grateful for David’s many years of mentorship and for hiring me in the first place. A terrific boss, teacher, scientist, colleague and friend. He will be missed.