Having gained his BSc in Geography (Liverpool University 1974) and PhD (University of Southampton 1978), Geoff Petts was appointed Lecturer in Geography at Loughborough University in 1979 where he was awarded a chair in 1989. After three years as Head of the Geography Department he moved to Birmingham in 1994 as Professor of Physical Geography. He became Director of the Centre for Environmental Research and Training (1996) and Head of the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences (1999). He was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham from 2001 until becoming Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of Westminster in August 2007.
He has held a number of external appointments, including: Director of the International Water Resources Association, Council Member of the Freshwater Biological Association, Member of the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Programme Development Group, Scientific Advisory Committee for the UNESCO IHP Eco-Hydrology Programme and the International Council for Science (ICSU) Scientific Committee on Water Research. He is Editor-in-Chief of the international journal River Research and Applications.
In 2007, the Council of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) awarded Professor Petts with the Busk Medal for his outstanding contributions to ‘research on river conservation’. In 2009 the International Society for River Science awarded him a Life-time Achievement Award.