The 2005 W.A. Johnston Medallist[Record]

  • Marianne S.V. Douglas,
  • Glen MacDonald,
  • William Last,
  • Ian Walker,
  • John England and
  • John P. Smol

…more information

  • Marianne S.V. Douglas
    Department of Geology, University of Toronto

  • Glen MacDonald
    Department of Geography
    University of California, Los Angeles

  • William Last
    Department of Geological Sciences
    University of Manitoba

  • Ian Walker
    Departments of Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences
    The University of British Columbia – Okanagan Campus (Kelowna)

  • John England
    Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
    University of Alberta

  • John P. Smol
    Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL)
    Department of Biology
    Queen’s University
    Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change
    Editor, Journal of Paleolimnology
    Editor, Environmental Reviews

It is with great enthusiasm that we are nominating Dr. John P. Smol for CANQUA’s W.A. Johnston Medal. We do so with the encouragement of a number of Canadian scientists who have heard John’s invited seminars over the course of the years and who have read his numerous publications. Most recently, John was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Canada’s highest honour for research excellence in science and engineering. It was presented in Ottawa on December 6, 2004, “…for his efforts in bringing paleolimnology to world attention, and for discoveries, innovative techniques and research protocols that are influencing public policy on issues related to climate change, water pollution and the protection of the Arctic environment”. This is only one of the many honours and recognition that have been awarded to John. John is qualified to receive this medal according to all four listed criteria. The first two are by default, as John was born in Canada and has always lived, studied and worked in the country that he loves and is proud of. But it is the last two criteria that truly make John a strong candidate for this medal. A great part of his paleolimnological and paleoclimatological research has been conducted in Canada and secondly, he has trained and supervised numerous students (over 50 graduate students, including 24 Ph.D. students!) who also mostly conduct their research in Canada. John’s university education began at McGill University where he received a B.Sc. in marine biology. His limnology professors, Prof. J. Kalff for one, sparked his interest in lakes and paleolimnology and this was enough to ensure that John pursued this interest. For his M.Sc. research at Brock University, John used diatoms to study the paleolimnological record of Precambrian Shield lakes. It was during this research that John first encountered strange, unidentified siliceous microfossils in the sediments of the lakes that he was examining. These were clearly not diatoms, but they were sufficiently numerous and varied to peak his interest. With great determination, he set out to identify what would eventually become an exciting new microfossil, so useful in paleolimnological studies. It took awhile, but eventually he identified these strange shapes as chrysophyte scales. Up until John’s discovery, scant attention had been paid to them as it was thought that they would not preserve in lake sediments. John went on to describe this new group of paleoindicators and their uses. Less than five years later, this was to become an important microfossil in lake acidification studies as well as paleoclimatic reconstructions. After completing his M.Sc. in record time, John went to study with Dr. S.R. Brown at Queen’s University. An established researcher, who had designed corers, worked with fossil algal pigments, the choice to work with Ted Brown was probably the smartest choice that John could have made. Encouraged to continue his paleolimnogical research on Chrysophytes and diatoms, John worked independently and continuously on what was to become his life-long passion: lake sediments. To some people, this might be regarded as “mud” but to John it was a means to discovering the environmental history of a region. Not only could “secrets of the past” be uncovered, but they could be quantified by applying transfer functions. These resulted in useful paleoenvironmental reconstructions that were of interest to lake managers and paleoclimate modelers. When John Smol first came to the paleolimnology scene, it was basically in its infancy. There was so much more to develop and learn. John did so with his enthusiasm and his wonderful ability to work with …