Dr. John Smol – Professor, Queen’s University and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change

EVENT DATE: March 9, 2006
TOPIC: Warnings from Lake Mud; Long-term Environmental Changes in the Arctic

John Smol provided the audience with a wide range and interesting insight into the results of his many years of research in the sediments taken from core samples from Arctic lake bottoms.  He described a fascinating spectrum of information on climate changes over the centuries, and the resultant impacts on plant, animal, and sea life.  John described the processes by which the raw data was obtained and the processing required to arrive of some frightening conclusions regarding climate change and its impact on the environment.  He highlighted the role of climatic changes, increased UV penetration, deposition from airborne contaminants, and pollution from local sources on the changes to the overall environment.  John acknowledged the constraints imposed on any study of climatic change by the relatively recent historical recordings of temperatures (less than three centuries).  John’s specialty (Paleolimnology: Tracking long-term ecosystem changes using information preserved in lake and river sediments) has been instrumental in arriving at so many conclusions relative to the impacts of climate changes.  John outlined the role of the atmospheric fallout, the catchment, and the aquatic system, in contributing to the raw data and the derived information on impacts. The focal role of Diatoms [Bacillariophyta, abundant and diverse, excellent environmental indicators, and siliceous cell walls (frustules)] was explained to the fascinated listeners.  John used his theme of “warnings from lake mud” to explain the extreme dangers of the rapidity and severity of the impacts of climate change on the sensitive Arctic region, and the flow-down effects on the rest of the world.  John was warmly thanked for his unique perspective presented in an informative manner.

Summary by Bruce Morris