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BEES Graduate Research Seminar: Recent Climatic Change in the Arctic

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3:30 PM-5:00 PM

John Smol, OC, PhD, FRSC, Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario


BEES Graduate Research Seminar: "From Controversy to Consensus: Making the Case for Recent Climatic Change in the Arctic Using Lake Sediment Records"
Few recent questions have elicited more discussion and debate than those concerning the nature, magnitude, and effects of global climate change. Although there is no longer any serious scientific debate about the influence of greenhouse-gas emissions on climate, many questions remain concerning the relative importance of natural versus anthropogenic causes of climate change, as well as the spatial and temporal scales of climate-related effects on ecosystems. Critical questions include: What are the natural modes of climate change? Has climate changed during the period of accelerated release of greenhouse gases? If so, when and to what degree? Have different regions and ecosystems responded similarly to climatic forcing? What future changes can we expect?

Studies of lake sediment records throughout much of the Arctic have documented striking and often unprecedented ecological changes that can be linked to warming.  This talk will summarize paleolimnological studies that have documented recent changes. Several hypotheses have been evaluated to determine if warming, resulting in changes in ice cover and related variables (eg increased habitat availability), was the factor most strongly influencing recent diatom and other biotic changes. Striking and often unprecedented community changes are evident in post-1850 sediments, and can be linked to ecological shifts consistent with warming. Because future temperature increases are predicted to be greatly amplified in polar regions, the ecological integrity of these sensitive ecosystems will be further imperiled.  Many Arctic lakes and ponds have already passed critical ecological thresholds due to recent warming.

from Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5: 466–474.

John P. Smol, OC, PhD, FRSC, is a professor in the Department of Biology at Queen’s University, with a cross-appointment to the School of Environmental Studies, where he also holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. He received a B.Sc. from McGill University, an M.Sc. from Brock University and a Ph.D. from Queen's University.

Smol founded the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL) in 1991, a group of about 30 students and other scientists dedicated to the study of global environmental change, focusing primarily on changes in lake ecology. An ISI Highly Cited Researcher, he has authored over 450 journal publications and book chapters, as well as completed 20 books, including his textbook Pollution of Lakes and Rivers: A Paleoenvironmental Perspective. He has lectured on all seven continents, and has authored over 800 conference presentations, which include many keynotes and plenary lectures. He was the founding Editor of the international Journal of Paleolimnology (1987-2007), is the current Editor of the journal Environmental Reviews and editor of the Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research book series. Smol is a frequent commentator on environmental issues for radio, television, and the print media.

Since 1990, Prof. Smol has received over 45 national and international research and teaching awards.  In 2009 he was presented with a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, considered by many to be Canada’s top teaching honour. In 2010, following a nation-wide competition, Smol was chosen by Nature magazine as Canada’s Top Mid-Career Science Mentor. He was just recently named by Canadian Geographic Magazine as one of the nine Canadian Change Makers – Canadians making a difference in the world in 2013.