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Queen's University
 

Brian Cumming - Professor

Cumming.jpg Research: Aquatic ecosystems are, and have been, altered in a number of ways from
natural events and anthropogenic activities. In order to understand the impacts of
natural and anthropogenic changes on aquatic ecosystems, it is essential to have
knowledge of historical conditions and natural variability prior to human settlement,
as well plausible explanations for these changes. Unfortunately, long-term records
from monitoring programs and historical records are severely lacking for most
aquatic ecosystems. Consequently proxy records are often the only way to reconstruct historical conditions and to establish how a system has changed through time.

Research in my laboratory has concentrated on understanding how the chemical, physical and biological components of aquatic ecosystems influence the distribution of biological communities, and how a lake's sedimentary record can be used to study natural and human-induced environmental change on local and regional scales. From the examination of the physical, chemical and biological information preserved in sediment profiles, it is possible to obtain direct and indirect evidence of past terrestrial and aquatic conditions. Furthermore, from carefully designed paleoenvironmental research, it is possible to discern how lakes change as the result of natural disturbances and anthropogenic activities.

Current research in my lab broadly falls into five major categories including: (1) understanding the relative importance of the physical, chemical, biological and biogeographic variables that determine the distribution of algae and invertebrates in temperate and tropical regions; (2) the development of quantitative models to infer important limnological variables in stratigraphic sequences based on the present-day distributions of algal and invertebrate microfossils; (3) interpretation of the algal and invertebrate assemblages in sedimentary profiles to determine the past limnological and climatic conditions from many regions in North America (e.g. western North America and the Northern Great Plains) and Africa, on time frames ranging from the last few centuries to thousands of years, as well as plausible mechanisms for these observed changes; (4) utilization of paleoecological experiments to evaluate the impact of human activities (e.g. forest harvesting, agriculture, urbanization) and natural watershed disturbances (e.g. forest fires) on lakes; and (5) development and implementation of paleoecological approaches to assess the magnitude, extent, and possible recovery of lakes from acidic deposition.

»» Lab Website »« email: cummingb@queensu.ca »« telephone: 613-533-6153 ««

Some Recent Publications:

  • Laird, K.R., B. Das, M. Kingsbury, M.T. Moos, S. Pla-Rabes, J.M.E. Ahad, B. Wiltse & B.F. Cumming. In press. Paleolimnological assessment of limnological change in ten lakes from northwest Saskatchewan downwind of the Athabasca Oils Sands based on analysis of siliceous algae and trace metals in sediment cores. Hydrobiologia DOI 10.1007/s10750-013-1623-5
  • Haig, H.A., M.V. Kingsbury, K.R. Laird, P.R. Leavitt, R. Laing & B.F. Cumming.  2013. Assessment of drought over the past two millennia using near-shore sediment cores from a Canadian boreal lake. Journal of Paleolimnology 50: 175-190.
  • Ma, S., K.R. Laird, M.V. Kingsbury, C.F.M. Lewis & B.F. Cumming. 2013. Diatom-inferred changes in effective moisture during the Late Holocene from near-shore cores in the southeastern region of the Winnipeg River Drainage Basin (Canada). The Holocene 23:568-578.
  • Laird, K.R., H.A. Haig, S. Ma, M.V. Kingsbury, T.A. Brown, C.F.M. Lewis, R.J. Oglesby & B.F. Cumming. 2012. Expanded spatial extent of the Medieval Climate Anomaly revealed in lake-sediment records across the boreal region in northwest Ontario.  Global Change Biology 18: 2869-2881.
  • Moos, M.T. & B.F. Cumming. 2012. Climate-fire interactions during the Holocene: a test of the utility of charcoal morphotypes in a sediment core from the boreal region of north-western Ontario (Canada). International Journal of Wildland Fire 21: 640-652.
  • Arseneau, K.M.A., C.T. Driscoll, L.M. Brager, K.A. Ross & B.F. Cumming. 2011. Recent evidence of biological recovery in the Adirondacks (New York, USA): a multiproxy paleolimnological investigation of Big Moose Lake. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 68:575-592.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000