John Smol earns lifetime achievement honours

Queen's biologist earns lifetime achievement honours

John Smol has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Paleolimnology Association for his research on environmental change. 

Professor John Smol (Department of Biology), works on a diverse range of subjects, most of which focus on using lake sediments to reconstruct past environmental trends. Topics include lake acidification caused by acid rain, sewage input and fertilizer runoff, studies of nutrient and contaminant transport by birds and other biovectors, and a large program on climatic change.

For over three decades, he has been leading research in the high Arctic, studying the present-day ecology of polar lakes and ponds, and then using paleolimnological approaches to determine how these ecosystems have been changing due to natural and anthropogenic stressors.

“I was not aware that I was nominated for the International Paleolimnology Association (IPA) award, and so I was especially delighted to hear that I was chosen to receive this medal,” says Dr. Smol, who is a former chair of the IPA, received the prize in Argentina in late-November. “Since I completed my PhD at Queen’s University, in one of the very early and few paleolimnology labs around, headed by Professor S.R. Brown, it is exciting to look back on my many years here and see how the field of paleolimnology has progressed from an esoteric to a high-profile discipline with so many applications."

Professor Helen Bennion (Chair of the International Paleolimnology Association; University College London) and Professor Sheri Fritz (University of Nebraska – Lincoln) present Smol with the award.

Professor Helen Bennion (Chair of the International Paleolimnology Association; University College London) and Professor Sheri Fritz (University of Nebraska – Lincoln) present Smol with the award.

Dr. Smol, a Distinguished University Professor and current President of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada, earned the award for his contributions to paleolimnology, the impact this research has made on science globally, his promotion of the value of paleolimnology in the wider field of science, his success as a teacher and mentor, and his contribution to the wider societal understanding of environmental change.

A recipient of over 70 research, teaching, and mentoring awards, he was awarded the 2004 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering honouring Canada’s top scientist or engineer, Dr. Smol is also co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL) located at Queen’s University. PEARL is a group of about 30 research scientists, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and other scientists dedicated to using paleolimnological and other techniques to provide historical perspectives to environmental change.

“This is very much a group award, that I happily share with my students and other colleagues. It is a pleasure to work side-by-side with such a friendly and dedicated group of scientists, addressing some of the most critical environmental issues facing society,” says Dr. Smol.

The nomination for this award came from Sherilyn C. Fritz, the George Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

“John has been a tireless advocate of paleolimnology for many decades, helping to move our field into the mainstream, founding our major disciplinary journal, training hundreds of students, and supporting the careers of countless individuals in varied ways,” says Dr. Fritz. “This award recognizes the diversity and depth of his contributions to our science and to our community.”

Dr. Smol received the medal at the IPA international meeting, which was held in late November in Bariloche, Argentina. A former graduate student from his group, Dr. Kathryn Hargan, now an assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, received the IPA Early Career Award.

Learn more about the award on the IPA website.