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A steward of the environment

Queen’s University researcher John Smol has earned Canada’s Massey Medal, which honours him for his lifetime work in studying environmental stressors.

John Smol in the Northwest Passage
John Smol in the Northwest Passage. (Supplied photo).

Queen’s University researcher John Smol has been awarded the 2020 Massey Medal for his work in the fields of biology and environmental science. 

Dr. Smol is the 61st recipient of the medal, which was established by the Massey Foundation and has been awarded annually by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society since 1959. It was created to recognize outstanding career achievements in the exploration, development, or description of the geography of Canada. 

“I am deeply honoured to have been named the 2020 Massey Medalist, which in large part reflects the hard work of a large number of dedicated students and colleagues that I have had the good fortune to work with,” says Dr. Smol. “It feels odd to get an award for something you love doing. I have had the honour of working on environmental change issues, especially as they relate to lakes, from all 10 provinces and three territories of this beautiful country that we have the privilege to live in.” 

Dr. Smol holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen's. He founded and now co-directs the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL), which is dedicated to the study of long-term global environmental change. 

During his extensive career, Dr. Smol has changed how we monitor and assess the Canadian landscape and has played a key role in developing the study of lake and river sediments. Much of his work in science and ecology has had major impacts on how the field is studied and has influenced policy changes. 

He is a champion for the ecosystems he and his team have studied, explaining the science to students and the general public alike. He also helps people grasp the realities of climate change and rapidly changing polar regions. This award is a testament to Dr. Smol's hard work and dedication. 

Typically, the Massey Medal is presented by the Governor General at Rideau Hall.  However, due to the pandemic, this year the medal will first be presented to Dr. Smol on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, during the Fellows Show, a virtual celebration being held this year instead of the Society's College of Fellows Annual Dinner. A subsequent formal ceremony is being planned. 

The Fellows Show can be viewed on Canadian Geographic magazine's YouTube channel.