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Research in Geography and Planning

Researchers in Queen's Department of Geography and Planning have a long history of discovery and innovation that has shaped our knowledge of Earth’s places, societies, environments, and landscapes. We bridge the social sciences and humanities with the natural sciences to address some of our world's most complex problems, including issues related to social justice, climate change and planning for healthy communities.

Understanding the integrity of Arctic and Temperate ecosystems by studying key biogeochemical cycles

Facility for Biogeochemical Research on Environmental Change and the Cryosphere

Research focus

Our research program strives to increase our understanding of the processes of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, and how human-induced disturbance influences these processes. The perturbation of these cycles provides key insights into ecosystem function, and has enormous consequences to society.

The key broad research questions are -

  1. How does climate change and permafrost thawing influence the carbon balance of High Arctic ecosystems?
  2. What are the critical feedbacks between the High Arctic carbon cycle and the climate system?
  3. How do land-use legacies influence contemporary forest ecosystem structure and function?
  4. Can microbial inoculants influence the negative environmental impacts of nitrogen fertilizer used in agricultural systems?
  5. What impact does the establishment of “Little Forests” have on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling in urban environments?


Human disruption of biogeochemical cycles, particularly those caused by land-use change, can severely alter the integrity of terrestrial ecosystems and their ability to provide critical ecosystem services to society. Disruption of the global carbon cycle and the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is disrupting the climate system. Enhanced inputs of nitrogen to terrestrial ecosystems can have a severe impact on the health of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, while also contributing to global climate disruption.

Students and Dr. Scott are working to improve our understanding of critical processes in these biogeochemical cycles, how they are being altered by human activity, and how terrestrial ecosystems might be more effectively managed to help mitigate human impacts while still providing critical ecosystem services.

Our research varies from site-specific studies to large scale investigations facilitated by remote sensing, geographic information systems, and simulation models. We try to make our research results relevant and available to the general public and to policy-makers, with the hope that we can provide key scientific information needed for the development of sound environmental policy.


Graduate Student Research Opportunities

There are student research opportunities available now. Contact Dr. Neal Scott (neal.scott@queensu.ca) or the Geography Department for more information. I am particularly looking for students who want to work on soil biogeochemistry and ecosystem gas exchange in High Arctic ecosystems at the Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory.


Research opportunities Button



Dr. Neal Scott

Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair (II) (2005 to 2015)
Queen's Department of Geography and Planning

Email: neal.scott@queensu.ca

Learn more about Dr. Neal Scott