CERC Chair in Arctic Resources - Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

Canada Excellence Research Chair - Graham Pearson

Research Summary

Diamond exploration and mining has been one of the main drivers of economic development in Canada’s North during the past decade, accounting for more than $2 billion in annual economic activity. To sustain this level of economic growth beyond the predicted 10- to 20-year life spans of the current mines, more diamond deposits must be discovered.

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources Dr. D. Graham Pearson, will develop the first detailed picture of rock formations hidden deep under the Earth’s crust in Canada’s Arctic region, revealing new data on the landmasses where diamonds are formed. Pearson will collect rare rock samples of deep origin from volcanic diatremes—circular volcanic vents created by underground explosions—and study the geochemical composition of these rocks using state-of-the-art tools.

Pearson’s geological snapshots will revolutionize our understanding of the age and evolution of current and potential diamond mines. He will take this knowledge and collaborate with the Canadian government to forge a geo-mapping program that will help boost arctic exploration and expenditure, identifying new prospective areas for mining diamonds and other mineral deposits.

Pearson’s world-leading micro-sampling technique for diamond analysis will be the first of its kind. Able to determine the chemical characterization of Canadian diamonds, this technique will serve to protect their ethical and geographical purity, and guarantee their premium on the international market.


Dr. D. Graham Pearson is one of the world’s leading scientists in diamond studies and understanding the formation of diamond-forming roots beneath continents. He is at the forefront of developing new techniques for geochemical analysis, and has pioneered new methods of dating minute geological samples.

His development of the first technique to determine when a diamond was created won him the prestigious Lindgren Medal of the Society of Economic Geologists in 1999. He also developed the first quantitative fingerprinting technology that can determine the geographical origin of a diamond, which has implications for markets that rely on the export and sale of “conflict diamonds.”

Before assuming his position as Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources at the University of Alberta, Pearson was professor of geochemistry at Durham University, in the United Kingdom. He holds a PhD in earth sciences from Leeds University, and has a bachelor’s degree in geology from the Imperial College of Science and Technology. After his graduate studies, he served as research fellow at Carnegie University in Washington, D.C., and the Open University in Milton Keynes, the UK.

Pearson has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, and his work is cited heavily internationally. He has served on numerous committees, including the council of the European Association of Geochemistry and an expert committee that investigated conflict diamonds for the United States government.