Quaternary Geology, Permafrost, Tephrochronology (volcanic ash chronology), Beringia, Natural Hazards, Water isotopes
The focus of our group’s research is the development and understanding of past records of environmental change, centred regionally in northwestern Canada and Alaska. In short, developing a robust framework for the evolution, controls and impacts of Arctic climate at timescales from the last few decades to the last few million years. We are particularly interested in permafrost and how it has responded in the past, and is responding today, to climate change.
As well, our lab includes the University of Alberta Tephrochronology Laboratory which does research on distal tephra beds throughout western North America, with a particular focus on NW Canada and Alaska. These tephra, or volcanic ash beds, allow us to tell time over the last few million years in these sedimentary and cryostratigraphic record making many aspects of its prehistory tractable where it otherwise would not be. The intersection of permafrost-preserved records of past Arctic environments and tephra is largely unique to this area of the Northern Hemisphere and we use these records to constrain the age of relict permafrost, history of ice age mammals, ancient DNA records, and past environmental change to name a few. We also work on tephra records from other areas of the world, but that is not a primary focus of our group.
Students and researchers who work in the lab study diverse problems using an equally diverse set of approaches- in short- we are far more topically-driven than strictly methodological. In keeping with this, much of our research is strongly interdisciplinary with ongoing collaborations with several groups working in evolutionary biology and ancient DNA, geochronology, geophysical sciences, geochemistry, soil science and paleoecology. Much of northern research, and in particular understanding past environmental changes, requires diverse points of view and these collaborations provide our group with additional expertise to tackle these problems.