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Kingston climatologist gets lifetime achievement award


John Smol of Kingston University. (Photo courtesy Kingston University.)

Thirty years ago, John Smol first stepped into the Arctic high. Since then, the Kingston-based environmental scientist has been there many times, more times than he can count, in the process becoming an expert in Arctic issues.  

On Monday, Smol, who holds the Canada research chair in environmental change at Queen’s University, was awarded the annual Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research for his work on the “impact of environmental change on Arctic freshwater ecosystems.”

It includes $50,000 as prize money, and is the largest of its kind.  

The award is administered by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) and awarded by the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Smol in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s nice to have this recognition of 30 years of work. I am honoured, and glad that (my) work is being recognized.”

Smol says he is also glad that the Arctic is also being recognized. “What we have been finding has not been good news, I know, but the hope is that this work will get evidence-based policy.”

In the field of environmental science, Smol is well known. He is a leading international authority in the field of Arctic limnology and paleolimnology, which looks below the surface of lakes and rivers to uncover the secrets of our environmental history. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013.  

“Dr. Smol has dedicated the past 30 years to advancing our understanding of a wide range of environmental issues affecting Northern Canada and the world,” says Michael Goodyear, executive director, Churchill Northern Studies Centre. “His outstanding national and international reputation among governments, organizations and leading researchers, and impressive record of contributions to the scientific community made his selection a natural choice.”

On a lighter note, Smol says he hasn’t thought what he will do with the $50,000 prize money. “It’s a lot of money, yes.”

But he does say he has a lot of work left in him. “I ain’t done yet.”

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh


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