Presentation: A decade of recent research on the northwest Laurentide Ice Sheet

Blue Box Seminar

Geography Department

Friday, January 21st, 3 pm, SN-2025

A decade of recent research on the northwest Laurentide Ice Sheet:

Shifting paradigms and changing perspectives

The presentation is a reflection on both the personal and philosophical side of “doing science”. To set the stage, I will start off by reflecting on my own (and others) acceptance of the Innuitian Ice Sheet (IIS) during the late 1990s, a model that we had opposed for genuine scientific reasons for many decades across the Canadian High Arctic before we found the very data that validated the opposing hypothesis (supporting the IIS). There were many elaborate threads to this transition as science is not all unblemished objectivity, making easy adaption to change (individually but especially in a group of common advocates). Although we must, we do not always, “turn over every stone” in order to challenge our own favoured perspectives. It is easy to espouse that always, data trumps personal perspectives – however ‘honestly’ those viewpoints may have been held prior to a new and initially uncomfortable (challenging) insight.  That experience is familiar territory for me and I remain enormously grateful for the experience (growth) it offered. I am convinced that you don’t learn that from textbooks but proper mentoring.

This first part of the talk sets the stage for the second part that addresses my most recent research together with that of my graduate students and postdocs in the western Canadian Arctic Archipelago under the auspices of the NSERC Northern Research Chair. This addresses a decade of data collection that warrants a fundamental revision of the J-S Vincent model.  It purportedly identified an exceptionally well-preserved record of four glaciations across the surface of Banks Island. So I want to place our regional revision in the light of the willingness and responsibility to overturn someone else’s long-held and established viewpoint. In doing so, one has to appreciate the enormity of the current mismatch between what was previously proposed and what we are reporting. One ultimately must ask the question why this disparity is so huge and fundamental.

So, I am trying to look not only at the evolution of my own work, but also to look at it more reflectively through the lens of four decades of Arctic research, including the contributions of others. This reflection for me uncovers many nuances beneath the flotsam and jetsam of our more conventional accomplishments that we stuff into out CVs. This learning curve might ultimately be far more important than the humble science we set out to do!