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Nick Eyles

Nick Eyles


University of Toronto
Department of Geology

University of Toronto Scarborough
Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences


In 2015, Nick was awarded the E. R. Ward Neale Medal by the Geological Association of Canada forsustained outstanding efforts in sharing earth science with Canadians and outstanding efforts to communicate and explain geoscience to the public.

Nick Eyles P.Geo holds a Ph.D (East Anglia) and D.Sc. (Leicester) and is Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) where he has taught for more than 30 years. His prime research interest is in glacial sedimentology and has over 30 years’ experience of field work on modern glaciers and ice sheets from Antarctica to the Arctic. He has worked at the universities of Leicester, Newcastle upon Tyne and East Anglia in Great Britain, at Memorial University in Newfoundland and has been at Toronto since 1981 when he was awarded a prestigious NSERC University Research Fellowship. He has authored more than 150 publications in leading scientific journals on ice age geology and environmental geology and has worked with the International Ocean Drilling Program on board the drillship Resolution. Recent sabbaticals have been held in Brazil, Australia and Italy.

Nick has edited books on glacial geology (‘Glacial Geology: An Introduction for Engineers and Earth Scientists’ published by Pergamon), co-edited a book on paleoclimate (‘Earth’s Glacial Record’ published by Cambridge University Press) and urban geology (‘Environmental Geology of Urban Areas’) published by the Geological Association of Canada.

Nick is well known for his public outreach activities and the ‘Rocks’ series of books published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside such as ‘Toronto Rocks’ (1998 with L. Clinton), ‘Ontario Rocks’ (2002) and ‘Canada Rocks: The Geologic Journey’ (2007) with Andrew Miall (Toronto Star’s ‘Science Book of the Year’). ‘Canadian Shield – The Rocks that Made Canada’ appeared in early 2011 and ‘Road Rocks Ontario: More than 250 Geological Wonders to Discover’ was published 2013 and has received the Geoscience Information Society’s Best Guidebook Award.

He was on the road with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for seven months in 2009-10 as host of Geologic Journey –World a five part ‘Nature of Things’ series with David Suzuki. ‘Tectonic Europe’, ‘Along the African Rift’, ‘Pacific Rim West’, ‘Pacific Rim: The Americas’ and ‘Asia: Collision Zone’ aired in late October 2010. The series has been one of the most watched CBC documentaries to date: a re-airing of ‘Pacific Rim West’ in the wake of the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan had more than 1 million viewers. The series was nominated for 3 Gemini awards.

Consult the CBC web site and UTSC blog for full details and how you can contribute to it.

Nick was awarded the 2012 Geosciences in the Media Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists currently the world's largest professional geological society with over 30,000 members. The award is presented for notable journalistic achievement in any medium, which contributes to public understanding of geology, energy resources or the technology of oil and gas exploration.

In 2013, he was awarded the McNeil Medal by the Royal Society of Canada for his outstanding ability to promote and communicate science to students and the public across Canada. Previous award winners include Jay Ingram and David Suzuki.

When not looking at rocks in the field or writing about their history, he is an avid adventure motorcyclist (with a BMW 1200GS) and hockey player.

Current Research Projects

I am very interested in the relationship between ancient glacial climates and tectonics and currently working with graduate students such as Shannon Carto (Ph.D completed) in the eastern USA (‘Squantum Tillite’ of the Boston Basin) testing the rock record against the Snowball Earth hypothesis (SEH) which posits that Earth froze entirely on at least three (some say four) occasions 750-590 million years ago. SEH overstates the case for dramatic freezing and downplays sedimentological evidence for regional ‘wet-based’ glaciation driven by tectonics. Our work is based on detailed analysis of sedimentary facies and the broader plate tectonic setting of glaciation and is rooted in long experience working in modern glacial environments. Kirsten Kennedy is working on the diamictite host rocks of the Kamoa Copper deposit in Congo.

I continue to work with local communities on the impact on urban waterfronts by urban sediments and contaminants (mostly metals and road salt) focusing on lagoons along the Lake Ontario waterfront (e.g., Frenchman’s Bay). Several papers with Dr. Mandy Meriano have identified the very large volumes of salt that reach these lagoons and these findings have received widespread media interest.

Over the years I have conducted a wide variety of geophysical cruises on lakes in Canada and with Michael Doughty am currently publishing a series of papers on the extensive record of ongoing faulting and tectonic activity in Lake Timiskaming. Some 16 lakes have been surveyed to date. I have access to a full range of marine geophysical equipment (sub bottom profiler, side scan) and a 26 foot research boat.

Kathy Wallace is completing a Ph.D on seismites in Paleozoic and Pleistocene strata in Ontario to better constrain seismic risk; a recent Insurance Bureau of Canada report puts the likelihood of M7 earthquake in the Toronto-Montreal corridor at 1:500.

Louise Daurio (M.Sc) has recently completed work on rock glaciers recently discovered in Ubehebe volcanic crater in Death Valley, California. This has implications for understanding similar forms on Mars.

Lisa Tutty (Ph.D) has been working successfully on using geophysical methods (sidescan sonar, magnetic, sub bottom sonar) to map fish habitat in the Great Lakes.

Tom Meulendyk (Research Associate) and I are working on the application of ground penetrating radar to understand the deep subsurface structure of Holocene sand dunes in Ontario.

I am using SRTM data to map megalineated terrains (till drumlins, rock drumlins) cut by fast flowing ice streams within the Laurentide Ice Sheet in conjunction with Dr. Niko Putkinen on leave from the Finnish Geological Survey.

I am actively collaborating with the research group of Myrna and Andre Simpson at UTSC in understanding the geochemical evolution of glacial sediments, and the use of organic matter in fingerprinting their origins.

If you are interested in graduate work please contact Nick directly by email. Remember to plan ahead by 12 months as the deadlines for applications for postgraduate scholarships (NSERC, U of T., etc) must be submitted in the Fall semester of your last undergraduate year.

Finally check out our web site and app developed with Shane Sookhan and Richard Gao: and enjoy the great outdoors of Ontario.

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