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Athabasca University

Dr. Ken Munyikwa

Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences, Centre for Science

I currently hold an NSERC Discovery Grant and my research uses climate proxy records extracted from geologic materials to reconstruct environmental change that has occurred in western Canada over the last 20 000 years. We use this benchmark because it is the time that has elapsed since the last ice age, a period which saw the whole of Canada covered by ice sheets. In particular, the research aims to reconstruct an accurate chronology of how the environment evolved after the ice sheets receded. Hence, a major aspect of the investigations involves the determination of the ages of pertinent geologic materials in the region using a technique called luminescence dating.  An appreciation of how the climate has previously evolved in the medium- to long-term enables us to contextualize shorter term environmental changes such as the contemporary phase of global warming.

In addition to witnessing a major change in climate from glacial to warm conditions, the last 20 000 years are also unique in that that they saw the arrival of the first humans in the Americas. The exact route in western Canada followed these people, however, is not yet well established. Thus, by developing an accurate temporal scale for environmental evolution, we also hope to be able to provide constraints for the timing of the arrival of these early humans and the routes they used. This work is featured in the cover article of the November 2011 issue of Scientific American.

Updated March 03 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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