John J. Clague Geochemistry and Geochronology

One of Canada’s leading authorities in Quaternary and environmental earth sciences

The Story

People in earthquake-prone areas such as the southwest coast of British Columbia sit up and take notice whenever earthquakes of magnitude 8 or more take place around the world. But it is the smaller, more commonly occurring quakes that should catch our attention. At least, that's what John Clague, Professor at the Department of Earth Science at Simon Fraser University believes. These are the earthquakes which typically occur on shallow faults, nearer to the kinds of areas where major cities are likely to be situated. According to Claque, identification of which of these faults are active should be a clear priority.

Clague is an expert in Quaternary studies (the science of the last 2 million years of earth geological history), and specializes in geological hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and floods. From 1973-1998, he worked as research scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, studying the evidence and effects of historic disasters. He and fellow geologist Prof. G.H. Eisbacher are the co-authors of Destructive Mass Movements in High Mountains (1984).

Clague has vigorously led efforts to make scientific understanding of earthquakes, landslides, and floods more available to the general public and politicians, as well as educators. In addition to his numerous television, radio and newspaper interviews, he has collaborated on innovative geoscience products for educators and the public such as a geoscience field guide for teachers, and a series of posters and resources kits on climate change in southwestern BC (see the website Climate Change).  He recently made a presentation to parliamentarians in Ottawa on earthquakes and tsunamis as part of a series designed to increase politicians' knowledge of the impact of science in Canada.

In 1998, Clague left the GSC to take the position of Professor and Shrum Chair at the Department of Earth Science, SFU. One of his goals there is to establish an interdisciplinary research program drawing together researchers from different fields together, for example, geologists, biologists, physicists, and physical geographers. His collaborators include scientists at the Geological Survey of Canada, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the British Columbia Geological Survey, and faculty at SFU, UBC and Carlton University.

Clague has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, President of the Canadian Geomorphology Research Group and Vice President of INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research). He is a frequent lecturer at several North American universities, professional meetings, and public venues.

Sources: Dr. Clague's website; The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE); Geological Survey of Canada; SFU News Vol. 12 No. 4, June 18, 1998; Royal Society of Canada.

Photo: SFU News Vol. 18, No. 2, May 18, 2000.

The Person

Professor and Shrum Chair in Science
Department of Earth Science, Simon Fraser University
  • AB, Occidental College, Los Angeles, 1967
  • MA (Geology), U of C (Berkeley), 1969
  • PhD (Geology), UBC, 1973
  • Bancroft Award (Royal Society of Canada), 2002
  • Christopher J Westerman Memorial Award, (AGEPBC), 1999
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, 1998
  • W.A. Johnston Medal, (Canadian Quarternary Assoc), 1995
  • Emeritus Scientist, Geological Survey of Canada
  • E.B. Burwell Jr. Memorial Award (Geological Society of America), 1988
Last Updated
June 17, 2015

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