Dept of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Centre for Environmental and Information Technology (EIT)
200 University Ave. W
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567
John Johnston aims to identify natural patterns and trends involving sediment, lake water levels, and climate to help predict future scenarios for some of the largest freshwater resources on Earth.
Professor Johnston is currently a leader in two large, multidisciplinary research groups focused on the Mackenzie and Laurentian Great Lakes. He also teaches a number of undergraduate geology courses, including the 3rd-year fieldcamp.
Office: EIT 2042
Phone: 519-888-4567, ext. 33234
- Sedimentology, stratigraphy, geomorphology, hydrogeology, geochronology, limnology, geodesy, geophysics, climatology, geochemistry, soils, coring & sampling in remote locations.
- Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and Mackenzie watersheds (sediment, water, ice, and climate).
Increasing pressures as a result of both human-induced and natural factors have raised concern about future available freshwater resources.
Prof. Johnston's goal is to identify natural patterns and trends of sediment (coastal), water (lake level), ice (glacial isostatic adjustment) and climate (multi-decadal to millennial) to place historical events into context and help predict future scenarios.
His current interests involve studying modern and ancient freshwater lakes and associated deposits to decouple climatic and human influence.
He uses the latest sedimentologic, stratigraphic and geomorphic principles in conjunction with geochronological (i.e. 210Pb, 14C, OSL), gephysical (i.e. GPR), geochemical (i.e. C/N) and ecological (i.e. macrofossil, diatom) methods to link surface features to subsurface sediment clues.
Professor Johnston is a leader in two large and long-standing, multidisciplinary research groups focused on water resources in two of Canada’s most important drainage basins, the Mackenzie and Laurentian Great Lakes.
The Five W’s of Dr. Johnston’s Research...
What? - Expertise interpreting modern and ancient coastal sediment and sequences. To unravel natural drivers of water level change (climate, sediment, outlet, glacial isostatic adjustment) during palaeohydrographic reconstruction.
When? - Focus on the late Holocene, the last five millennia.
Where? - The Laurentian Great Lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario) and Mackenzie (Athabasca, Great Slave, Great Bear) drainage basins. Well preserved deposits in remote areas.
Who? - Two leading, large and long-standing, multidisciplinary research groups (and growing). Great Lakes member since 1998 and Mackenzie member since 2004.
Why? – Improve resolution of geological records to better merge with and extend instrumental records. Identify natural patterns and trends, place historical events in to context, and predict future possible scenarios.
At the University of Waterloo, Professor Johnston teaches four classes with an enrolment of more than 630 students: 1st-year Geology & lab, 2nd-year Stratigraphy, and the 3rd-year Fieldcamp.
Professor Johnston has also developed and taught several university classes while at the University of Waterloo (UW), Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) and University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM):
- UW Earth 121 & 121L Introductory Earth Sciences (298 & 154, fall 2014)
- UTM ERS120 Planet Earth (100 students, spring 2013)
- UTM ERS103 Geology and Public Issues (300 students, fall 2012)
- WLU GL101 The Anatomy of Earth (150 students, fall 2013)
- WLU GL102 Surface of Earth (90 and 150 students, winter 2009 and 2014)
Introductory Physical Geography
- UTM GGR117 Where on Earth? (360x2 students, fall 2010 and 2011)
- WLU GG101 Intro. Phys. Geog. (182, 177, 150 students, fall 2009 & 2013, winter 2010)
- WLU GG231 Risks and Disasters (123, 126, 275 students, fall 2008/10 & winter 2009)
- UTM ERS317 Geological Hazards (30 students, fall 2012)
Weather and Climate
- UTM GGR214 Global Weather and Climate (140 and 175 students, fall & winter 2011)
- UTM GGR377 Global Climate Change (35 students, winter 2011)
- WLU GG389 Climate Change (44 and 50 students, winter 2010 and 2014)
- UW Earth 390 Methods in Geological Mapping (74 students, winter 2015)
- WLU GG399 Third Year Field Studies (78 students, fall 2009)
- WLU GG380 Field & Lab Tech. in Phy. Geog. (16 students, fall 2008)
- UTM ERS315 Environmental Geology (40 students, winter 2013)
- UTM ERS202 Structural Geology (40 students, winter 2013)
- UW Earth235 Stratigraphy and Earth History (48/49/108 students, fall 2004/2005/2014)
- UW Earth333 Sedimentology (23 and 34 students, fall 2005 and winter 2006)
- UTM GGR479 Coastal Processes (3 students, fall 2010)
- UTM GGR489 Lake Level Change (1 student, winter 2011)
- WLU GG450 Thesis (1 student, fall and winter 2009)
Awards and Distinctions
- Geological Society of America Limnogeology Division Distinguished Service Award
- International Association for Great Lakes Research Award
- Indiana University Bloomington Professional Council and the Office of the Chancellor Award.
- Indiana University, Dept of Geological Sciences Award for Academic Achievement
- Indiana University, Dept of Geological Sciences Estwing Award
- University of Guelph Geology representative for the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Student - Industry Field Trip: Geology of the southern Rocky Mountains.
University of Waterloo Affiliations
- Member, The Water Institute
Professional Associations and Service
- Geological Association of Canada
- Geological Society of America
- International Association for Great Lakes Research
- American Geophysical Union
- Great Lakes Research Consortium
Professor Johnston's research was featured in the following news story:
December 17, 2014: Reconstructing lake levels from lines in the sand
2004 PhD Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, USA
1999 MSc Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON.
1995 BSc Physical Sciences (minor in geology), University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.