Nicholas Eyles

Nicholas Eyles
Professor
Telephone number
416-287-7231
Building EV 352

Nick Eyles holds a MSc (Memorial University), a PhD (East Anglia) and D.Sc. (Leicester) and is Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto Scarborough where he has taught for almost 40 years. His prime research interest is in glacial geology and has much experience of field work on modern glaciers and ice sheets from Antarctica to the Arctic together with the Pleistocene and pre-Pleistocene sedimentary records of ancient ice ages. He has been at Toronto since 1982 when he was awarded an NSERC University Research Fellowship and has authored more than 250 publications in leading scientific journals on ice age geology and environmental urban geology. He has worked with the International Ocean Drilling Program on board the drillship Resolution. Recent sabbaticals have been held in Brazil, Australia and the US.

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 an award-winning author of the ‘Rocks’ series of books published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside such as ‘Toronto Rocks’ (1998 with L. Clinton), ‘Ontario Rocks’ (2002, reprinted 2010) and ‘Canada Rocks: The Geologic Journey’ (2007) with Andrew Miall (Toronto Star ‘Science Book of the Year’ and reprinted in 2018), ‘Canadian Shield – The Rocks that Made Canada’ (2011), ‘Road Rocks - Geological Wonders of Ontario’ (awarded ‘Best Field Guide’ by the Geoscience Information Society for 2012). and Georgian Bay: A unique North American Ecosystem (edited: 2018 which was awarded the Floyd. S. Chalmers Medal by the Champlain Society). A biography of J. Tuzo Wilson (Unlikely Revolutionary: J. Tuzo Wilson and Plate Tectonics) is to be published shortly by University of Toronto Press.

After completing a five part series with CBC on the geology of Canada aired in 2008), Nick 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 is widely used in schools and a teacher’s guide is available from CBC. The series was nominated for 3 Gemini awards.

In 2012, Nick was awarded the  Geosciences in the Media Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists for contributions to public understanding of geology. He has also been awarded the McNeil Medal by the Royal Society of Canada, E.R. Ward Neale Medal by the Geological Association of Canada, and from the Professional Geoscientists of Ontario and Geoscientists Canada. In 2018, he was awarded the Principal’s Research Award at UTSC.

Teaching Interests

  • EESA06H3S - Introduction to Planet Earth
  • EESC21H3S - Urban Environmental Problems of the Greater Toronto Area

 

Research Interests

My current work revolves around the geological record of pre-Pleistocene ice ages in North America and Africa in particular those of the Neoproterozoic (c. 750 to 600 million years before present) which are depicted in some circles as ‘snowball Earths’ supposedly involving global ice covers extending to the tropics. Shannon Carto completed a PhD on the Neoproterozoic Squantum Formation of the Boston Basin, US., and Kirsten Kennedy completed her Ph.D on the Kingston Peak Formation of Death Valley, California and the Neoproterozoic glacial record in eastern Congo (see list of publications). Our work suggests a more prosaic origin involving tectonically triggered regional glaciations as the supercontinent Rodinia broke apart; most of the record is preserved in rift basins reflected in regional glaciations with a strong (often dominant) control on sedimentation. A recent paper with Dan Le Heron (University of Vienna) shows markedly diachronous preservational ages that cannot be force fitted into discrete global glacial climate events.

I also collaborate with Dr. Mandy Meriano in studying the impact on urbanization on Toronto-area watersheds involving urban sediments and contaminants (mostly metals and road salt) focusing on lagoons along the Lake Ontario waterfront. A wide variety of geophysical cruises on lakes with Dr. Michael Doughty focused on the record of ongoing faulting and neotectonic activity and, with Andrew Zajch and Tom Meulendyk on evidence of mid-Holocene lowered Great Lake water levels. We have access to a full range of geophysical equipment, drones and research boats.

I am currently working with Ph.D student Shane Sookhan on mapping map former corridors of fast flowing ice (‘ice streams’) within the last great ice sheet (Laurentide Ice Sheet) to have covered Canada and adjacent parts of the upper US. We are especially interested in how ice sheets flow across their beds to form drumlins and other related landforms (still poorly known after 150 years of study). The advent of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to make detailed topographic maps has transformed the analysis and understanding of glacial landscapes and we have several projects ongoing with Riley Mulligan (Ontario Geological Survey), Roger Paulen (Geological Survey of Canada) and Niko Putkinen (Geological Survey of Finland) with graduate students Syed Bukhari and Philip Ruscica.

Ontario has one of the best backyards in the world and I am committed, along with my students, in bringing the field work experience into the classroom. With substantial support from U of T and the province of Ontario we have developed a series of online modules consisting of interactive activities and multiple choice-based assessments. Modules are distributed as SCORM files that can be imported into your Learning Management System of choice. Instructor guides are available which outline the topics covered and installation procedure. Modules can be viewed at https://planetearth.utsc.utoronto.ca/

Also check out https://planetrocks.utsc.utoronto.ca/ for details of virtual field trips and sies of geologic interest in Ontario. If you know of any sites that we’ve missed we’d like to hear from you.

-Should you be interested in graduate work please contact Nick directly by email (Nicholas.eyles@utoronto.ca). Remember to plan ahead by 12 months as the deadlines for applications for postgraduate scholarships (NSERC, U of T etc.,) must be submitted in your last undergraduate year.

Awards and Grants

  • E.R. Ward Neale Medal from the Geological Association of Canada (2015)
  • Geoscience Information Society Best Guidebook Award (2013)
  • Royal Society of Canada McNeil Medal (2013)
  • American Association of Petroleum Geologists Geoscience in the Media Award (2012)
  • Toronto Star Best Science Book of the Year (2007)
  • City of Pickering Founders Award (2000)

Publications

S Sookhan, N Eyles, S Bukhari, RC Paulen (2021) LiDAR-based quantitative assessment of drumlin to mega-scale glacial lineation continuums and flow of the paleo Seneca-Cayuga paleo-ice stream Quaternary Science Reviews 263, 107003

K Kennedy, N Eyles (2021) Syn‐rift mass flow generated ‘tectonofacies’ and ‘tectonosequences’ of the Kingston Peak Formation, Death Valley, California, and their bearing on supposed Neoproterozoic panglacial climates Sedimentology 68 (1), 352-381

Le Heron, D.P., Eyles, N. and Busfield, M. (2020b) Le Heron, D.P., Eyles, N. and Busfield, M.E. (2020b) The Laurentian Neoproterozoic Glacial Interval: reappraising the extent and timing of glaciation. Austrian Journal of Earth Sciences 113, 59-70.

Kennedy, K. and Eyles, N (2020a) Syn-rift mass flow generated ‘tectonofacies’ and ‘tectonosequences’ of the Kingston Peak Formation, Death Valley, California, and their bearing on supposed Neoproterozoic panglacials. Sedimentology https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12781

Putkinen, N., Eyles, N., Daxberger, H., Sarala, H., Pihlaja, J. and A. Murray (2020) Early Saalian deposits preserved under Late Weichselian till in the core region of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet at Äältövittikot in Finnish Lapland. Journal of Quaternary Science

Kennedy, K. and Eyles, N. (2019b) Subaqueous debrites of the Grand Conglomérat Formation, Democratic Republic of Congo: a model for anomalously thick Neoproterozoic 'glacial' diamictites. Journal of Sedimentary Research 89, 1-21.

Sookhan, S., Eyles, N., Arbelaez-Moreno, L. (2019a) Converging ice streams: a new paradigm for reconstructions of the Laurentide Ice sheet in southern Ontario and deposition of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Reply to commentsCanadian Journal of Earth Sciences 56, 889-893.

Kennedy, K. and Eyles, N, and Broughton, D. (2019) Kennedy, K., Eyles, N. and Broughton, D.  Basinal setting and origin of thick (1 8 km) mass-flow dominated Grand Conglomerat diamictites, Kamoa, Democratic Republic of Congo: resolving climate and tectonic controls during Neoproterozoic glaciations. Sedimentology 66, 556-589.

For more publications see: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/people/eyles/publications/