Bridging the gap between land and sea: Dr. John Shaw has made his mark

John Shawby Brian J. Todd, Vladimir E. Kostylev, Michael Z. Li

Dr. John Shaw, a senior earth scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, is a recognized leader in advancing marine geoscience in Canada. Highly respected in his field, he recently received the honour of the 2017 Michael J. Keen Medal from the Marine Geosciences Division of the Geological Association of Canada.

Internationally renowned, Dr. Shaw’s significant contributions to marine geoscience can be grouped into three major themes:

Rising sea levels

Cape Blomidon, Bay of Fundy coast, Nova Scotia.

Cape Blomidon, Bay of Fundy coast, Nova Scotia. Photo credit: Dr. Brian Todd, GSC Atlantic

Dr. Shaw’s meticulous fieldwork details sea level rise in Atlantic Canada. This led to the unravelling of the complex sea level and tidal range history of the Bay of Fundy and important contributions to the understanding of archeological sites. Through his long and varied career, he has become one of the leading experts on the impact of rising sea level on the varied coastlines of Canada.

Enhancing new technology

Map of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador generated using multibeam bathymetry.

Map of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador generated using multibeam bathymetry. Credit: Dr. John Shaw, GSC Atlantic. The red and blue colours indicate shallow and deep water depths.

Map showing backscatter in Placentia Bay.

Map showing backscatter in Placentia Bay. The dark-toned areas have high backscatter (hard substrates such as gravel or bedrock) and the light-toned areas have low backscatter (mud and sand). Credit: Dr. John Shaw, GSC Atlantic.

As multibeam bathymetry became available, Dr. Shaw quickly recognised the potential for this new technology to revolutionize marine geoscience mapping. He developed the method of integrating multibeam bathymetry and backscatter with core samples and high-resolution seismic profiling to map the surficial geology of nearshore areas. This method helps scientists cross-reference more data in one area to better interpret the characteristics of the seafloor.

Bridging the gap between land and sea

Map representing ice streams.

Map representing ice streams. Thin blue lines are generalized flow lines; heavy blue dashed lines are major ice divides. Credit: Dr. John Shaw, GSC Atlantic

Glaciation was an important influence on seabed morphology and geology in the inner shelf areas where Dr. Shaw mostly worked. Dr. Shaw succeeded in bridging the gap between marine and terrestrial geology and developed a clear understanding of the role of ice streams in the glacial evolution of the shelves of Atlantic Canada.

Dr. Shaw is highly respected by his colleagues as a skilled and interdisciplinary scientist, good colleague and mentor to the younger generation of marine geoscience researchers at the GSC and across Canada. On November 23, 2017, after more than 30 years with GSC Atlantic, Dr. Shaw received the Michael J. Keen Medal at a ceremony at historic Oakwood House in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The Michael J. Keen Medal is awarded annually by the Marine Geosciences Division of the Geological Association of Canada to a scientist who has made a significant contribution to the field of marine or lacustrine geoscience.

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