Jaan Terasmae

Citation for the 1990 award of the W.A. Johnston Medal

Dr. Jaan Terasmae obtained his undergraduate education at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and came to Canada in 1952. His initial employment was with the Geological Survey of Canada where he rose from the ranks as a senior assistant to eventually act as the head of the Pleistocene Palynology Laboratory, and later, head of the Paleoecology and Geochronology Section. In his early years in Canada (1952-1955) he obtained his doctoral degree from McMaster University. His thesis research was on the palynology of the Pleistocene deposits of the St. Lawrence Lowlands, and those of the Toronto Formation. Both Terasmae and Karrow served as senior assistants under Nelson Gadd in the St. Lawrence Lowlands in 1954.

His broad, interdisciplinary approach led to pioneer in advances in many fields and in different geographic regions in Canada. For example he conducted the first pollen studies of the Toronto interglacial, the St. Pierre interstadial, and the Missinaibi “interglacial” of northern Ontario. Jaan was responsible for re-assessing the age of the Champlain Sea in Quebec and Ontario (and pushing the age back in time); he helped to establish the postglacial vegetation history of the St. Lawrence Valley and made numerous transects across Ontario to provide modern baseline studies for the vegetational history. Jaan was also responsible for the first listing of diatom species from the Toronto interglacial as well as projects from as far afield as Nova Scotia to the Arctic Islands, and from the Vancouver region to the Mackenzie Delta.

In 1968 Dr. Terasmae was appointed as Professor at Brock University and one year later he became departmental chairman. In the twenty years that have elapsed he has twice served as Department Chairman, and has supervised over forty thesis topics. In the early years of his tenure at Brock the department concentrated on Quaternary research. Jaan was able to continue making substantial progress on topics as varied as the deglaciation of eastern Ontario, the problems of marl dating, and a continuation of his studies of early vegetational colonisation in southern Ontario. His contributions to the scientific literature are equally formidable with well over 100 publications.

Jaan has also served the various scientific bodies with which he has been connected with honour and distinction. These include the NRC Associate Committee on Quaternary Research; the NRC Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research (Muskeg Subcommittee): INQUA Commissions on the Holocene, and the Uthology of Glacial Deposits, as well as a number of IGCP Projects. Jaan acted as Editor for the ACQR Newsletter for many years. He was President of the Environmental Earth Sciences Division of GAC in 1977-1978, and President of the Canadian Association of Palynologists in 1985. He has frequently acted as Canadian delegate to international conferences. In 1977 Jaan was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

As seen above, Jaan Terasmae is well known for contributions in many areas of Quaternary science both in Europe and in North America. All of his nominees stressed his committment to an interdisciplinary approach to research, and particularly his pioneering work in palynology in Canada. It is for these reasons that we are most pleased to see him receive the 1990 W. A. Johnston Medal for meritorious service to the Canadian Quaternary community.

In accepting the W. A. Johnston Medal Dr. Terasmae expressed his surprise at receiving the medal. He considered that I it was a great honour; one which deserved to be shared by many former students and colleagues, and particularly by his wife.

Alan V. Morgan, Canadian Quaternary Association