issues and experts

SFU Experts on why Mountains Matter —International Mountain Day (Dec. 11)

December 10, 2018

SFU Earth sciences professor John Clague will mark International Mountain Day (Dec. 11) carrying out his latest passion—field research in the Andes mountains. SFU Earth Sciences colleague professor Glyn Williams-Jones and biology professor David Hik are similarly passionate about mountains and can share details of their latest research and how climate change is impacting their research fields.

Clague is studying mountains in Bolivia and Argentina—opposite margins of the Andes—documenting early glaciation and reconstructing the evolution of the Andean landscape over the past 10 million years.

“As in Canada, the mountains are extremely important for water supply in surrounding low-lying areas where almost everyone lives,” says Clague, who is currently in South America (and reachable by email). The Andes act as ‘water towers,’ storing large amounts of snow and glacier ice, which provide water for domestic and agricultural uses during the dry summer season. He says climate change poses a risk to this resource through the reduction of snow and ice cover.

Williams-Jones, co-director of SFU’s Natural Hazards Research Physical Volcanology Group, is focusing his research on a local mountain range—home to the Mount Meager volcano near Whistler—to determine how climate change may be destabilizing volcanoes globally. The site of one of Canada’s largest landslides (2010), movement at Mount Meager continues as the mountain’s glacier is shrinking.

Hik has spent many years in the far North, where he studies the terrestrial ecology of northern mountains, including the Arctic, and the impact of retreating glaciers on the environment. His study findings recently contributed to a global paper in Nature that linked the effects of climate change to new and taller plant species in the Arctic and alpine tundra.

The United Nations designated December 11 as International Mountain Day (#MountainsMatter) to raise awareness of the globe’s dependency on mountains against the threat of climate change. See

• John Clague, Faculty of Science,;; (reachable by email, 5 hours ahead of Vancouver time)

• Glyn Williams-Jones, Faculty of Science, (email to set up interviews; 778.782.3306 (o), 778.240.3306 (cell)

• David Hik, Faculty of Science, 780.935.5223; (in Ottawa today and Tuesday but reachable)

About Simon Fraser University:

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 150,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world. 


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