Prof. Barbara Sherwood Lollar

Prof. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, F.R.S.C. (BA - Harvard University; PhD University of Waterloo) completed an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cambridge University before joining UofT in 1992. She is a Professor in Geology, Tier I Canada Research Chair in Isotopes of the Earth and Environment, Director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory, and Senior Fellow, Massey College. She is a specialist in environmental biogeoscience and carbon isotope geochemistry whose remarkable career has seen her forge a pioneering role simultaneously in two major research areas.

Research in Contaminant Hydrogeology

Contamination of groundwater resources with petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents represents one of the most urgent challenges facing water quality today. Prof. Sherwood Lollar's research group was one of the first to use compound specific stable isotopes (CSIA) to investigate controls on the origin, transport and fate of these low-level dissolved pollutants in the subsurface. This research has been recognized by a series of major prizes including the 1998 US National Ground Water Association’s Darcy Distinguished Lectureship, E.W.R Steacie Fellowship (1999-2001) and her selection in 2000 as one of TIME Magazine’s “Leaders for the 21st Century". Further evidence of her international leadership includes her selection as the RSC WISET Lecturer to Japan (2007); invitation to present to Federal MPs and Senators at Parliament Hill (2005); and role on the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Groundwater (2007-2009). She was a lead author in the 2008 U.S. EPA White Paper - a best practice guide for practitioners and regulators to the application of CSIA to contaminant hydrogeology. She is the Editor for one of the most successful volumes (Vol. 9 Environmental Geochemistry) in the award-winning major reference work Treatise on Geochemistry.

Research on the Deep Carbon Cycle

In parallel with the development of her research program in contaminant hydrogeology, Prof. Sherwood Lollar built upon her long-standing research inquiries into deep gases and fluids in the Earth. Her accomplishments in this sphere are equally as innovative and recognized as her research in environmental geoscience. For example, Sherwood Lollar et al. (2002) (highlighted on the cover of Nature April 2002) reported the first direct evidence for non-biological (abiotic) synthesis of hydrocarbon gases in crystalline rocks of the Canadian Shield. Sherwood Lollar et al. (2006; 2007; 2008) and Onstott et al (2006) provide a framework for quantifying the relative contributions of microbial versus geologic sources of methane to the terrestrial deep subsurface and to Mars - a topic that earned the latter paper the cover of the journal Astrobiology in 2006. Lin et al. Science (2006) (also chosen as a “research highlight” by the NSF) provided the geochemical, isotopic and microbiological evidence for hydrogen-driven chemoautotrophic microbial communities at > 2.7 km depth in the earth’s crust in the absence of energy from photosynthesis. Most recently, Sherwood Lollar's long-standing collaboration with the renowned noble gas group of Dr. C.J. Ballentine garnered international attention for a series of papers on natural analogs for carbon capture and storage to address the fate of carbon dioxide in the deep subsurface. The most notable of these graced the April 2009 cover of Nature - making Prof. Sherwood Lollar a member of a small set of University of Toronto researchers whose work has earned this distinction not once but twice.

Evidence of Prof. Sherwood Lollar's international role and recognition in this field is most recently attested to by the invitation from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to her and other distinguished colleagues to organize a first workshop in Astrobiology for CIFAR. Evidence of international stature is also attested to by awards such as the Canada Council Killam Fellowship (2004-2006); the CRC Tier I Chair in Isotopes of the Earth and the Environment, and the NSERC Accelerator Award (2008) and by her roles on advisory committees for the Canadian Space Agency (2006-2009); the Founders Advisory Committee - Sloan Foundation - Carnegie Institution of Washington Deep Carbon Observatory (2009-2010); and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board Committee on the Origin and Evolution of Life (2005-2011). She has also played an important role as a Canadian representative to the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Mars Exploration Program as one of the team co-authoring the National Academies of Science "Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars" (2007).

Professional Service and Public Consultation

Prof. Sherwood Lollar has shown personal dedication to professional service and outreach internationally, nationally, to the University of Toronto and to the larger public community. She has served on Selection Committees for the major international prizes in her field (Meinzer Award (1999-2001), Patterson Medal (2002-2005); Treibs Medal (2008-2011). She has been a long-standing member of NSERC Council 2003-2010 (Executive Council 2007-2010); Chair of the NSERC Research Grants and Scholarships Committee (2008-2010), and Chair of the Prize Selection Committees for both the Herzberg Medal (2005) and Brockhouse Prize (2005). At the University of Toronto she served on the Academic Board (2001-2004); Governing Council (2004-2007) and on the Executive Board for 2005-2007 and a host of other committees at the University, Faculty and Departmental levels. She has served as a mentor to young faculty members both in the official faculty mentoring program at the University of Toronto, as well as informally to young faculty developing their own research and teaching programs at universities elsewhere in Canada and abroad. Prof. Sherwood Lollar also volunteers her time to provide input to government, regulatory agencies and the public on water quality issues, contamination of groundwater resources, and carbon capture and storage.

Teaching Contributions and Outreach

Dr. Sherwood Lollar is an experienced and valued member of the teaching faculty, with an exemplary commitment to teaching at all levels, including undergraduate research experiences, large undergraduate breadth courses of 450+, first year seminars for non-scientists (SCI 199), as well as more specialized courses for upper year science undergraduates and graduate students. She has been deeply involved in curriculum development and renewal, and in innovation in integrating teaching and research, especially at the undergraduate level. She is an active and dedicated member of the community of scholars providing both mentoring and outreach to the public in general and to high schools in particular. In addition to routinely providing tours and presentations to visiting school groups at the University and travelling to schools, she has been a presenter to high school students in the FAS Girls Rock Science program. In her role as a volunteer trustee at the Ontario Science Centre, she has also devoted many days each year to mentoring and outreach to young people, for example, through presentations, her work on the Long-Term Experience Planning Committee, and as a judge each year in the nationwide Weston Family Innovation Youth Award for high school students.