Barbara Sherwood Lollar wins international award for path-breaking work to protect environment

Thursday, September 13, 2012 9:49:00 AM


(photo: Derek Shapton/

Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar (Department of Earth Sciences) received the prestigious Eni Award for the Protection of the Environment, in recognition of her world-leading research in groundwater contamination.  The award, presented to her in June 2012 in Rome by the President of the Italian Republic, includes a gold medal crafted by the Italian state mint.

Dr. Sherwood Lollar leads a research group that developed an effective way to monitor the clean-up of contaminated groundwater using naturally occurring isotopes of carbon. Measured in groundwater samples, these isotopes indicate whether dangerous pollutants such as dry cleaning fluids or petroleum hydrocarbons are breaking down into more benign substances. Her technique has been widely disseminated and is the subject of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance white paper for groundwater management.  In the Dept. of Earth Sciences, she is also Director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory and Canada Research Chair in Isotopes of the Earth and Environment. She is a world leader in the innovative use of compound-specific stable isotope techniques to track the source and fate of organic contaminants in groundwater and to investigate the source and fate of CO2 in sedimentary basins and natural carbon sequestration settings. In this area of her research, Sherwood Lollar’s research group collaborates extensively with industrial partners, consultants and regulators in both Canada and the United States.  Her work also addresses the identification of subsurface gases, such as methane and hydrogen, in deep groundwater in the oldest rocks on Earth, as well as investigation of biogeochemical cycling by deep subsurface microbial communities.

The award is the latest in a series of honours for Sherwood Lollar, including a Steacie Fellowship and Accelerator Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and a Killam Fellowship from the Canada Council. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and, in 2000, Time magazine named her one of 25 leaders for the 21st century.

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