Olav Slaymaker

Department of Geography

Olav Slaymaker is an award-winning international expert in physical geomorphology and the environment of the cryosphere (landscapes of ice and snow). He has authored, co-authored, or edited nearly twenty books, including Mountain Geomorphology (Arnold, 2004), received dozens of international awards and special honours, and served on numerous major international and national professional associations and committees. Dr. Slaymaker came to UBC as an Assistant Professor in 1968.

Dr. Slaymaker has developed a range of interdisciplinary intellectual interests that have taken him from his original area of field measurement and analysis of erosional processes in the mountains of British Columbia to the analysis of lake sediments as proxies for climate and land use changes over the Holocene, and on to his current interest: the human implications of the great future environmental changes. Reflecting this shift in focus was the major Exploratory Workshop he led at the Peter Wall Institute in April 2003, Mutual Vulnerability, Mutual Dependence: The Reflexive Relation Between Human Society and the Environment.

At the Institute in 2005, Dr. Slaymaker organized another Exploratory Workshop for which he is the Principal Investigator: Assessment of Sensitivity to Disturbance of the Major Cryospheric and Socio-Economic Systems in the Circumpolar World, held February 26-28, 2006. 

Primary Recipient Awards

Exploratory Workshops, Olav Slaymaker, 2005

Olav Slaymaker

The workshop took place February 26 - 28, 2006.

The circumpolar region is subject to two major driving forces: climate change and land cover change. These are polar specific instances of world-wide accelerated environmental change. Climate change has received the most intense investigation over the past decade, including: several EPCC Reports (Watson et al., 1996; 1998; 2001; Houghton et al., 2001; McCarthy et al., 2001) and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA; Hassol, 2004). Land cover change and associated anthropogenic processes have received less attention. This proposed workshop responds to one of the three recommendations contained in the (Hassol, 2004); to assess the vulnerabilities to disturbance of major cryospheric and socio-economic systems in the circumpolar world.

The workshop will emphasize terrestrial processes because (a) these have been neglected compared to coupled atmosphere-ocean processes, which are more readily modelled in GCM's (Hassol, 2004, p. 122); (b) the interaction between people and environment is most evident on land, where the 3.6 million residents of the circumpolar world live; and (c) the system at risk is the integrated 'atmosphere-ocean-land-people system'. This system needs to be assessed in terms of the current and progressive state of degradation, with attention to the possibility, at some point, of ecological collapse. The major cryospheric systems (snow, river and lake ice, glaciers, permafrost, ice sheets and sea ice and socio-economic systems (communities, economies, cultures and political groups) in the circumpolar world will be discussed and debated in relation to their sensitivity to disturbance and their current status in relation to global environmental and atmospheric change.

Distinguished Scholars in Residence, Olav Slaymaker, 2005

Olav Slaymaker

Exploratory Workshops, Olav Slaymaker, 2002

Olav Slaymaker

Human society affects environmental change but is also vulnerable to these changes. This relation has generated a number of theories that either focus on how we affect the environment or how the environment affects us. Few theories explicitly focus on the reflexive nature of this interaction and policy suffers as a result. This workshop will establish the range of data required to give an assessment of how likely an ecosystem is to change (which we label environmental sensitivity) and the ability of communities to adapt (social resilience). Illustrative case studies, drawn from both the industrial and developing world agricultural and forestry sectors, will allow us to develop this approach and help us generate a new method for assessing the reflexive relation between society and the environment.