Imaging the Canadian interior: The legacy of Ron Clowes

May 23, 2024
Prof. Ron Clowes. Image credit: UBC library

Meet Professor Emeritus Ronald M. Clowes, a world-renowned geophysicist int UBC’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences since 1970! During his nearly 55 years as a decorated teacher, mentor, and world-class researcher,  Professor Clowes led a remarkable career studying seismology. As one of the leading developers and later director of Canada’s LITHOPROBE program, Prof. Clowes was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1998, one of the nation's highest honors of merit.

Impact on Canadian geoscience

In 1987, Dr. Clowes became the Director of Lithoprobe, a pioneering national geoscience research project focused on imaging the crust and upper mantle. Under his leadership, Lithoprobe became a flagship program that significantly advanced our understanding of Canada's geological framework through extensive seismic and geophysical studies. This program set a benchmark for international geoscientific research collaborations and methodologies. Today, LITHOPROBE research has published more than 1500 research articles. Contemporary geophysical research relies on the methods and data analysis framework developed by the program.

Research focus and contributions

Prof. Clowes' research focuses on seismic and geophysical investigations of the Earth's lithosphere on land and under the sea. His work has provided critical insights into the relationship between seismic data, geological structures, and tectonic processes. These contributions have not only enriched scientific knowledge but also informed practical applications in resource exploration and environmental management.

Distinguished awards and honors

Prof. Clowes' work has been recognized through numerous prestigious awards. In 2005, he received the Logan Medal, the Geological Association of Canada's highest honor. His other accolades include:

  • Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship (2004–2006)

  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)

  • J. Tuzo Wilson Medal, Canadian Geophysical Union (1998)

  • Distinguished Lecturer Award, The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (1997)

  • Honorary Member, Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (1995)

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (1994)

  • George P. Woollard Award, Geological Society of America (1993)

  • Past President’s Medal, Geological Association of Canada (1988)

Additionally, Prof. Clowes has been honored with the Distinguished Fellow title by the Geological Association of Canada and has received multiple Best Paper Awards from the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists and Geophysics journal.

Legacy and ongoing influence

Though now an emeritus professor, Dr. Clowes continues to be active at UBC through his teaching and ongoing research. His work has left an indelible mark on geophysics, with his methodologies and findings continuing to influence contemporary studies and technological advancements.