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Olav Lian

Olav Lian, PhD

Professor and Director of the Luminescence Dating Laboratory

Geography and the Environment

Abbotsford campus, A406f

Phone: 604-504-7441 ext. 4307

email Olav




I was born in Vancouver and grew up on the North Shore, at the fringe of the Coast Mountains. I earned my BSc in Physics from Simon Fraser University in the late 1980s. This was followed by a Research Assistant position in the SFU Physics Department. In 1989, I joined the graduate program in SFU's Geography Department, and completed my MSc degree (physical geography) in 1991. I was then employed as a sessional instructor in the same department.

In September 1993, I joined the Geology Department (later, the Department of Earth Sciences) at the University of Western Ontario where I completed my PhD (Geology) in 1997. I was then hired by the School of Earth Science at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) as a Research Fellow in Geology (1997-1999).

In the spring of 1999, I resigned from that position and returned to SFU and worked as a Research Associate in the Physics Department until 2002. This was followed by a permanent faculty position in the Geography Department, Centre for Quaternary Research, at Royal Holloway, University of London.

In early 2005, I escaped the high cost of living in southern England and returned to Canada to take up a post as a faculty member in the Geography Department at UFV. I currently hold adjunct professorships in the departments of Geography and Earth Sciences at SFU, and in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria.

Appointments and Awards

  • 2012 UFV Research Excellence Award Recipient
  • Director, UFV Luminescence Dating Laboratory
  • Distinguished International Visitor, Department of Geography, Durham University (UK), Fall 2012
  • Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences


  • PhD (geology), University of Western Ontario, 1997
  • MSc (geography), Simon Fraser University, 1991
  • BSc (physics), Simon Fraser University, 1988

Teaching Interests

  • GEOG 102: Evolution of the Earth's Surface
  • GEOG 103: The Physical Environment
  • GEOG 202: Introduction to Geomorphology
  • GEOG 302: Fluvial Geomorphology
  • GEOG 400g: Theory & Application of Luminescence Dating
  • GEOG 402: Quaternary Geology & Geomorphology
  • GEOG 452: Field Methods & Techniques

Research Interests

My NSERC-funded research includes Quaternary sedimentology and stratigraphy, glacial geology, geomorphology, and geochronology (luminescence dating). I have collaborated with geomorphologists, glacial geologists, physicists, geophysicists, and biologists.

I am mainly interested in understanding the character of environmental change in western Canada over the Quaternary Period (last ~2.5 million years), but I am also collaborating on research projects in the eastern and western Canadian Arctic, Australia, and Patagonia (southernmost Chile and Argentina), and I have collaborated on projects in New Zealand, Russia and Indonesia.

The Geography and the Environment department has two laboratories which conduct research, the Luminescence Dating Lab, of which I am the director, and the Paleoecology Lab.

For more information on my research, see my publications and seminars page.

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