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Olav Lian

Olav Lian, PhD

Professor and Director of the Luminescence Dating Laboratory

Planning, Geography, and Environmental Studies

Abbotsford campus, A406f

Phone: 604-504-7441 ext. 4307

email Olav




I was born in Vancouver and grew up on the North Shore, adjacent to Mount Seymour Provincial Park, at the fringe of the Coast Mountains. After graduating from high school in the mid 1970s I spent several years working while, from time to time, taking university courses. I finally found my direction in the mid 1980s, became a full-time student, and earned my BSc in physics from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 1988. During that time (from 1986) I was also employed a research assistant in SFU’s 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 briefly employed as a sessional instructor in the same department.


In September 1993 I joined the Geology Department (which became the Department of Earth Sciences the following year) at the University of Western Ontario where I completed my PhD (Geology) in 1997. I was then hired by the School of Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) as a Research Fellow in Geology (1997-1999). In the spring of 1999, I returned to SFU and worked as a Research Associate in its Physics Department until 2002. This was followed by a permanent faculty position in the Centre for Quaternary Research in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (UK).


In spring of 2004 I found a means to escape the high cost of living in southern England and return home to southwestern BC after competing successfully for a faculty position in the Geography Department at the then UCFV. I began teaching at UCFV in January 2005. 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.


  • 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.


McIntosh, P.D., Neudorf, C.*, Lian, O.B., Slee, A.J., Walker, B., Eberhard, R., Doyle, R., and Dixon, G. 2020. Late Pleistocene and early Holocene aeolian deposits of Tasmania and their climatic implications. Quaternary Research, in review.

Shewchuk, C.*, Ferbey, T., and Lian, O.B. 2020. Detecting porphyry Cu-Mo mineralization using major oxides and pathfinder elements in subglacial till, Highland Valley mine area, south-central British Columbia. In: Geological Fieldwork 2019, British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, British Columbia Geological Survey Paper 2020-01, pp. 169-187.

Neudorf, C.M.*, Lian, O.B., McIntosh, P.D., and Augustinus, P.C. 2019. Time constraints on the oldest record of aeolian deposition in lowland and mid-latitude Tasmania. Quaternary Geochronology, 53: 101005.

Rice J.M.*, Ross, M., Paulen, R.C, Kelley, S.E., Briner, J.P., Neudorf, C.M*., and Lian, O.B. 2019. Refining the flow chronology and subglacial dynamics of the migrating ancestral Labrador Divide of the Laurentide Ice Sheet with age constraints on deglaciation. Journal of Quaternary Science, 34: 519–535.

Hagedorn, G.W.*, Paulen, R.C., Smith, I.R., Ross, M., Neudorf, C.M.*, and Lian, O.B.2019. Surficial geology constraints on Laurentide Ice Sheet reconstruction in the southern Northwest Territories; in GEM-2 Southern Mackenzie Surficial Activity 2018 report: Surficial Geology and Heavy Mineral Studies in Southern Northwest Territories, (eds.) R.C. Paulen, I.R. Smith and S.J.A. Day; Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8477, p. 17-26.

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"(Research has) been a really sweet way to optimize my time at school. Looking back, I’m so grateful that I did this. It has truly been a highlight to work under Shelley (Canning). She has been a wonderful mentor and has impacted me and my nursing practice immensely."

  • – Rosaley Klassen
  •    BSN