Dr. Sandra Barr wins prestigious Bancroft Award


Dr. Sandra M. Barr has been named the 2022 recipient of the Bancroft Award by the Royal Society of Canada. This biennial award is given for publication, instruction, and research in the Earth sciences that have conspicuously contributed to public understanding and appreciation of the subject. Endowed by Mrs. J.A. Bancroft in 1968 to honour Joseph Austin Bancroft (1882–1957), the award consists of a diploma and is offered every two years if there is a suitable candidate.  

“Dr. Barr has had a remarkable career,” said Acadia President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Peter Ricketts. “She entered the field of geoscience before it was generally accepted that women could work in this area, and she has become an icon in the study of the geology of Eastern Canada. Her work is the epitome of scientific research based on curiosity; the RSC Bancroft Award is a well-deserved honour.”

Dr. Barr is a professor in Acadia’s Earth and Environmental Science Department. She joined the former Department of Geology in 1976 and was promoted to associate professor in 1980, then full professor in 1986. She is considered a pre-eminent geoscientist in Atlantic Canada who has unravelled the tectonic formation of the Canadian Appalachians, mapped the geology of nearly half the Maritimes, taught over 4,000 students the fundamentals of geoscience, and supervised over 100 theses. Her worldwide collaborations have pioneered the use of tools ranging from field study to isotopic chemistry, geophysics and paleontology.

“I feel fortunate to be able to see the Earth through eyes that have more knowledge than that of most people,” she said. “I believe that increasing people’s understanding and appreciation of the Earth and Earth science is important, and that has motivated me over the years.”

Dr. Barr has over 160 publications in peer-reviewed research journals and hundreds of other publications. In 2015, she co-authored a popular book on the geology of Nova Scotia, published by Boulder Publications, followed in 2020 by a similar book on the geology of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island by the same publisher.

She has served on numerous committees in the Canadian Earth science community, including the NATMAP Coordination Committee (1998–2002) and the NSERC Grant Selection Committee for Solid Earth Sciences (1994–1997). She was a member of the Canadian delegation to the International Geological Congresses in Kyoto (1992) and Beijing (1996). She has been co-editor of the Atlantic Geoscience Society journal Atlantic Geology (now Atlantic Geoscience) since 1986. During 2004–2005, she was president of the Geological Association of Canada and was the GAC Books Editor until 2020. She served successively as president-elect, president, and past president of the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences from 2013 to 2019.

Although Dr. Barr has received numerous awards and recognitions for her contributions to the geosciences, the Bancroft Award is particularly meaningful.

“This award means a lot to me because of the people who have won it before me,” she said. “The first award was given in 1968 to geoscientist Tuzo Wilson, whose ideas were tremendously influential for me. Also, 1968 was the year I earned my geology undergraduate degree. In the years since then, I have known most of the people who have won the Bancroft award. It’s significant to me that I’ve received the same award as many people for whom I greatly respect.”

In 1995, Dr. Barr was awarded the Gesner Medal of the Atlantic Geoscience Society in recognition of her contributions to the geosciences in Atlantic Canada. In 2015, she received the prestigious Ambrose Medal from the Geological Association of Canada for sustained and dedicated service to the Earth science community in Canada. In 2020, she was inducted into the Nova Scotia Science Hall of Fame, and in 2021 she received the Mentorship Medal of the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences.

Learn more about all the Royal Society of Canada 2022 Award Winners announced on September 13, 2002.


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