Daryl Cowell

Photo of Daryl Cowell Speaker and Guide at 2013 Changing Lakes Forum

Daryl Cowell

Daryl was born in Hamilton, Ontario where he attended McMaster University in the geology and physical geography program. He specialized in karst geomorphology – the study of the formation of caves and associated landforms.

Daryl began to study the geology and karst of the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Peninsula through his undergraduate and Masters’ research and subsequently has undertaken numerous karst and other geomorphological studies along the escarpment.

In 1993/94 he undertook an extensive geomorphological study of the northern Bruce Peninsula and offshore islands for Parks Canada. This work included both underwater and surface landform studies in Fathom Five National Marine Park as well as all the islands between Tobermory and Manitoulin; Bruce Peninsula National Park; and the Cabot Head area.

Daryl has also published numerous scientific papers about the Bruce in the fields of karst geomorphology, water quality, and subglacial meltwater processes and is a co-author of a book on the Geology and Landforms of Grey and Bruce Counties produced by the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. More recently he was co-author of a paper on glacial Lake Algonquin shorelines in the Cabot Head area, published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Daryl previously worked for Environment Canada on several projects including the development of ecological land classification techniques and methods in the Hudson Bay Lowland, terrestrial impacts and effects related to acid rain in eastern Canada, and the Great Lakes Toxic Chemicals Program. Since 1989 he has worked as a geoscience consultant, co-founding two environmental consulting companies and now working independently from his home near Tobermory.

His work experience covers virtually all of Ontario as well as northern and central Manitoba, northern Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Internationally he has worked in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Uruguay, Romania, and Nigeria. He has also given numerous guided walks, presentations, and courses within the local area including for the Bruce County Museum, Peninsula Section of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Ontario Naturalists, Saugeen Field Naturalists, Owen Sound Field Naturalists, Huron Fringe Festival, and Parks Canada.

2013 Changing Lakes Forum Topic

10,000 Years of Changing Shoreline

Great Lakes’ water levels are typically referenced within the context of human existence. We use concepts such as “average”, “mean”, and “normal”, however, in the context of geological time, these concepts have no meaning whatsoever. The past 12,000 years has seen wide fluctuations in Great Lakes’ levels. The Lake Huron basin was at least 80 m above its current “mean” level during early glacial Lake Algonquin but by ~10,000 years BP, it had dropped to a the low Stanley (Huron) and Hough (Georgian Bay) approximately 100 m below current levels. Water levels in these basins then began a steady rise to about 5,000 years BP when they reached about 17 m above current. Since then the levels have been on a steady decline and, baring significant human intervention, the current level will become one of numerous “standstills” in the on-going history of the lakes.

Changing lake levels has tremendous implications on ecological diversity spatially and through time. Draining, occupying, and re-occupying a virtually unlimited suite of bays and wetlands along constantly changing shorelines in one consequence. At times all dry land was underwater and virtually all lands under water were above. Glacial Lake Algonquin was a massive glacial lake that completely drowned the Bruce Peninsula with the exception of an archipelago of islands formed of the highest dolostone plains at Cabot Head. These were an ancient analogue to the present Tobermory Islands, complete with “flowerpots”, sea caves and wave-cut platforms.

The geological future is one marked by continuing declines as the Huron basin continues to rise due to glacial rebound. This is not controllable so the degree and rapidity of future lower levels will be compounded (or not) by climate and human intervention.


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