College of Arts and Science - where great minds meet

Alec Aitken

Alec Aitken

B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.


Office: Kirk Hall 117
Phone: 966-5672

Keywords / Tags

  • northern environments; marine biology; Quaternary geology; geoarchaeology

Alec Aitken joined the Department of Geography (currently Geography & Planning) in the fall of 1992 and was promoted to Full Professor in May, 2009. Teaching and research interests are focused on subjects related to Arctic marine biology and geology, Quaternary geology and geomorphology, and Paleo-Indian settlements on the Canadian Prairies. Career highlights at the University of Saskatchewan include: a Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Arts & Science (2001); a Master Teacher Award from the University of Saskatchewan (2003); chairing the Committee for Northern Studies; serving as a Project Leader in the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (2002-2007); serving as a Project Leader for the University of the Arctic Core Curriculum Revision team (2006-2013); serving as the Acting Associate Dean (Student Affairs) in the College of Arts & Science (2007-2008); and serving as a Commitment Leader for Sustainability as a Shared Challenge in the 2nd Integrated Plan (2008-2012). Alec holds joint appointments within the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology and the Department of Biology. He currently serves as the Academic Program Co-ordinator for the B.A. program in Northern Studies.

Teaching & Supervision

Current courses taught (last 5 years):

ARCH 459 Geoarchaeology

GEOG 120 Introduction to Global Environmental Systems

GEOG 290 Field Methods and Laboratory Analysis

GEOG 235 Process Geomorphology

GEOG 335 Glacial Geomorphology

GEOG 351 Northern Environments

GEOG 835 Advanced Geomorphology

NRTH 101 Introduction to the Circumpolar World


Marine biology and coastal geomorphology, Pangnirtung Fjord, Baffin Island, Nunavut (1980-1982); M.Sc. thesis, Geography, Queen's University

Quaternary geology and marine invertebrate palaeontology, Baffin Island, Nunavut (1982-1987); Ph.D. thesis, Geology, McMaster University

Marine mollusc aquaculture, L'Institut Maurice Lamontagne, Mont-Joli, Qubec (1987-1990); Visiting Scientist, Fisheries & Oceans Canada

Quaternary geology and marine biology, Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere islands, Nunavut (1990-2000)

Geoarchaeology of Paleo-Indian settlements, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (1994 to present)

Marine biology and geology of the Beaufort Sea continental shelf and slope (2002-2009); Project Leader for Benthic Processes in the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES)

Marine biology and coastal geomorphology, eastern Baffin Island, Nunavut (2013-2015)


Graduate Theses:

Elizabeth Rose Schatz. 2012. Ichnology of Holocene Glaciomarine Sediments: Maktak, Coronation and North Pangnirtung Fjords, Baffin Island, Canada. M.Sc. thesis, Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, vii + 95 pp.

Christopher Peter Evans. 2006. Geoarchaeology of the Douglas Sand Hills, Central Saskatchewan. M.Sc. thesis, Geography, University of Saskatchewan. x + 133 pp.

Shanshan Cai. 2006. Paleoenvironmental Interpretation of Late Glacial and Post-glacial Fossil Marine Molluscs, Eureka Sound, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. M.Sc. thesis, Geography, University of Saskatchewan. x + 150 pp.

Jocelyn Sian Rutherford, 2004. Hillslope Sediments and Landscape Evolution in Wanuskewin Heritage Park: A Geoarchaeological Interpretation. M.A. Thesis, Archaeology, University of Saskatchewan. xi + 118 pp.

Christy Ann Davis, 1999. A Case Study of Polar Bear Co-Management in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. M.A. Thesis, Geography, University of Saskatchewan. vii + 89 pp.

Brenda Lee Solsten. 1998. The Utilization of a Geographic Information System to Assess Regional Sensitivity to Erosion and Coastal Submergence in Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, Baffin Island, Canada. M.Sc. Thesis, Geography, University of Saskatchewan.     vii + 130 pp.

Abigail Keren Burt. 1997.  Landscape Evolution at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  M.Sc. Thesis, Geography, University of Saskatchewan. xii + 243 pp.

Catherine H. Yansa. 1995.  An Early Postglacial Record of Vegetation Change in Southern Saskatchewan, Canada. M.Sc. Thesis, Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan.  xiii + 273 pp.


Published Chapters in Books (graduate student names appear in bold text):

A.E. Aitken, K. Conlan, P.E. Renaud, E. Hendrycks, C. McClelland, P. Archambault, M. Cusson, and N. Morata. (2008). The Benthic Environment, Chapter 9. In L. Fortier, D. Barber and J. Michaud (editors). On Thin Ice: A Synthesis of the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES), Aboriginal Issues Press, University of Manitoba, pp. 159-199.

C.P. Evans, A.E. Aitken and E.G. Walker. 2007. A GIS Approach for Archaeological Site Distribution Analysis by Physiographic Elements in the Lake Diefenbaker Region, Saskatchewan, Canada. In L. Wilson, P. Dickinson and J. Jeandron (eds.). Reconstructing Human-Landscape Interactions, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 68-83.

S.A. Wolfe, A.E. Aitken, I. Dyck and E.G. Walker. 2002. Holocene Geomorphology, Archaeology, and Environmental Change in South-Central Saskatchewan. Geological Association of Canada, Saskatoon 2002, Field Trip A4 Guidebook, 70 pp.

A.E. Aitken. 2000. Postglacial Drainage Evolution. In L. Martz and K.-I. Fung (eds.), Atlas of Saskatchewan, CD-Rom Version, Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan, 3 pp.

A.E. Aitken, 1990. Preservation potential of arctic fiord and continental shelf benthic macrofaunas.  In Glacimarine Environments: Processes and Sediments.  J.A. Dowdeswell and J.D. Scourse (editors), Geological Society of London, Special Publication No. 53, p.155-176.

R. Gilbert, A.E. Aitken, C. McKenna-Neuman, J. Dale and J. Glew, 1987.  Sedimentary Environments, Pangnirtung Fiord, In International Union for Quaternary Research XII International Congress, Excursion Guide Book C-2, Cumberland Sound and Frobisher Bay, Southeastern Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, p. 23-52.

R. Gilbert and A.E. Aitken, 1981. The role of sea ice in biophysical processes on intertidal flats at Pangnirtung (Baffin Island), N.W.T.  Proceedings, Workshop on Ice Action on Shores.  National Research Council of Canada, Associate Committee for Research on Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation (ACROSES), Publication No. 3: 89-103.


Published Peer-Reviewed Papers (graduate student names appear in bold text):

Kathleen Conlan; Ed Hendrycks; Alec Aitken; Bill Williams; Steve Blasco; Eric Crawford. 2013. Macrofaunal biomass distribution on the Canadian Beaufort Shelf, Journal of Marine Systems. (accepted June, 2013). 58 manuscript pages.

E. R. Schatz, M. G. Mángano, A.E. Aitken and L.A. Buatois. 2013. Response of benthos to stress factors in Holocene Arctic fjord settings: Maktak, Coronation, and North Pangnirtung Fjords, Baffin Island, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (accepted June, 2013). 54 manuscript pages.

B. Noble, S. Ketilson, A. Aitken and G. Poelzer. 2013. Strategic environmental assessment opportunities and risks for Arctic offshore energy planning and development. Marine Policy, 39: 296–302.

J. England, A.S. Dyke, R.D. Couthard, R. McNeely and A. Aitken. 2012. The exaggerated radiocarbon age of deposit-feeding molluscs in calcareous environments. Boreas, doi: 10.1111/j.1502.3885.2012.00256.x

K.E. Conlan, A. Aitken, E. Hendrycks, E. Melling, and C. McClelland. 2008. Distribution Patterns of Canadian Beaufort Shelf macrobenthos. Journal of Marine Systems, 74(3-4): 864-886.

M. Cusson, P. Archambault and A. Aitken. 2007. Biodiversity of benthic assemblages on the Arctic continental shelf: historical data from Canada. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 331: 291-304.

B.L. Solsten and A.E. Aitken. 2006. An Application of GIS Techniques to Assess the Risk of Archaeological Sites to Disturbance by Mass Movement and Marine Flooding in Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, Nunavut. Géographie physique et Quaternaire, 60: 81-92.

O. W. Archibold, L.M.J. Levesque, D. DeBoer, A.E. Aitken and L. Delanoy. 2003. Gully retreat in a semi-arid catchment in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Applied Geography, 23: 261-279.

S. Gordillo and A.E. Aitken. 2001. Palaeoenvironmental interpretation of Late Quaternary molluscan assemblages, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Géographie    physique et Quaternaire, 53: 301-315.

S. Gordillo and A.E. Aitken. 2001. Postglacial succession and palaeoecology of Late Quaternary macrofaunal assemblages from the central Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Boreas, 30: 61-72.

R. Gilbert and A.E. Aitken. 2000.  Preliminary results on the Quaternary sedimentary environment and benthos of part of Cañon Fiord, Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Geological Survey of Canada, Bulletin 529, pp. 197-205.

A.E. Aitken, W.M. Last and A.K. Burt. 1999. The lithostratigraphic record of Late Pleistocene-Holocene environmental change at the Andrews site near Moose Jaw, southern Saskatchewan. Geological Survey of Canada, Bulletin 534, pp. 173-182.

A.E. Aitken and T.J. Bell. 1998.  Holocene glacimarine sedimentation and macrofossil palaeoecology in the Canadian High Arctic: Environmental controls.  Marine Geology, 145:151-171.

A.E. Aitken and R. Gilbert, l996. Marine Mollusca from Expedition Fiord, western Axel Heiberg Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Arctic, 49: 29-43.

D.S. Lemmen, A.E. Aitken and R. Gilbert, 1994. Early Holocene deglaciation of Expedition and Strand Fiords, Canadian High Arctic.  Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 31: 943-958.

A.E. Aitken and J. Fournier, 1993.  Macrobenthos communities in Cambridge, McBeth and Itirbilung Fiords, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Arctic, 46: 60-71.

R. Gilbert, A.E. Aitken and D.S. Lemmen, 1993.   The glacimarine sedimentary environment of Expedition Fiord, Canadian High Arctic.  Marine Geology, 110: 257-273.

M. Fréchette, A.E. Aitken and L. Pagé, 1992.  Interdependence of food and space limitation of a benthic suspension feeder: consequences for self-thinning relationships. Marine Ecology-Progress Series, 83: 55-62.

D.S. Lemmen, R. Gilbert and A.E. Aitken, 1991.  Quaternary investigations in the Expedition Fiord area, west-central Axel Heiberg Island, N.W.T., In Current Research, Part B, Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 91-1B, p.1-7.

B. MacLean, G. Vilks, A.E. Aitken, V. Allen, W. Briggs, D. Bruneau, A. Doiron, M. Escamilla, Hardy, I., J. Miner, W. Mode, R. Powell, M. Retelle, J. Stravers, A. Taylor, N. Weiner, 1991.  Investigations of the Quaternary geology of Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay, Northwest Territories, In Current Research, Part E, Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 91-1E, p. 305-315.

A.E. Aitken and R. Gilbert, 1989. Holocene nearshore environments and sea-level history in Pangnirtung Fiord, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada.  Arctic and Alpine Research, 21: 34-44.

J.E. Dale, A.E. Aitken, R. Gilbert and M.J. Risk, 1989. Macrofauna of Canadian arctic fiords. Marine Geology, 85: 331-358.

A.E. Aitken and M.J. Risk, 1988. Biotic interactions revealed by macroborings in arctic marine bivalves. Lethaia, 21: 339-350.

A.E. Aitken, M.J. Risk and J.D. Howard, 1988.  Animal-sediment relationships on a subarctic intertidal flat:  Pangnirtung Fiord, Baffin Island, Canada.  Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 58: 969-978.

A.E. Aitken and R. Gilbert, 1986. The biota of intertidal flats at Pangnirtung Fiord, Baffin Island, N.W.T. Le Naturaliste Canadien, 113: 191-200.

R. Gilbert, A.E. Aitken and B. McLaughlin, 1984. A survey of coastal environments in the vicinity of Nain, Labrador.  Maritime Sediments and Atlantic Geology, 20: 143-155.