Picture of Alec Aitken

Alec Aitken B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.

Professor and Professional Geoscientist

Faculty Member in Geography & Planning
Graduate Supervisor in Geography & Planning
Associate Member in Anthropology

Kirk Hall 105

Research Area(s)

  • Marine biology
  • Environmental history
  • Quaternary geology
  • Northern studies

About me

Alec Aitken joined the Department of Geography (currently Geography and Planning) in the fall of 1992 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2009. Teaching and research interests are focused on subjects related to environmental earth sciences, geohazards, northern studies, and Quaternary geology. Career highlights at the University of Saskatchewan include: a Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Arts & Science (2001); a Distinguished Teacher Award from the University of Saskatchewan (2003); nominations for the national 3M Teaching Fellowship (2004, 2007); a USSU Teaching Excellence Award in 2014; serving as a Project Leader in the ArcticNet 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 and Science (2007-2008); serving as a Commitment Leader for Sustainability as a Shared Challenge in the 2nd Integrated Plan (2008-2012); and serving as Chair of the Teaching, Learning and Academic Resources committee of University Council.  

Current service to the University includes: Chair, Graduate Affairs Committee, Geography & Planning; member, Teaching, Learning, and Academic Resources Committee, University Council; member, Northern Studies Committee. 

Please note that I am not recruiting new graduate students at the present time.


Quaternary geology geomorphology marine biology palaeontology resource management

Edited Books

Patrick, R., Aitken, A. and Kamal, M. (Eds.). Prairie Perspectives: Geographical Essays, Volume 14. Winnipeg, MB: Prairie Region, Canadian Association of Geographers. (2011)

Noble, B., Martz, D. and Aitken, A. (Eds.). Prairie Perspectives: Geographical Essays, Volume 8. Winnipeg, MB: Prairie Region, Canadian Association of Geographers. (2005)

Chapters in Books (graduate students in bold font)

Deering R., Misiuk B., Bell T., Forbes D.L., Edinger E., Tremblay T., Telka, A., Aitken A. and Campbell C. 2018: Characterization of the seabed and postglacial sediments of inner Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island, Nunavut. In Summary of Activities 2018 (pp. 139-152). Iqaluit, NU: Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office.

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

Evans, C.P., Aitken, A.E. 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 (pp.68-83). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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

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

Gilbert, R. and Aitken, A.E. (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 (pp. 89-103). Ottawa, ON: National Research Council of Canada, Associate Committee for Research on Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation (ACROSES), Publication No. 3.

Papers in Refereed Journals (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows appear in bold font)

McClelland, C., Chételat, Conlan, K., Aitken, A., Forbes, M. and Majewski, A. 2023. Methylmercury dietary pathways and bioaccumulation in Arctic benthic invertebrates of the Beaufort Sea. Arctic Science (January, 2024)

Bayer, S., Munoz, D.F., and Aitken, A. 2023. Oichnus Bromley as evidence of predator presence in the Canadian High Arctic. Lethaia (May 1, 2023). https://doi.org/10.18261/let.56.2.1

Herder, E.C., Aitken, A.E., and Edinger, E.N. 2021. Temporal change observed in the coastal molluscan (Bivalvia and Gastropoda) communities of Frobisher Bay, NU over 50 years. Arctic Science (June 2 2021) https://doi.org/10.1139/AS-2020-0037

Misiuk, B., Bell, T., Aitken, A.E., Edinger, E.N., and Tufts, T. (2019). The use of Inuit knowledge for mapping marine habitats. The Journal of Ocean Technology, 14(1):  1-10.

Misiuk, B., Bell, T., Aitken, A.E., Brown, C.J., and Edinger, E.N. (2019). Mapping Arctic clam abundance using multiple datasets, models, and a spatially explicit accuracy assessment. ICES Journal of Marine Science, https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsz099

Misiuk, B., Diesing, M., Aitken, A.E., Brown, C.J., Edinger, E.N., and Bell, T. (2019). A spatially explicit comparison of quantitative and categorical modelling approaches for mapping seabed sediments using Random Forest. Geosciences, 9(254), https://doi:10.3390/geosciences9060254

Conlan, K.E., Hendrycks, E.A. and Aitken, A.E. (2019). Dense ampeliscid bed on the Canadian Beaufort Shelf: an explanation for species patterns. Polar Biology, 42: 195-215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-2417-z

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

Schatz, E.R., Mágano, M.G., Aitken, A.E. and Buatois, L.A. (2013). Response of benthos to stress factors in Holocene Arctic fjord settings: Maktak, Coronation and North Pangnirtung Fjords, Baffin Island, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 386: 652-668.

Conlan, K., Hendrycks, E., Aitken, A., Williams, W., Blasco, S. and Crawford, E. (2013). Macrofaunal biomass contribution on the Canadian Beaufort Shelf. Journal of Marine Systems, 127: 76-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marsys.2013.07.013.

England, J., Dyke, A.S., Couthard, R.D., McNeely, R. and Aitken, A. (2012). The exaggerated radiocarbon age of deposit-feeding molluscs in calcareous environments. Boreas, 42: 362-373.   doi: 10.1111/j.1502.3885.2012.00256.x

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

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

Solsten, B.L. and Aitken, A.E. (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.

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

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

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

Gilbert, R. and Aitken, A.E. (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.

Aitken, A.E., Last, W.M. and Burt, A.K. (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.

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

Aitken, A.E. and Gilbert, R. (1996). Marine Mollusca from Expedition Fiord, western Axel Heiberg Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Arctic, 49: 29-43.

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

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

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

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

Lemmen, D.S., Gilbert, R. and Aitken, A.E. (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.

MacLean, B., Vilks, G., Aitken, A.E., Allen, V., Briggs, W., Bruneau, D., Doiron, A., Escamilla, M., Hardy, I., Miner, J., Mode, W., Powell, R., Retelle, M., Stravers, J., Taylor, A., and Weiner, N. (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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching & Supervision

environmental earth sciences geohazards geomophology marine ecology northern studies

Current courses taught (last 5 years):

BIOL 380 Research Experience in Marine Biology

GEOG 120 Introduction to Global Environmental Systems

GEOG 235 Earth Processes and Natural Hazards: A Canadian Perspective

GEOG 290 Field Techniques and Laboratory Analysis

GEOG 335 Glacial Geomorphology

GEOG 351 Northern Environments

GEOG 380 Environmental Geography of the Circumpolar North

GEOG 490 Special Topics in Physical Geography

GEOG 803 Research in Geography


Quaternary geology environmental history marine biology northern studies

Research History

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, Quebec, Fisheries & Oceans Canada; Visiting Scientist (1987-1990)

Quaternary geology and marine biology, Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands, Nunavut; NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geography, Queen's University (1990-1991); fixed term faculty member, Division of Social Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough (1991-1992); faculty member, Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan (1992 to 2000)

Geoarchaeology of Paleo-Indian occupations, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; faculty member, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan (1994 to 2020)

Marine biology and geology of the Beaufort Sea continental shelf and slope (2002 to present); ArcticNet Project Leader for Benthic Processes in the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES); faculty member, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan (2002-2009)

Marine biology and seabed habitat mapping, Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Hudson Bay, Nunavut; faculty member, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan (2013 to present)

Undergraduate Student Supervision  (1999-2023)

Luch, Cheylynne. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Permafrost Degradation, Tundra Greening and Methane Release in the Circumpolar North, September-December, 2023 (completed)

McLeod-Mitchell, Jessica. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Mollusc Successions in Late Quaternary Postglacial Deposits near Eureka Sound, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, January-April, 2022.

Montgrand, Tia. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Macrobenthos Communities of Clark Fjord, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, January-April, 2022.

Spencer, Brynna. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Composition of Macro- and Megabenthic Invertebrates of Sunneshine Fjord in the Canadian Eastern High Arctic in 1983, January-April, 2022.

Pasloski, Justin. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Cold-Region Development of a Low-Cost, Portable, Open-Source Environmental Monitoring Platform. January-May 2021. 

Migneault, Amy. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Benthic Community Structure in outer Frobisher Bay. January-June 2020. 

Bhardwaj, Ajay. B. Eng. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Creating a Seascapes Map for Arctic Bay, Nunavut. May-July 2019. 

Higgs, Nicholas. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Soft-bottom macrofauna communities of Baffin Island Fjords. March-April 2019. 

Miller, Dori. B.A. & Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Perceptions of Risk from Environmental Contamination Related to the Giant Mine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. January-April 2019. 

Hamp, Meghan. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Marine Benthic Mollusc Communities in the Eastern and Central Canadian Arctic Archipelago. January-April 2017, January-August 2018. 

Beckett, Ashley, Brandt, Michelle, and Steeg, Robin. B.Sc. Research Assistants, Supervisor, Nearshore Seabed Habitats and Benthic Biodiversity, Arctic Bay, Nunavut. January-August 2017. 

Fehr, Carly. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, A Photographic Survey of the Benthic Macrofauna of Inugsuin, Itirbilung, and Tingin Fjords, eastern Baffin Island, Nunavut. January-April 2017. 

Rozon, Jordon. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Quaternary Geology of Gibbs Fjord, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut. January-April 2013. 

Brausse, Melissa. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Education for Sustainability. January-April 2012. 

Garner, Malina. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Soft-bottom Benthos of Arctic Bay, Nunavut. May-June 2009.

Neudorf, Christina. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Early Holocene Glaciomarine Sedimentation, southeastern Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut. May-June 2004.

Murray, Jennifer. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Palaeoecology of Holocene glaciomarine molluscan faunas, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut. January-April 2002. (completed)

Hall, Denise. B.Sc. Research Assistant, Supervisor, Community structure of Canadian Arctic Fjord Benthos. May-June 1999 (completed)

Graduate Theses Supervised

Herder, Erin Coleen, M.Sc., Department of Geography, Memorial University, Co-supervisor, “Temporal and Spatial Changes in Benthic Mollusc (Bivalves and Gastropods) Communities in inner Frobisher Bay, Nunavut, Baffin Island over Fifty Years”, May 2020.

Schatz, Elizabeth Rose, M.Sc., Co-supervisor, “Ichnology of Holocene Glaciomarine Sediments: Maktak, Coronation and North Pangnirtung Fjords, Baffin Island, Canada”, 2012.

Evans, Christopher Peter, M.Sc., Co-supervisor, “Geoarchaeology of the Douglas Sand Hills, Central Saskatchewan”, 2006.

Cai, Shanshan, M.Sc., Supervisor, “Paleoenvironmental Interpretation of Late Glacial and Post-glacial Fossil Marine Molluscs, Eureka Sound, Canadian Arctic Archipelago”, 2006.

Rutherford, Jocelyn Sian, M.A., Co-supervisor, “Hillslope Sediments and Landscape Evolution in Wanuskewin Heritage Park: A Geoarchaeological Interpretation”, 2004.

Davis, Christy Ann Davis, M.A., Supervisor, “A Case Study of Polar Bear Co-Management in the Eastern Canadian Arctic”, 1999.

Solsten, Brenda Lee, M.Sc., Supervisor, “The Utilization of a Geographic Information System to Assess Regional Sensitivity to Erosion and Coastal Submergence in Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, Baffin Island, Canada”, 1998.

Burt, Abigail Keren, M.Sc., Supervisor, “Landscape Evolution at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan”, 1997.

Yansa, Catherine H., M.Sc., Co-supervisor, “An Early Postglacial Record of Vegetation Change in Southern Saskatchewan, Canada”, 1995.

Postdoctoral Supervision

Sol Bayer, Maria, Ph.D., Supervisor, Marine mollusc ecology and paleoecology. September to December 2016.

Cusson, Mathieu, Ph.D., Supervisor, Marine invertebrate species diversity in the Canadian Arctic. 2004-2006.

Gordillo, Sandra, Ph.D., Supervisor, Marine mollusc ecology and paleoecology. 1998-2000.

Education & Training

B.Sc. Double Honours - Biology and Geography, Queen's University, 1980

M.Sc., Geography, Queen's University, 1982

Ph.D., Geology, McMaster University, 1987