A College of the Atlantic alumnus, Dr. Kevin Timoney ’78, has received one of Canada’s top scientific writing awards for a book that examines a globally significant wetland in western Canada endangered by an uncertain future.

Kevin Timoney ’78
The book, “The Peace-Athabasca Delta: Portrait of a Dynamic Ecosystem,” published in 2013 by the University of Alberta Press, had been favorably reviewed in several places, including the journal Restoration Ecology; and received prior awards including an Alberta Book Award Scholarly Book of the Year, a gold medal Independent Book Publishers Award from Canada-West for best regional nonfiction, and a 2013 Alcuin Society Citation for Excellence in Book Design.

“As Dr. Timoney makes perfectly clear in this beautifully written and illustrated book, the Peace-Athabasca Delta is a world treasure. The author has written a book based on scientific evidence, and he has done so with passion,” said world-renowned ecologist John P. Smol, PhD,  in the Department of Biology at Queen’s University in Canada. “This is an important book that should be read by scientists, naturalists, and anyone concerned about the environmental degradation of our planet.”

In September, Timoney garnered the 2013 Lane Anderson Award — a top prize that honors the very best science writing in Canada, which “recognizes, celebrates, and encourages science literacy in Canada.” Timoney won in the adult book category for a work judges called “masterful” and “all-encompassing.” Winning authors receive $10,000.

“The Peace-Athabasca Delta” is described a “synthesis of what is known about the delta, an environmental history, a reference book, and a field guide,” intended for a wide audience “including natural scientists; those involved in the management, health, and policy of natural systems; naturalists; engineers in government and non-governmental organizations; and students and teachers of ecological and environmental studies.”

The delta in northern Alberta is a globally significant wetland within one of the largest unfragmented landscapes in North America. Arguably the world’s largest boreal inland delta, it is renowned for biological productivity and is a central feature of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yet the delta and its indigenous cultures lie downstream of Alberta’s bitumen sands, whose exploitation comprises one of the largest industrial projects in the world. Timoney provides an authoritative synthesis of the science and history of the delta, describing its ecology, unraveling its millennia-long history, and addressing its uncertain future.

Timoney writes: “In the delta, water is boss, change is the only constant, and creation and destruction exist side by side.”

“The award is eminently deserved; both for Kevin’s passion for his subject and his ability to distill 20 years of research into this important, accessible book,” said Monika Igali of the University of Alberta Press. “We are very proud to have worked with him on this award-winning book.”

The Peace-Athabasca Delta is composed of many deltas, one of which is the Cree Creek Delta, the mouth of which is pictured here from June 2014The Peace-Athabasca Delta is composed of many deltas, one of which is the Cree Creek Delta, the mouth of which is pictured here from June 2014

“Like the delta, this book is a jewel,” said Rob Alexander of Rocky Mountain Outlook. “Timoney has set a standard for books of this nature. It provides a blueprint in terms of the type of information we need and how to best present it to allow us to make better, informed decisions.”

Timoney, who lives in Androssan, Alberta, said he has another book soon to be published, this one by Springer, that studies the effects of exploitation of bitumen sands— also known as tar sands — on the wetlands of northeastern Alberta. “Impaired Wetlands in a Damaged Landscape: The Legacy of Bitumen Exploitation in Canada” might be of interest to Mainers given the controversy surrounding the bitumen pipeline to Portland, Timoney wrote in an email to the college.

College President Darron Collins praised Timoney’s book for providing “on-the-ground research and high-quality analysis leading to questions about our practices and sustainability.”

“As with many of our alumni and our current undergraduates, Kevin is deeply involved in applying technical skill to real-world problems,” Collins said. “This award-winning book proves that such a human ecological approach lays out complex ecological problems and yields an array of actionable solutions.”

Timoney — who earned a master of science in plant ecology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in plant ecology from the University of Alberta —praised his College of the Atlantic professors, “who inspired me and helped set me on the path of becoming an ecologist.”

“I am grateful for, and remember fondly, the excellent teaching of Steve Katona and Fred Olday,” he said.


College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit http://www.coa.edu.


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