Pierre J. H. Richard

Dr Pierre J. H. Richard Presented with the
CAG Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography

At the Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, held in Saskatoon in May 1996, CAP member Pierre Richard was presented with the CAG Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography. The citation, read at the presentation, is as follows:

In a professional career that spans more than twenty-five years, Dr Pierre Richard has made an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the postglacial vegetation history of Quebec through the investigation of palaeophytogeography — the study of past plant distributions, primarily by pollen and plant macrofossil analysis.

Born in Montreal, Pierre Richard was educated at Laval University, the University of Paris-Orsay, and the University of Montpellier, where he studied with the distinguished palynologist Dr M. Van Campo. Following five years as Visiting Professor at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, in 1976 Pierre Richard joined the faculty of the Department of Geography at the University of Montreal, a department he still calls home and which he chaired from 1986 to 1990. Here, he is also director of the Laboratoire Jacques-Rousseau which focusses on research into palaeophytogeography and palynology and which, with its extensive reference collection of several thousand pollen samples and macrofossils specimens, is a magnet for students and researchers.

Dr Richard’s main research interests have always been in the vegetation history of Quebec. His studies have encompassed all parts of this vast and diverse region, from the Ungava Peninsula and James Bay, to the St. Lawrence Valley and Gaspé. The Laboratoire Jacques-Rousseau archives pollen and plant macrofossil records from over two hundred sites in Quebec. Many of these records have been produced by Pierre Richard or his students and colleagues. These vast amounts of data comprise the BDPMQ (Base de données polliniques et macrofossiles du Québec). Much of this information is shared with other researchers through co-operation with other databases, for example the Canadian Palaeoecological Database (at the Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario) and the North American Pollen Database (NAPD at the National Geophysical Data Centre, Boulder, Colorado). Pierre Richard also has a keen interest in pollen taxonomy and identification and has published extensively on these topics, including a series of papers comprising the “Atlas pollinique des arbres et de quelques arbuste indigènes du Québec” in Le Naturaliste Canadien (1970), greatly aiding the work of other researchers in eastern Canada.

His contribution, however, has been considerably more than simple data generation and description. His first pollen paper was published 1967 and subsequently he has published almost seventy papers and given numerous conference presentations. His writing shows a truly geographic perspective, demonstrated by his concern with the analysis and interpretation of the spatial patterns shown in these pollen records, rather than the more traditional, purely site-specific, reconstructions. The availability of many records from throughout Quebec now permits the development of regional syntheses. Much of Pierre Richard’s recent writing concentrates on the integration of information from these records, documenting broad-scale changes that outline the development of the present vegetation distribution within this huge area. A recent notable example is his examination of “Postglacial palaeophytogeography of the eastern St. Lawrence River Watershed and the climatic signal of the pollen record” (Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 1994) which synthesizes pollen work from over 150 sites. His work has also led to significant advances in our understanding of the glacial history of Quebec, especially the chronology and character of deglaciation. In recent years, his research has concentrated on the Gaspé region where he has been concerned with late-glacial and early postglacial environmental change. Lately, he has been examining the role of fire in the eastern boreal forest.

Dr Richard’s influence spreads far beyond his personal endeavours as he has been involved in the supervision of more than 35 graduate students and researchers, resulting in the production of eighteen Master’s theses and one Doctoral dissertation to date. Several of these former students and associates have gone on to develop their own high-profile academic careers.

Since 1977, Pierre Richard has been involved in the production of the scholarly journal Géographie physique et Quaternaire, as editor and director. Under his guidance, GpQ has become the flagship publication for Quaternary work in Canada, and the designated publication outlet for the Canadian Quaternary Association (CANQUA).

Pierre Richard is a member of several national and international professional societies, including AQQUA (Association québécoise pour l’étude du Quaternaire), of which he was a founding member in 1973, and CAP (Canadian Association of Palynologists), to name just two. He takes his duties to these societies seriously, and is a regular and valued contributor to their newsletters. In 1993, his scholarly achievements were given national recognition by his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

No appreciation of Pierre Richard’s professional career would be complete without mention of his infectious enthusiasm and generous personality. By conferring this Award for Scholarly Distinction on Dr Richard, the Canadian Association of Geographers acknowledges the outstanding contributions and intellectual achievements of an inspiring and influential scholar.

Alwynne B. Beaudoin
Edmonton, Alberta


Note: This article appeared in CAP Newsletter 19(2):12-13, 1996.