D. Graham Pearson

D. Graham Pearson

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources

University of Alberta

“Dr. Pearson’s expertise in Arctic exploration will help position the University of Alberta as a world leader in diamond studies, and will advance the social and economic development of Canada's North.”

― Indira Samarasekera, president, University of Alberta


D. Graham Pearson is one of the world’s leading scientists in diamond studies and understanding the formation of diamond-forming roots beneath continents. He is at the forefront of developing new techniques for geochemical analysis, and has pioneered new methods of dating minute geological samples.

His development of the first technique to determine when an individual diamond was created won him the prestigious Lindgren Medal of the Society of Economic Geologists in 1999. He also developed the first quantitative fingerprinting technology that can determine the geographical origin of a diamond, which has implications for markets that rely on the export and sale of “conflict diamonds”.

Before assuming his position as Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources at the University of Alberta, Pearson was professor of geochemistry at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He holds a PhD in earth sciences from Leeds University, and has a bachelor’s degree in geology from the Imperial College of Science and Technology. After his graduate studies, he served as research fellow at Carnegie University in Washington, D.C., and the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK.

Uncovering Canada's Riches

Diamond exploration and mining has been one of the main drivers of economic development in Canada’s North during the past decade, accounting for more than $2 billion in annual economic activity. To sustain this level of economic growth beyond the predicted 10- to 20-year life spans of current mines, more diamond deposits must be discovered.

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources D. Graham Pearson is creating the first detailed pictures of the rock formations hidden deep under the Earth’s crust in Canada’s Arctic region, and revealing new data on the landmasses where diamonds are formed. Pearson and his research team are collecting rare rock samples of deep origin from volcanic diatremes—circular volcanic vents created by underground explosions—and studying the geochemical composition of these rocks using state-of-the-art tools.

Pearson’s geological snapshots will revolutionize our understanding of the age and evolution of the deep resources beneath current and potential diamond mines. He is also collaborating with the Canadian government to forge a geo-mapping program that will help boost arctic exploration and expenditure, identifying new prospective areas for mining diamonds and other mineral deposits. In addition, Pearson’s will use his world-leading micro-sampling technique for diamond analysis to determine the chemical characterization of Canadian diamonds. This technique will serve to protect their ethical and geographical purity, and guarantee their premium on the international market. Methods developed directly from this research are also being applied to forensic tracing problems to help bolster Canada’s security.



Release date

October 11, 2011

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D. Graham Pearson, University of Alberta

The main goal is to provide a detailed three-dimensional map of the deep roots beneath the Arctic portions of Canada. So the impact has got to be, both of an academic nature and an institutional nature, in terms of providing baseline information for the Geological Survey of Canada, and ultimately the goal is to give great benefits to industries to meet their goals as well.

The career achievement that I'm most proud of, I think I'd have to say would be the development of the first method for dating individual diamonds. Prior to that time, it was possible to date diamonds, but that involved a lot of destructive sampling of hundreds of diamonds that were all pooled together, and you've got sort of an average age. I've developed a technique that allowed for the first time, a precise age to be placed on a single diamond of a single measurement.

The university has a world-class group of researchers already in my general field, and that's always a good thing to have if you want to move somewhere, so that you are surrounded by colleagues that are also excellent in their field. And so the aim is to team up and make a unit that would be the world's leader in this sort of research. So that's a big attraction to the University of Alberta. It's an extremely well supported university.