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Frederick Roots, O.C., Ph.D.

A legendary Polar scientist, expedition leader, and explorer, Dr. Frederick Roots is a Canadian geoscientist, meteorologist, and ecologist whose achievements have been a global force in polar, circumpolar, and bipolar research and discovery. 

During the Geological Survey of Canada of about 7000 square miles of previously unmapped mountains in northern B.C., Dr. Roots found fossils which made possible clarification of the geological structure and deformation story of much of the north-central North American Cordillera. One of the critical fossils now carries his name: Protophoreta Rootsi.

Dr. Roots was senior geologist on the first international research expedition to Antarctica, the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1949-52. He undertook geological and topographical surveys of 140,000 square kilometres of previously unknown mountainous terrain in Queen Maud Land. During this work, he made the longest unsupported dog-sled trip anywhere, without returning to base or re-supply. One of the mountain groups investigated was subsequently named Roots Range.

In 1953 he undertook the first geological reconnaissance traverse across the Mackenzie Mountains, obtaining information that enabled the geology of the eastern Cordillera to be joined with that of Alaska. Roots participated in Operation Franklin of the Geological Survey (1955), the first comprehensive geological study of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian Arctic, which established the potential for petroleum resources in the Arctic Archipelago and the Beaufort Sea.

An involvement in interdisciplinary science and a lifelong interest in the connections between the natural inorganic and organic worlds led Dr. Roots to propose, and subsequently organize, the Polar Continental Shelf Project, a multi-discipline, multi-subject investigation of the Arctic margin of Canada and the adjacent Arctic Ocean. Beginning in 1958, the Project continues today and is the major Canadian comprehensive scientific program in the Arctic.

More recently, Dr. Roots has been involved in questions of climate change, global tectonics, energy and radioactive waste, and the relationships between changing societies and changing environments. Among these interests, he played a role in the founding of Students On Ice in 1999, and has since been a frequent member of its Education Team, with student-study visits to Antarctica and to the Arctic.

Dr. Roots has been decorated for services to polar exploration and science by Norway (1952), the United Kingdom (1956), USSR (1973), and the United States (1974).  In 1987 he was created an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste