Queen's University

Dr. Anna Harrison

Assistant Professor, Department of Geology, School of Environmental Studies

Queen's National Scholar


I am an Assistant Professor and a Queen’s National Scholar in Environmental Geochemistry, since July 2018.

I am cross-appointed between the School of Environmental Studies and Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering. I received my BSc from the University of Alberta and my PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of British Columbia. My doctoral research examined the potential use of mine waste products to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of mining operations. After my PhD, I moved to Palo Alto, California as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. In early 2016, I left Stanford to take up an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship in Toulouse, France at the Geoscience and Environment Toulouse (GET) laboratory, a part of the National Scientific Research Centers (CNRS) in France. Upon receiving a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship in 2017, I moved to University College London (UCL), in the bustling centre of London, UK.

At Queen’s, I am developing an aqueous and environmental geochemistry laboratory to study the processes by which elements, both environmentally harmful and beneficial, are cycled in the Earth’s shallow subsurface, and how human’s can engineer those reactions to reduce negative environmental impacts.

Most Recent Project

Water-limited mineral weathering

Image: Limited zone of reaction under water limited conditions as shown in this electron micrograph. A carbonate rind (false-coloured in red) has formed where water was available. Earth’s shallow subsurface, or “critical zone,” is of fundamental importance for supporting terrestrial life and maintaining water quality. An important part of the critical zone is the water unsaturated region located nearest to the surface, where water and gases are transferred between the atmosphere and hydrosphere through abiotic and biotic processes. In my research, I investigate the fundamental chemical and physical controls on mineral-fluid reaction rates in water unsaturated media using a combination of experimental and reactive transport modeling approaches, complemented by field observations.

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Other Projects

  • Using stable isotopes as windows into the geologic past and as tracers of contemporary environmental processes

    The fractionation of stable isotopes during chemical reactions has long been recognized as a tool to trace a variety of geologic processes (e.g., evaporation, mineral dissolution and precipitation), and as a window into the geochemical conditions in the geologic past (e.g., temperature, ocean pH). Advances in analytical techniques have recently allowed measurement of the isotopes of a wider variety of elements, but the processes that control the fractionation of these isotopes and the degree of fractionation incurred during different reactions (represented by the fractionation factor) remain largely undefined.

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  • Enhancing natural reactions to capture and store carbon

    Image of carbon mineralization products: a Mg-carbonate mineral, nesquehonite, replaces a Mg-rich primary mineral, brucite. Image has been false-coloured.

    Through my research, I investigate methods to accelerate carbon mineralization in Mg-rich rock and industrial waste materials. The fine-grained rock waste that is generated during mining operations for ores such as nickel, chromite, and diamond, are particularly well-suited to capture carbon. I investigate the mechanisms that control these mineral weathering reactions in laboratory settings and develop numerical models, known as reactive transport models, that can help better design accelerated carbon storage strategies.

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