Dr. Francine McCarthy (at right) with members of her research team during a coring event at Crawford Lake.

Dr. Francine McCarthy is a geology professor and Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at Brock University, where she has served as a faculty member since 1991. Her research introduced her to Crawford Lake more than three decades ago and it led, most recently, to a groundbreaking study that earned the research team—and Crawford Lake—global recognition. We sat down with Francine to talk about her work, her connection to the park, and the new endowment that will inspire learning for generations to come.

Dr. Francine McCarthy is dedicated to helping people understand the urgency of climate change. The Earth Sciences professor and micropaleontologist has spent the last four decades of her career studying geological evidence of planetary change. One of her most recent projects focused on Conservation Halton’s Crawford Lake Conservation Area, a site she first encountered through her graduate research.

“I remember coming to the park with my supervisor in ’84 or ’85 expecting to see a lake,” says Francine, “but for some reason, I didn’t expect to see longhouses. It meant a lot to be studying a site where not only was there geoarchaeological evidence in the sediments, but there was clearly an emphasis on the culture of the local people that had lived here.”

In 2018, Francine began leading a groundbreaking study that brought her back to the rare body of water protected at the park for three lake coring expeditions. The project culminated in April 2023 with such compelling evidence of planetary change, that scientists are now deciding whether to recognize a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—with a Crawfordian Age at its base.  

“As this major project was ending, I remember thinking, the science is done, now what does it mean for humanity? As an educator all my life, I knew it was about getting the message across to everybody—from the Grade 3 students visiting this park on field trips to the summer camps, families, and seniors.”

Francine decided to establish an endowment fund for Crawford Lake that would support education and engagement initiatives at the park. “Conservation Halton already does an excellent job at this, and it’s what I wanted to facilitate with my gift.”

Her endowment will help the education team invest in programs and projects that teach visitors about the nature of the lake, including what it tells us about the health of our planet and our history, and how it can help guide us to the future.

“The educational component is so important—teaching about the serendipity of the interactions between people and the lake—particularly because so many of the park’s visitors are school children. It’s their future.” 

If you would like to learn about establishing an endowment fund or supporting the Connected Campaign through planned giving, please email Sarah MacDonald at smacdonald@hrca.on.ca. To learn more about the Anthropocene research at Crawford Lake, click here. To contribute to the McCarthy Fund for Crawford Lake, click here.