Daniel P. McCarthy

Associate Professor, Earth Sciences

Office: Mackenzie Chown D423
905 688 5550 x3864

Ecologist with interests in lichenometry, alpine environmental change and the use of lichens in biomonitoring.

  • 2001–present: Associate Professor, Depts. of Earth Sciences and Biology, Brock University.
  • 1999–2001: Associate Professor, Depts. of Geography, Earth Sciences and Biology, Brock University.
  • 1995–1998: Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Brock University.
  • 1994–1995: Instructor (Continuing Position), Northwest Community College, Terrace, BC.
  • 1992–1994: Instructor (Probational), Northwest Community College, Prince Rupert, BC.
  • 1986–1992: Lecturer, Dept. of Geography, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK.
  • 1986–93, Ph.D. Geography, University of Saskatchewan
  • 1980–85, M.Sc. Geography, University of Western Ontario
  • 1977–79, B.Sc. Geography / Biology, University of Alberta
  • 1976–77, Simon Fraser University
  • Information Technology and Infrastructure Committee 2017-2019
  • Joint Health and Safety Subcommittee: Asbestos Risk Management Committee, 2004–05.
  • BUFA representative: Brock University Joint Health and Safety Committee, 2003–06.
  • BUFA Committee on Working Environment, 2003–05.
  • Science Safety Committee, Brock University. 1996–2005.
  • BUFA Committee on the Terms and Conditions of Employment, 2003, 2006.
  • Research Committee, Brock University, 1998, 2001.
  • Technical Environmental Working Group. Region Niagara Planning and Development Department, 2000.
  • Senate Rules Committee : Brock University Faculty Association, 1997–98.
  • Field Trip Safety Subcommittee of Science Safety Committee, Brock University, 1999.
  • BUFA representative to: Campus Risk Management Committee, 2004–05.
  • Brock Department of Earth Sciences: Curriculum Committee, 2003–05.
  • Brock Department of Earth Sciences: Departmental Library Representative, 2003–06.
  • Ontario Graduate Research Scholarships Review Committee 2005.


  • ERSC/GEOG 3P33 Biodiversity
  • BIOL/ERSC/GEOG 3P85 Ecology of a Changing Planet
  • ERSC/GEOG 3P35 Biomonitoring and environmental stress assessment
  • ERSC 2P61 Environmental Geoscience
  • ERSC/GEOG 3P92 Close-range Photogrammetry: ground school
  • ERSC/BIOL/GEOG 4P85 Ecosystems and Changing Disturbance Regimes
  • ERSC/GEOG 4P92 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems: Practicum

Dan has a particular interest in lichenometric dating. This technique uses the size of lichens on a rock surface to estimate when the rock surface first became exposed and available for lichen establishment and growth. As a graduate student he used tree-ring and lichenometric dating to assign ages to deglaciated terrain in western Canada. Unsatisfied by questionable assumptions used in lichenometric dating, he adopted a “slow science” approach to generate the type of data that might shed light on why the technique seems to work in some cases, but not in others. His Rhizocarpon geographicum agg. monitoring plot downvalley from the Illecillewaet Glacier in Canada’s Glacier National Park was established in the summer of 1996 and is now one of most frequently photographed and longest studied lichen communities in the world. Many of the lichens seen in those thousands of repeated images have been meticulously measured by Dan and his graduate students and have been used to develop and test novel photogrammetric approaches. Dan has also collaborated with colleagues at the Geological Survey of Canada as part of the Nahanni National Park Reserve expansion project and worked with partners at provincial and federal agencies to develop and test lichens as biomonitors of ambient air quality in southern Ontario. He is currently using close-range photogrammetry to quantify growth and change in the tiniest of Rhizocarpon lichens, is revisiting old study sites to document the impact of increment coring on tree survival and is testing/validating the accuracy of indirectly calibrated lichen “growth curves.”

Specific research interests and activities

  • Direct measurement of the radial growth and population dynamics of crustose lichens
  • Close-range photogrammetry and terrain mapping using Structure-from-Motion techniques
  • Recent glacial and environmental change in Canada’s national parks.
  • Development and testing of protocols that use lichens as indicators of ambient air quality in Ontario

Research student supervision

  • Bukovics, T. 2016. Photogrammetric exploration of demographic change in juvenile Rhizocarpon geographicum thalli. M.Sc. thesis, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Brock University, 96pp. Main Supervisor
  • Henry, N. 2011. Measurement of growth in the lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum using a new photographic technique. M.Sc. thesis, Dept. of Biological Siences, Brock University. Main Supervisor.
  • Redwing-Shaw, V. 2010. Use of milkweed as a biomonitor of ambient ozone, southwestern Ontario. M.Sc. Candidate, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Brock University. Main Supervisor.
  • Tulumello, P. 2010. Lichen monitoring of ambient air quality in Sarnia Ontario. M.Sc. thesis, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Brock University. Main Supervisor.


  • National Geographic Society, United States, Explorer’s Grant 9805-15 in 2016
  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment (2005): Ontario Urban Lichen Monitoring Program.
  • City of Hamilton (2005): Arboreal lichen monitoring/survey.

Research Articles

  • McCarthy, D.P. 2021. A simple test of lichenometric dating using bidecadal growth of Rhizocarpon geographicum agg. and structure-from-motion photogrammetry. Geomorphology. 385, Article 107736. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2021.107736
  • Osborn, G., McCarthy, A. LaBrie and R. Burke, 2015. “Lichenometric dating: Science or pseudoscience?” Quaternary Research 83(1): 1-12. 17
  • Osborn, G., D. McCarthy, A. LaBrie and R. Burke, 2015. “Corrigendum to “Lichenometric dating: Science or pseudo-science?” Quaternary Research 83(2): 394. 18
  • Osborn, G., McCarthy, A. LaBrie and R. Burke, 2016. Lichenometric dating: science or pseudo-science? — Response to comments by M. O’Neal, Quaternary Research 86(2): 244-245
  • McCarthy, D.P., Lichenometry. p. 1399–1404, in: Scott A. Elias (ed.)Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science . Oxford, Elsevier B.V.
  • McCarthy, D.P., Estimating lichenometric ages by direct and indirect measurement of radial growth: a case study of Rhizocarpon agg. at the Illecillewaet Glacier, British Columbia. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research . 35(2): 203–213.

Recent talks and published conference abstracts

  • McCarthy, D.P. Growth and survival of cushion plants in glacier forefields. CWRA-CGU Conference, Banff, Alberta, June 5-8, 2012.
  • McCarthy, D.P. Use of lichens and tree bark as biomonitors of urban air and nutrient loading. Invited oral presentation at Best in Science Environmental Science Symposium, May 31, 2012, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Toronto.
  • McCarthy, D.P. and U. Brand, 2010. Lichen biomonitoring of Canada’s busiest highway. The 42nd Air Pollution Workshop. April 12-14, 2010. Asheville, North Carolina.
  • Demuth, M.N., McCarthy, D.P., Zdanowicz, C.M., Pinard, V., Robertson, L., Murray, D., Catto, S. 2006. Secular change in the glacier cover contributing flow to a World Heritage River initial findings from work in the Ragged Ranges and headwaters of the South Nahanni River, NWT. CMOS, CGU, AMS Congress 2007. “Air, Ocean, Earth and Ice on the Rock”. May 28 – June 1, 2007. St. John’s Congress Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
  • McCarthy, D.P., N., Demuth and C.M. Zdanowicz, 2007. Use of digital photogrammetry to establish lichenometric dating controls in the Selwyn Mountains, NWT. CANQUA 2007, Ottawa, June 4-8, 2007.
  • McCarthy, D.P., Monitoring air quality with lichens. Niagara Field Naturalists (Invited talk).