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magazine / mj07

May/June 2007 issue

Dust doctor

Dust doctor
Environmental chemist Miriam Diamond is Canadian Geographic's Environmental Scientist of the Year
By Marci McDonald

The postage-stamp playground tucked behind the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in midtown Toronto hardly looks like the sort of terrain to provoke an environmental epiphany. But it was here, in Healey Willan Park more than a decade ago, that Miriam Diamond, then a perennially exhausted new mother, stumbled on a turning point in her environmental chemistry career. "My kids were crawling in the dirt," she recalls, "and I started asking about contaminants: 'What's literally in your sandbox?'"

At the time, Diamond had spent years studying pollution in waterways from the Arctic to the Great Lakes. But gunning for tenure in the geography department at the University of Toronto (U of T), she realized that with two toddlers, she had to rule out further research that entailed hanging off floatplane pontoons. "I was looking for a line of inquiry that was my own," she says, "and here it was in my own backyard."

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