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Research opportunities

The first year of Dal's Earth Sciences program will give you a taste of geological research. In weekly labs, you might examine thin slices of rock under high-powered microscopes, learning how to identify types of rock samples and even their regions of origin.

You’ll also go on day-long field trips and participate in longer field schools, venturing into the Nova Scotia landscape to learn first-hand about particular geologic and geographic features. And as you advance through the Earth Sciences program, you’ll have opportunities to participate in professors’ research projects—or even to propose one of your own if you pursue the Earth Sciences honours degree.

Dal's Earth Sciences professors are involved in diverse research projects, from mining and oil exploration, to studying the movement of tectonic plates along various fault lines around the world. Their findings can contribute to more efficient mining techniques or to developing methods to predict earthquakes.

Some of the many questions earth scientists seek to answer:

  • Why do volcanoes and earthquakes happen in some places, and not others?
  • Where and when are floods and landslides most likely to happen?
  • Where should you avoid building your dream home?
  • Why are parts of the world so dry, and others so rainy?
  • When did animals and plants become extinct in the past, and why?
  • Are we running out of oil?
  • Is there a connection between geology and health?
  • Why is understanding geology so important to understanding our environment?
  • What is the state of the world water supply?

Dr. John Gosse is a geochronologist and geomorphologist specializing in applying terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides (isotopes produced in rocks exposed to cosmic rays) to solve questions about several topics:

  • the slip rates of faults in Tibet, the USA, and the southern central Andes;
  • the glacial history of Canada;
  • rates of erosion and exhumation by landslides, streams, and glaciers; and
  • geoarcheology and the influences of climate change on landscape change.

Currently, his research is taking him to Ellesmere, Devon, and Baffin Islands, the western Canadian Arctic archipelago, and southern South America.

Dr. Rebecca Jamieson’s research is directed toward better understanding how variations in metamorphic grade in space and time (metamorphic architecture) are linked to the thermal and tectonic processes that control orogenesis (which is the structural change of the Earth's crust as a result of movements in the techtonic plates). Recent work has focused on "large hot orogens," including the Himalayan-Tibetan system and the Grenville orogen in North America. Dr. Jamieson’s specific areas of research include

  • the Grenville orogen of central Ontario (in collaboration with N. Culshaw of Dalhousie);
  • Appalachian metamorphic complexes in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (various collaborators); and
  • projects in the Trans-Hudson Orogen (in collaboration with colleagues at the Geological Survey of Canada).

Dr. Grant D. Wach’s research has encompassed several areas of sedimentology and stratigraphy (study of rock layers), including work on the seismic sequence stratigraphy of offshore Colombia. In developing the new program in Petroleum Geoscience at Dalhousie University, his research focus has been on the Scotian Basins. He has also continued research in other areas, including Western Canada, Trinidad, Colombia, the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, China, and the United Kingdom.

Research activities for Dal's Earth Sciences undergrads

  • Re-assess the age of famous meteor landing sites, using the latest in rock dating technology.
  • Work in the Experimental Petrology Lab, with equipment that allows you to study the interaction between diamonds and kimberlite magmas.
  • Contribute to more reliable predictions of future climate changes, using computer models to simulate lake expansion and the subsequent methane release expected over the next century or two as permafrost melts.
  • Study the contact metamorphism of calcareous concretions in the Bluestone formation in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Determine the tectonic evolution of the central Andes mountains.
  • Contribute to the Atlantic Canada Paleo-Glacier Ice Dynamics (ACID) project, studying the nature of regional glacier ice cover in the last 115,000 years.
  • Investigate the interaction of salt dynamics and sedimentary basin evolution and its implications for offshore Nova Scotia hydrocarbon exploration.
  • Investigate the geochronology, metamorphic petrology, and geodynamics of the Trans-Hudson Orogen.
  • Explore the metallogenesis (the origin and distribution of metal deposits) of copper porphyry ore deposits, coal, or petroleum.