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Between a rock and a rocky place

Resource Geoscience Western prepares future geoscientists with a rock solid education

March 8, 2013

Between a rock and a rocky place
Robert Linnen and his colleagues at Resource Geoscience Western prepare smarter geoscientists with a rock solid education.

Ask geoscientist Robert Linnen what his research is about, and he’ll hold out a rock that fits in the palm of his hand. The rock looks non-descript enough, until the light hits the surface edges. That’s when the gold flecks sparkle.

“I’m interested in trying to find innovative ways to discover more gold,” says Linnen, associate professor of earth sciences at Western.

That may sound easy, but it’s not. The miniscule flecks are trapped in the rock.

The same challenge is found for other natural resources. “Most of the surface deposits for natural resources – from minerals to petroleum – have already been discovered,” says Linnen. “But world demand continues to rise while exploration success rates decrease.

“We now have to be smarter as we look deeper to explore and uncover resources. We need to know more about how natural resources are concentrated and formed, and take that knowledge to find out what’s promising. That will take smarter geoscientists to find the natural resources of the future.”

To meet this challenge, Western and the Department of Earth Sciences launched Resource Geoscience Western (RGW) in 2007. For more than five decades, Western has mentored some of the most successful geologist-explorers in Canada and around the world.

Now, to meet the growing demands for a new generation of field-ready geoscientists, the RGW program is raising $8 million for research chairs, fellowships and resources. “A core part of RGW is to prepare students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers,” says Linnen, “who can use their research skills and professional training to find and develop new resources.”

One critical component of the program’s success is its field schools. From trips to northern Ontario or to overseas destinations (such as Spain, Turkey, South Africa and the Philippines), students learn outside of the classroom. “They need to see the rocks and formations firsthand, and apply their classroom experience to real-world problems in the field,” says Linnen.

These field experiences, plus on-campus workshops, also connect students to industry partners. “The mentoring our students receive from professional geoscientists gives them the training they need to succeed,” says Linnen.

To learn more about supporting Western Science, including Resource Geoscience Western, contact Paula Luchak, Alumni & Development Officer, Faculty of Science (519.661.2111, ext. 86642).

This article appeared in the Winter 2013 edition of Impact Western
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