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Students off on self-led Venezuela field trip

By Kelly Foss

A pair of master’s students from the Department of Earth Sciences have organized a student led field trip to conduct research in the mountains of Venezuela. Tiffany Piercey and Emma Brand said about $15,000 in funding for the trip was contributed by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). It will allow the 11 graduate and undergraduate students to partner with another 10 students and a professor from Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.

“We wanted to do a collaborative field camp with another SEG student chapter so last year we submitted a proposal to SEG’s annual call for projects of merit for MUN to partner with Simon Bolivar University,” said Ms. Piercey. “We found out we were chosen in April and had planned to do the camp in August, but the timing posed a few safety hazards so we delayed the trip to February.”

The students will be in Venezuela for just over a week and will spend their time in the Venezuelan Andes in a town called Merida, studying sediment layers for paleo-climatic implications.

“Sea levels rise and fall and depending on where you are you get more sediments being brought into a system,” explained Ms. Brand. “If we are able to map these sediments then we can map where the water levels were and make inferences about the climate at that time.”

“The research ties into broader paleo-climatic studies being done in the area,” she added. “Our work will be another piece of the puzzle. Together the research will enable people to understand what happened to the climate in the past and make inferences about what’s happening now and what that means.”

Ms. Piercey has been a longtime member of SEG and the organization has given her a number of opportunities to be involved in student leadership events, experiences she has brought back to Memorial University. Together with Ms. Brand, they have relaunched the MUN SEG chapter and created a geosciences and youth education outreach program for students in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“What’s really great about this field camp is that it is all student driven and is the culmination of Tiffany’s involvement in SEG over three years,” said Ms. Brand. “It shows that students who get involved can accomplish many things. We were very conscious when deciding who we would take on this field trip that we included people who would be in charge of the MUN Geoscience Society in four years time and they would be the ones to continue the legacy that we’re trying to create. It’s about learning and bestowing the knowledge we have onto younger generations.”