Student organization in 'upper echelon' of geology students globally

Oct 10th, 2019

Kelly Foss

Student organization in 'upper echelon' of geology students globally

A group of geology graduate students have found great success with a student organization.

The Society of Economic Geologists (SEG) is the largest scientific organization for mineral deposits research in the world, with over 6,500 members from all over the globe.

The group of students from the Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, who comprise the organization’s Memorial chapter is led by society president Carly Mueller.

Beers ‘n’ Peers

At its bi-weekly Beers ‘n’ Peers meeting, the group discusses a recent geology paper over drinks at The Breezeway on the St. John’s campus, while industry meet and greet sessions foster important ties with the mining and exploration community in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“As a group we’ve been going to Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador talks, volunteering at the province’s Mineral Resource Review and attending Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum Newfoundland and Labrador events,” said Ms. Mueller.

“Our members have also attended the global SEG meetings and Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention, all of which help build our connections to the global industry.”

Upper echelon

Being a part of the international organization has opened doors to student fellowships, research grants and field trip funds, as well, with individual members receiving more than $50,000 from the SEG in 2017-19 to sponsor their own research.

Additional funds from industry and government to sponsor networking events, out-of-province field trips, workshops and support of visiting speakers has totalled more than $10,000.

“These dollars are being used to fund field work to their study sites, travel to international laboratories to collect state-of-the-art data on their samples and present their research at conferences,” said Dr. Mike Babechuk, an assistant professor of Earth Sciences.

Dr. Steve Piercey is a professor in the department and is also vice-president of Student Affairs for the international SEG.

“Competition for these fellowships is intensely competitive.”— Dr. Steve Piercey

He chaired the Student Fellowship Selection Committee for a number of years and says annually there are only around 30 people that receive fellowships and another 100 receiving student research grants worldwide.

“Competition for these fellowships is intensely competitive and any person who receives the top prize of $10,000, as a number of our students have done, is in the upper echelon of economic geology students globally,” he said.

Visiting world-class deposits

A trip this spring to Northern Ontario and Quebec allowed the group to visit world-class ore deposits, famous Precambrian geological sites and network with exploration geologists and hiring managers of several international mining companies. Funding for the trip, in large part, came directly from the chapter.

“I chair the Stewart R. Wallace Fund for the student chapters selection committee that provides funds for field trips and other student chapter activities,” said Dr. Piercey. “While I have to recuse myself from any deliberations on our chapter, I get to see all applications and final funding allocations.

“Memorial’s chapter was one of the top funding recipients in the 2019 competition,” he continued.

“The Wallace Fund receives requests from 30-50 student chapters from around the world annually. That it was in the upper tier globally is really a testament to how outstanding these folks are as a group.”

Busy fall

Memorial’s SEG student chapter is already diving into the new school year.

In early September, it hosted Dr. Sarah Gleeson, the SEG Thayer Lindsley Visiting Lecturer for 2019, and recently hosted Dr. Richard Goldfarb, an international expert on orogenic gold deposits and a 2019 SEG honorary lecturer.

The chapter members have also organized a two-day workshop focusing on orogenic gold and other key deposits in the province, co-sponsored by Anaconda Mining Ltd, a major contributor in the Newfoundland and Labrador gold exploration and mining scene.

“We’re hoping to do a lot more this year, because that’s the best part – just getting out there to see the rocks,” said Ms. Mueller.