Past Events 2021-22

Surface of Mars

Driving Curiosity: Exploring Martian Geology and Habitability through Mineralogy

Mars has long been a source of curiosity and intrigue for humankind – we look out to our nearest cousin to better understand our own formation and evolution, the broader characteristics of our solar system and beyond, and whether or not we are alone in the universe. This desire to explore has led to many orbital and landed missions to Mars, with many striking and surprising discoveries made. One such mission is the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), with the Curiosity rover housing the most advanced and extensive payload of scientific instrumentation ever sent to another planetary object.

Presenter: Dr. Shaunna M. Morrison, Carnegie Research Scientist & 4D Initiative Co-Director, Earth and Planets Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science

Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2022             
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location: Online

Shaunna M. Morrison is a mineralogist and planetary scientist with expertise in crystallography, crystal chemistry, and the application of data-driven techniques.

Morrison is the 4D (Deep Time Data Driven Discovery) Initiative Co-Director at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, former Project Manager of the Carnegie led Deep-Time Data Infrastructure (DTDI), a Co-Investigator of the CheMin X-ray diffraction instrument on the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, a collaborator on the NASA Astrobiology ENIGMA Project, a Co-Investigator of the NASA Astromaterials Data System, and a data contributor and collaborator of the RRUFF Project, including the Mineral Evolution Database (MED), Mineral Properties Database (MPD), and the Evolutionary System of Mineralogy Database (ESMD). 

Morrison builds on her technical and theoretical background in crystallography, crystal chemistry, and martian mineralogy, to explore new techniques in multidimensional, multivariate analysis and visualization by employing a range of advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to better understand the complex relationships among Earth and planetary materials, their formational environments through deep time, and their coevolution with the biosphere.

Simmering volcano

Geological Storage of Carbon and the Role of Geophysics

Global efforts to reduce anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere are gaining momentum. Geological storage of CO2 is recognized as an important component of most reduction strategies and can contribute to the sequestration of excess CO2 already in the atmosphere. However, to be effective, the quantity of CO2 to be stored must be larger – by several orders of magnitude – than current underground injection of waste fluids or gas storage. This will require new monitoring and storage protocols and geophysical methods will play an important role in all stages of CO2 storage projects including site selection, geological characterization, and long-term monitoring. In this lecture, Dr. White will examine the Aquistore CO2 Storage Project in Saskatchewan, an on-going CO2 measurement, monitoring and verification project to demonstrate the feasibility of deep saline geological formation storage.

Presenter: Dr. Don White, Senior Geophysicist, Geological Survey of Canada

Date:  Thursday, March 3, 2022
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location: Online

Don White is a Senior Geophysicist at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), where he works in the field of applied seismology. Since 2001, his research has focused on geophysical methods for monitoring underground storage of CO2. This work was conducted as part of the Weyburn- Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project (2001 to 2011) and then in the Aquistore CO2 storage project (2010-2021).

Following graduation from the University of Toronto (B.Sc., Physics) and UBC (M.Sc., and Ph.D., Geophysics), Dr. White joined the Geological Survey of Canada as a post-doctoral fellow in 1989. While at the GSC he has served as an Adjunct Professor at Polytechnique Montréal and the Ottawa-Carleton Earth Science Center.

Planet being bombarded by asteroids

Painting: Artist's concept of the solar nebula

Image courtesy Dr. Robert Hazen

How Life and Rocks Co-Evolve: The 4.5-Billion-Year Story of Earth

The story of Earth is a 4.5-billion-year saga of dramatic transformations, driven by physical, chemical, and—based on a fascinating growing body of evidence—biological processes. The co-evolution of life and rocks unfolds in an irreversible sequence of evolutionary stages. Each stage re-sculpted our planet’s surface, while introducing new planetary processes and phenomena. This grand and intertwined tale of Earth’s living and non-living spheres is coming into ever-sharper focus. Earth’s evolution progressed by a sequence of chemical and physical processes, which ultimately led to the origin-of-life. Once life emerged, mineralogy and biology co-evolved, as changes in the chemistry of oceans, the atmosphere, and the crust dramatically increased Earth’s mineral diversity to the more than 5700 species known today.

Presenter: Dr. Robert M. Hazen, Senior Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science and Robinson Professor of Earth Science, Emeritus, George Mason University

Date:  Thursday, January 27, 2022
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location:  Online

Robert M. Hazen is the Senior Scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Robinson Professor of Earth Science, Emeritus at George Mason University. He received his degrees in geology from MIT and Harvard. He has authored more than 450 articles and 25 books on science, history, and music. His recent book The Story of Earth (Viking-Penguin) was a finalist in the Royal Society and Phi Beta Kappa science book competitions.

Throughout his career, Hazen has received numerous awards, including the 2021 IMA Medal, the 2016 Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America, and the 2012 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2020 he was elected Foreign Member of the Russian National Academy of Sciences. The biomineral “hazenite” was named in his honor.

Since 2008, Hazen and his colleagues have explored “mineral evolution” and “mineral ecology”—new approaches that exploit large and growing mineral data resources to understand the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere. In October 2016, Hazen retired from a 40-year career as a professional trumpeter, during which he performed with numerous ensembles including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Ballet, and National Symphony.

Field-based pilot for CO2 sequestration and critical metal recovery from mineral wastes

Field-based pilot for CO2 sequestration and critical metal recovery from mineral wastes

Dr. Sasha Wilson, University of Alberta

Enhanced Weathering as an Ore Processing Technique for CO2 Mineralization & Critical Metal Recovery

The critical metals needed to build infrastructure for the renewable energy transition are commonly found in ultramafic rocks. This type of rock is abundant in Canada. It can also be used to bind carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere within carbonate minerals, which are common components of antacids and the Rocky Mountains. Enhanced weathering of ultramafic rock to make carbonate minerals has potential to store billions of tonnes of CO2 per year while improving the efficiency of critical metal recovery from mines. This talk will describe how using CO2 sequestration as an ore processing technology could turn mining into a carbon negative industry while enhancing the supply of the metals we need to create the green economy.

Presenter: Dr. Sasha Wilson, Associate Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta

Date:  Thursday, November 18, 2021
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location:  Online

Dr. Sasha Wilson is Associate Professor and the Canada Research Chair in Biogeochemistry of Sustainable Mineral Resources. She leads the Environmental Economic Geology Lab in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta. Dr. Wilson is a mineralogist/biogeochemist whose work focuses on environmental aspects of economic geology and on chemical sedimentology. She uses mineral behaviour, with a particular focus on crystal chemistry, to understand and manage environmental change in engineered and natural settings. Her research employs fieldwork, analytical geochemistry and experiments in the field, laboratory and at synchrotron light sources.

colored microorganisms against a black background

Dr. Steven Hallam, University of British Columbia

Co-metabolic Innovation along Eco-thermodynamic Gradients

For over 3.5 billion years microorganisms have evolved to solve complex metabolic problems at the individual, population and community levels, innovating distributed solutions to nutrient and energy conversion processes that have fundamentally transformed the surface chemistry of the earth and generated a deep reservoir of genomic diversity. Over the past decade, high-throughput sequencing and mass spectrometry platforms have transformed our perception of this microcosmos, illuminating microbial dark matter and conceptually linking microbial interactions to a wide range of ecosystem functions and services. Dr. Hallam will explore problems and solutions in environmental sequence analysis spanning different levels of biological organization along defined redox gradients in the ocean. He will highlight emerging open source tools for integrating and visualizing multi-omic (DNA, RNA and protein) and environmental parameter information, and consider the future of data intensive computation and environmental sensing as it relates to metabolic pathway reconstruction, predictive modeling and synthetic ecology.

Presenter:  Dr. Steven Hallam, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Leopold Leadership Fellow, University of British Columbia

Date:  Thursday, October 21, 2021
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location:  Online

Dr. Steven Hallam is a University of California Santa Cruz and Massachusetts Institute of Technology trained molecular biologist, microbial ecologist, entrepreneur, and innovator with over 20 years of experience in field and laboratory research. He is Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and a Leopold Leadership Fellow at the University of British Columbia. He is also a program faculty member in the Bioinformatics and Genome Sciences and Technology training programs at UBC. Dr. Hallam co-directs the ECOSCOPE innovation ecosystem consisting of an NSERC CREATE training program, a research network, the Biofactorial core facility for high-throughput screening, and a curriculum development initiative in data science (EDUCE) based on four research and training pillars: i) microbial ecology, ii) biological engineering, iii) data platforms, and iv) networking and entrepreneurship. His research intersects these pillars with specific emphasis on creation of functional screens and computational tools to reveal hidden metabolic powers of the microcosmos. His laboratory developed MetaPathways, a scalable annotation and analysis pipeline to predict metabolic interactions from environmental sequence information. Other research areas include single-cell genome sequencing and biosensor development for environmental monitoring and high-throughput enzyme discovery. In 2016, he co-founded Koonkie Inc., a bioinformatics consulting company that designs and provides scalable algorithmic and data analytics solutions in the cloud.

Destroyed hydro-power plant

Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower plant, destroyed in the debris flow of February 7, 2021

Irfan Rashid, University of Kashmir

Mountain Hazards Cascades in North America and High Mountain Asia

Geohazards, including landslides and floods, are becoming more common with climate change. As glaciers melt and permafrost thaws, steep slopes are becoming less stable and more prone to failure, which can result in disaster when the geophysical event intersects with human settlements and infrastructure. In this talk, Dr. Shugar will discuss the changing hazards landscape, with particular attention to recent events in the mountain landscapes of western North America and High Mountain Asia.

Presenter: Dr. Dan Shugar, Associate Professor of Geoscience & Director, Environmental Science Program, University of Calgary

Date:  Thursday, September 23, 2021
Time:  6:30 – 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location:  Online

Dr. Dan Shugar is Associate Prof essor of Geoscience and Director of the Environmental Science Program at the University of Calgary. His main area of expertise is rapid geological change, particularly in alpine environments, but he has also worked on slower phenomena in flatter environments, including sea level change, fluvial geomorphology, and permafrost. He serves as a Scientific Editor for the Journal of Glaciology and is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Dr. Shugar earned a BSc in physical geography from Carleton University, an MSc in physical geography from the University of Guelph, and a PhD in earth sciences from Simon Fraser University. He was a Hakai-Mitacs postdoctoral fellow at the University of Victoria, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Tacoma prior to joining the UCalgary.

“The series is excellent and provides a good variety of speakers and subjects to keep it very interesting and give a good overview of what is happening in the scientific world. It also helps me keep up to date with what is going on in the world. It is one of the very few good things happening in the world these days. Thank you.”

Attendee from January 2020 lecture by Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar