Person giving a lecture

Gallagher Colloquium Series

The Gallagher Colloquium Series is a public lecture series hosted by the Department of Geoscience in the Faculty of Science. Taking place between September and April each year, the Colloquium brings in best-in-class speakers to Calgary to strengthen our science community and to increase scientific knowledge and awareness in the public.

Philanthropic Supporters behind the Series:

The Gallagher Colloquium Series was established in 2015, with a generous philanthropic contribution from the Gallagher family. Legendary oilman and geologist Jack Gallagher was a dedicated supporter of UCalgary, and his sons Thomas, Frederick and James have continued this tradition of generosity. The Gallagher family has also established the Gallagher Library, the Gallagher Fellowship in Geoscience, and many other university initiatives for more than 40 years. We thank the family for their continued support and contributions to UCalgary.

Banner image: Dr. Jim Green, NASA Chief Scientist, delivering his Gallagher Colloquium presentation on February 20, 2020

If you would like to receive information and invitations about the Gallagher Lecture Series, please email and ask to be included on the Faculty of Science events and communications list.

Dr. Heather Graham

Time Machines and Spaceships: Building Search Patterns for Life Detection

The search for life and signs of life beyond our own planet confronts us with myriad challenges – technical, analytical, and epistemological. Current strategies for life detection rely mainly on identification of well-established and widely accepted features associated with contemporary life. But how do we search for signs of life that may use an unknowable, unfamiliar biochemistry? As we explore father out in the Solar System where a common heritage with Earth is less likely it becomes more necessary to design life detection approaches based on fundamental features and mechanistic models of biological systems. It also becomes more imperative to incorporate our knowledge of the abiotic chemical, physical, and geologic processes that provide environmental context for our observations. In this discussion we’ll explore guiding principles for designing a life detection framework that avoids the overuse of analogy and incorporates the limits of parsimony when assessing biosignatures. We will consider methods to deconvolve abiotic inputs, account for alteration processes and expand our search criteria to focus on energetic input.

Presenter:  Dr. Heather Graham, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Date:  Thursday, February 23, 2023

Location:  Earth Sciences (ES) 162 or Zoom

Networking Reception:  5:45 p.m. - 6:50 p.m. MT

Presentation:  7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. MT (in-person or Zoom)

Registration will be available soon.

Dr. Heather Graham is an organic geochemist and research physical scientist in the Astrochemistry Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Graham’s research focuses on the fundamental scientific development of tools and techniques that can be used for agnostic biosignature detection both in situ and as part of sample return. With a diverse background in paleobiology, ecology, analytical chemistry, and statistical modeling Dr. Graham combines expertise in the expression and preservation of chemical biosignatures with an understanding of the constraints of space flight instrumentation. Dr. Graham is a member of the OSIRIS-REx soluble organics analysis team, a co-lead for the Network for Life Detection and a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advance Research. They received a Ph.D in Geosciences and Biogeochemistry from the Pennsylvania State University and an A.B. in Chemistry from Occidental College.

Road going through rock quarry

Critical Raw Materials for the Energy Transition

The global objective of achieving net zero emissions is driving significant decarbonisation of energy and transport, with a shift towards renewable energy sources and electric vehicles. It is now widely recognised that this will drive significant increases in demand for a range of minerals and metals, including lithium, graphite, manganese, nickel and cobalt (used in batteries), the rare earth elements (used in magnets in motors) and the platinum group elements (for electrolysis to produce green hydrogen). There are concerns about the security of supply of some of these raw materials, and the increasing demand cannot be met solely by recycling; mining of primary resources will be essential.

This talk will describe the types of geological resources that are mined, focusing on our recent research into deposits of the rare earth elements and lithium. It is important to note that geology isn’t everything, and a range of other challenges can also impact the raw materials value chain; these may relate to mineral processing, social and environmental impacts, economics and politics. This talk will also give an overview of some of our recent and ongoing research on sustainable exploration, mining, and value chains for these raw materials that are critical for the energy transition. 

Presenter:  Kathryn Goodenough, Principal Geologist, British Geological Survey

Date:  January 19, 2023

Joining us in person:
Networking Reception
Time/Location: 5:45 – 6:50 (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162

Gallagher Presentation:
Time/Location: 7 – 8:15 p.m. (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162

Joining us on-line:
Gallagher Presentation
Time: 7 – 8:15 p.m. (MT)

Dr Kathryn Goodenough is a Principal Geologist at the British Geological Survey, with a research focus on the geology of critical raw materials and on sustainable resource management. She also leads engagement in international geoscience for the BGS. She has a degree in Earth Sciences from Oxford University and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, and has worked at BGS for over 20 years. She is Chief Editor of the Open Access journal Earth Science, Systems and Society (ES-cubed) and UK representative on the Executive Committee of the International Continental Drilling Programme, and in 2020 she was recognised as one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining. She is also active on Twitter at @kmgoodenough.

Mine tailng equipment

Can mine tailings become massive carbon sinks?

Carbon dioxide removal – the capture and storage of atmospheric CO2 – is essential to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets. Of the many methods for carbon dioxide removal, carbon mineralization is an attractive and promising approach due to its nearly unlimited capacity for storage (>10,000 Gt) and high durability (>105 years). Carbon mineralization is a process where carbon dioxide gas is converted into inorganic carbonate minerals via naturally occurring dissolution-based geochemical reactions. Usually occurring over geologic time scales, the process can be accelerated in finely ground rock, such as the tailings produced during mining. In particular, ultramafic mine tailings represent an enormous opportunity for carbon dioxide removal, if we can deploy the geologic know-how and technology needed to tap into this waste-resource. In this talk, we will discuss carbon mineralization in mine tailings within the context of both the emerging carbon dioxide removal industry and mining in the era of the clean energy transition.

Presenter: Bethany Ladd, Co-founder and Head of Operations, Carbin Minerals; Research Scientist, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia

Date:  November 17, 2022

Joining us in person:
Networking Reception
Time/Location: 5 – 6:20 (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162

Gallagher Presentation:
Time/Location: 6:30 p.m. (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162

Joining us online:
Gallagher Presentation
Time: 6:30 p.m. (MT)

Bethany Ladd is the co-founder and Head of Operations at Carbin Minerals and a Research Scientist at the University of British Columbia. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Brown University and a Master of Science in hydrogeology from the University of Calgary. While at the University of Calgary, she specialized in aqueous geochemistry with a focus on dissolved gases in groundwater. Following her degree, she built a career running applied, interdisciplinary research projects. This led her to the University of British Columbia, where she most recently co-founded Carbin Minerals, a UBC spinout and XPRIZE award-winning carbon dioxide removal company.

Cells in water

Salty waters: Life’s origins and biological habitability on Earth (and Mars?)

How did life begin? It is a question so fundamental that it has been pondered since at least the time of the ancient philosophers Epicurus and Lucretius. As scientists have sought answers to this question and its logical derivative – Are we alone in the universe? – a common strategy, “follow the water,” has emerged. In this presentation, I will introduce recent scientific advances in the quest to understand the chemical origins of life and discuss our efforts to place these reactions into their appropriate geological context. I will focus on the role of solute-laden, “salty” waters in generating habitable conditions and their potential for originating the first organisms. My discussion will be informed by our geochemical and geophysical studies of saline lakes in British Columbia, intensive study of seafloor hydrothermal systems, and decades of discovery by Mars rovers and orbiters. I will conclude by discussing ways in which these salty waters may be vital in our quest to stem off the worst consequences of global climate change and maintain habitable conditions on our own planet.

Presenter:  Dr. Ben Tutolo, Assistant Professor, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary

Date: Thursday, October 27, 2022       
Time: 6:30 - 7:45 p.m. (MT)
Location: Zoom

“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