VIEW FROM ACADIA
If you graduated from Acadia as a geologist more than 5 years ago, the chances are that you would be surprised at the extent of changes in the student body now enroled in degree programs. There has been a remarkable transformation in their interests and objectives. I hesitate to include "ambitions" as well - in today's economic climate few people are willing to discuss long-term ambitions. Those of you in universities will have noticed the same change wherever you are - from a predominantly resource-minded approach to one which emphasizes environmental concerns.
Alexandra Navrotsky, a professor of petrology at Princeton University, reported in a recent issue of EOS that across North America Earth Science departments seem keenly aware that the profession is becoming increasingly broad and interdisciplinary. This is demonstrated by the desire to hire in the fields of hydrology, low-temperature geochemistry and environmental science.
At Acadia we see many effects of this new emphasis. About one quarter of the students in second to fourth-year Geology courses are actually enroled in a double-major program in Geology and Biology. Enrolment is once again rebounding, but the effect is most pronounced in areas relevant to environmental science - courses in geomorphology, hydrogeology, oceanography, atmospheric sciences, and terrain analysis techniques are all enjoying (if that is the right word) record high enrolments, and not just from Geology majors.
We were fortunate to be able to hire Stewart Sweeney last year, whose expertise lies in hydrogeology, and who is enthusiastically championing the cause of environmental geology. Only a few weeks after arriving in Nova Scotia, he found himself caught up in a flurry of activity surrounding the relocation of the Kings County landfill site - a process that promises to continue for some time. The rest of the faculty are glad to have Stewart's expertise available, if for no other reason than none of the rest of us are as willing or qualified to speak on the subject!
In spite of all the activity in the areas of environmental geology, the Department remains just as committed to the traditional Geology program, with its emphasis on the basic core of Geology subjects, and to the education of students in other faculties in areas of Earth science.
With student enrolment increasing, the Fletcher Geology Club is again becoming a more active group. The "core" of the club is the third-year class, most of whom are jointly "suffering" through their year of many lab-courses. In spite of that, they have been able to organize several activities; field trips, blood-donor clinic, Christmas contributions for needy families, and a major expedition to the Atlantic Universities Geological Conference in St. John's, Newfoundland.
A new venture this year was a return to old ways and old rocks. Many years ago, as many of our alumni fondly recall, field school was a joint operation run by the Nova Scotian universities and Mount Allison at a site near Crystal Cliffs, Antigonish County. We have not used this facility for about 20 years. Following the success of sharing the teaching of the senior field school with St. F.X. on Cape Breton Island, we taught the junior-level field school partly here at Acadia and partly at Antigonish, working out of the university. This provided many advantages - the opportunity to work on rocks that Acadia students never ordinarily see (Arisaig, McAras Brook, Georgeville shore, Whitehead Harbour to name a few), the benefits of having the resources and "comforts" of St. F.X. to come home to each night, and the camaraderie generated by 15 people stuffed in a van going from Wolfville to Antigonish!
Because the St. F.X. and Acadia teaching terms do not perfectly coincide, it was necessary to extend the duration of field school by a few days - this provided for a day of relaxation between the last final exam and the first day of field school, and a day of sight-seeing geology en route to Antigonish. The second-year students who did the field school started off as a mix of individuals with a wide range of backgrounds who really didn't know each other very well. They completed the school as a much more coherent group, with shared experiences, and a level of rapport that helped carry them into their third year.
The senior field school again used the facilities of the Gaelic College at St. Anns, Cape Breton Island. Again, the group consisted of students and professors from Acadia and St. Francis Xavier, and it benefitted from the blending and mixing of techniques and ideas.
The AUGC was held on the fourth weekend in October, at Memorial University in St. John's. Jack Colwell and Sandra Barr accompanied eleven students to the event - the largest attendance there by any university other than Memorial. Alexandra Arnott gave a talk on "the Geology and Petrology of Fisset Brook volcanic rocks, Gillanders Mountain, Cape Breton Island" - the subject of her summer research and honours thesis supervised by Sandra Barr.
There has been no visible progress on the matter of rationalization of Earth Science programs within the province. Last winter we anticipated progress over the summer period, when departments were scheduled to review their activities and offerings. As of writing, however, no specific directives have been received. Studies of other disciplines (Education, Computer Science, Engineering) are proceeding on a rather sluggish schedule, and it appears that it may yet be some time before there is any action in the Earth Sciences.