Rob Raeside

Our newsletter is a bit late this year, not because we weren't thinking of you, but more because we have been especially busy at Acadia over the course of the past winter.  Three circumstances have conspired to keep us especially active.

      First, and no doubt of most interest to you as graduates of Geology, was the merger of the Department of Geology and the Environmental Science program into a single department, now called the Department of Earth and Environmental Science.  The merger did not result in any changes in the programs of the units, which now include undergraduate degrees (BSc and BSc with honours) in Geology, Environmental Geoscience, and Environ­mental Science, and the MSc in Geology (and soon, Applied Geomatics).  It did double our number of undergraduate majors, increase the teaching staff to nine faculty members, and require a physical merger of offices, equipment, and facilities.  You will read more about the effects of this merger in the pages that follow.

      Secondly, although the number of students in the new enlarged department has doubled, the number of students in the Geology program is also starting to grow substantially.  For several years, we have had third-year classes in petrology, structural geology, tectonics, etc. with a class size of about 10 students.  However, somewhat unexpectedly the second year core group has doubled, with 20 students in optics and more than that in field school, and many of us are wondering if that means double labs in all the third year courses next year!  Remembering back to the mid-1980s, I tried to cram all the optics students into one lab of 18, but they kept on coming, and I was forced to split the lab again  It's always exciting to teach a larger class the mysteries of the microscope, but it does mean yet another afternoon commitment.  Also, the general elective courses in Oceanography and Natural Disasters are both gaining in popularity, with over 250 students in each one.

      The third complication arose because 2007 was the year for the University and Faculty to renew the collective agreement that governs our workplace.  While never an easy process, this year's negotiations dragged on till November, with the result that many of the usual activities (budgeting, promotion deliber­ations, etc.) were delayed much later in the year, and were all squeezed into a shorter period of time.

      It is said that you can assess the character of a man (or I suppose a woman, but when I heard it, it was a man) by his response to a crisis.  Does he see it as a survival challenge or as an opportunity?  We have all had our range of crises this past year, and I think we have made opportunities out of them all.  Our new doubled department puts us in the same league as the traditional "big departments", but we are maintaining our small department feel.  The bigger classes are certainly a challenge to manage, but we have adopted new teaching techniques, and are building a collegiality that includes faculty and students.  As for the compressed season of budgeting, promotions, and the like, the best that can be said is that it will soon be done!

      We now have a whole other side in the department, which often inspires interesting discussions in classroom or clubroom.  Through the environmental science students we have developed a much closer working relationship with the faculty in other departments, particularly Biology and Chemistry. 

      We look forward to you, our alumni continuing to return to visit the department - it may have a different name, but we hope that it still retains much of the spirit you provided to it.  The Fletcher Geology student club is active - it is organizing its 57th blood donor clinic this year, and continues to participate in the AUGC and the Atlantic Geoscience Society conferences.  We like to think that we have offered the best of both the old Geology department and Environmental Science program to each other and that a new and improved department will grow out of the parent units.

      This newsletter is being directed to the alumni of the Geology programs (BSc, MSc), but perhaps in future editions you will be able to read the best of both Geology and Environmental Science as we continue to merge!