March/April 2007

Student Life

From the woods to the conference room

By R. M. S. Toole


All in a day's work for Ryan Toole, field geologist

During the summer of 2006, while most university students were working nine-to-five jobs, I was spending my time in the remote confines of Tulks Valley of central Newfoundland staring at drill core samples, hoping to catch a glimpse of semi-precious metals.

In the spring of 2006, I graduated from Acadia University with a B.Sc. (honours) in geology. Even though most of my friends and classmates chose to move out into the working world, I decided to continue my education at the Master’s level, studying under the supervision of David Lentz at the University of New Brunswick. In the course of a discussion with Lentz, he suggested I do a project on petrography and geochemistry associated with the “Boomerang” volcanogenic massive sulphide Zn-Cu-Pb-Ag-Au deposit discovered by Messina Minerals in central Newfoundland. Considering how the price of zinc had been steadily rising in recent history, in addition to the thought of being able to work in Newfoundland, I accepted and began research in late May.

Throughout the summer I learned how to interpret and log drill core samples, oversee drilling operations, and contribute to the exploration process, all the while experiencing my first exploration camp where the only link to the outside world was a satellite phone. There was also the odd ‘slack’ day when I was able to hop onto one of the ATVs and head out to my favorite fishing hole. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, there were all kinds of interesting wildlife - caribou, moose, and bear to name a few - which I would encounter nearly everyday.

Near the end of August, after I had finished sampling, I headed back to the University of New Brunswick and began to learn what being a grad student was all about. For years I had heard horror stories that grad students actually had work to do and papers to write, and were rarely seen out of their offices on Saturday nights. Yes, I guess this is true if you consider work to be field trips to remnants of ancient volcanoes, going underground in the largest zinc producing mine in the world, or attending conferences where potential employers treat you to dinner and offer you jobs following graduation. So, when the idea of chairing the University of New Brunswick SEG-CIM Student Chapter Workshop at the Atlantic Geoscience Society’s annual colloquium came up, I seized the opportunity.

The workshop, entitled “A review of physical volcanology: a metallogenic perspective,” focused on volcanichosted massive sulphide deposits. The 27 students and 27 professionals in attendance provided a great educational and networking opportunity. For me, the most beneficial aspect of chairing the conference was the opportunity to meet so many highly distinguished professionals within the field of volcanology. I was especially thankful for the opportunity to meet Wulf Mueller, a CIM Distinguished Lecturer, as he shared his insights and research on volcanichosted massive sulphide exploration with me directly.

The workshop was a great success due to the high quality of presenters and outstanding industry support. I am grateful to the Atlantic Geoscience Society for allowing us to conduct the student chapter workshop during their annual colloquium. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of allowing students to attend and be involved in such events. Every opportunity to meet and interact with accomplished professionals should be seized.

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