February 2010

I teach therefore I am

For David Lentz, geology’s in the blood

By G. Woodford


Lentz helping run a CIM field trip underground at Xstrata Zinc’s giant Brunswick No. 12 Zn-Pb-Cu-Ag VMS deposit, northeastern New Brunswick

David Lentz almost did not become a geologist. In fact, the 2009 CIM Julian Boldy Award winner almost did not get into university. His marks weren’t great and he didn’t know what he wanted to do. “I didn’t find my abilities until later,” he says. Now a professor of geology at his alma mater, the University of New Brunswick, Lentz has not forgotten his shaky start. He makes a point of taking “no-hopers,” as well as top geology students from around the world, under his wing. All he asks is that they show the same hyperactive enthusiasm for rocks and minerals as he does.

“I’m over the top,” he admits. “Most professors have a passion for mentoring, mine is just kind of crazier than most.”

Lentz, who is currently on sabbatical working with the uranium group at the Geological Survey of Canada, recalls one student of whom he is especially proud. She had flunked out of grad school and asked him to give her a chance. “I interviewed her at a conference and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to take this student and I’m going to make her successful.’ I just knew she’d be phenomenal.” She went on to win awards for her research and is now completing her PhD, funded by a prestigious NSERC grant.

Field work 101

Lentz was born and raised outside of Ottawa but really got a taste for the outdoors during weekends spent in the Madawaska Valley. He spends as much time as possible out in the field and naturally loves to share this part of the job with his students, especially when it comes to introducing the wild Canadian scenery to his international students.

A recent trip to Nunavut with a student from India comes to mind. “We were flying along in the helicopter, as he’s doing remote sensing research,” Lentz recalls. “We could see these white dots, and as we started going down he suddenly realized what he was seeing — it was a huge herd of caribou, well over a thousand. You should have seen his eyes! I thought they were going to pop out of their sockets!” Lentz laughs, then turns solemn. “Seeing them migrating across the tundra like that — it was truly magnificent.”

Besides field work, Lentz makes it a big priority to get his students a wide range of experience. He sends them to conferences whenever he can and encourages them to author papers. All this helps groom professionalism and passion in this next generation of geologists, he says. “I’m a nice guy, but I set the bar high.”

Society pages

Lentz was awarded the Julian Boldy Award for his work with the Geological Society, for which he served as president in 2003-2004, and for his work on the society’s journal, Exploration and Mining Geology. He has been involved with CIM since his student days at UNB. “I continue to help as an executive member [of the Geological Society], mainly in developing university student industry experience,”says Len. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Medal from the Geological Association of Canada and was named one of the 2008-2009 CIM Distinguished Lecturers.

It seems that for Lentz, geology really is in the blood: his eldest son Carlin, named after the rich Nevada gold deposits, changed his major and is now studying geology at UNB, just like dad.

Dave’s Top 4 geology stories of the decade

  1. Metal markets — “Metal prices making monumental recoveries, reflecting their real value. In particular rare earth elements — uranium, lithium and zinc to name a few — in part driven by the green revolution.”
  2. Ring of Fire — “The new major chromite-PGE deposits (Freewest Resources Canada Limited) and Ni-Cu-PGE deposits (Noront Resources, etc) found in the Ring of Fire of northern Ontario.”
  3. More Nunavut diamonds — “The huge new diamond pipe find (Chidliak) by Peregrine Diamonds, located on Baffin Island’s Halls Peninsula about 100 kilometres north of Iqaluit, Nunavut.”
  4. Manpower dearth — “The human resources crisis for the minerals industry with shortages of over 90 per cent technical highly qualified people in various fields of geoscience."
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