Hello, and welcome to the Carleton University Earth Sciences department website!
My name is Brian Cousens, and I am the current Chair of the department. I hope that you will take a few minutes to browse our website and learn about the opportunities that come with attending Carleton as either an undergraduate or graduate student in Earth Sciences. For alumni, the website also brings you up-to-date on what our faculty and students are doing.
I took my first introductory geology course at John Abbott CEGEP in Montreal back in 1975. A friend of mine took the course and recommended it to me, and the attractions to me were career and travel opportunities. Staying in Montreal, I did my BSc at McGill, and then moved west to the University of British Columbia to do an MSc in Geological Sciences and Oceanography. After graduation, I landed a dream job as a research assistant position in the Oceanography Department for the next three years, working as an X-ray fluorescence research assistant looking into the chemical composition of deep-sea sediments and manganese nodules (technical jobs are AWESOME learning experiences!). As that job was nearing its end, I became interested in the chemical evolution of intraplate volcanoes, especially in the Hawaiian Islands, and decided to go back to grad school to do a PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My thesis topic was on the volcanic rocks of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa. Going back to school meant travelling to cool volcanic islands, such as the Big Island of Hawaii, the Canary Islands, the Galapagos Islands, and Easter Island. During field courses I was also introduced to the igneous history of the Great Basin of the southwestern USA, including volcanoes in eastern California, Nevada and Arizona, which made such a great impression on me that this has become my research focus for the last 25 years! After graduation, I came back to Canada, first for two years at the Université de Montreal, and then moved to Carleton in 1992. In addition to my research efforts in the western USA, I have completed research projects in the Yellowknife area of the NWT and in Nunavut. So my dream of being able to travel and make a career of it, based on that first introductory geology course in 1975, has come true. You can check out my travels on my web page here!
When I arrived at Carleton, I immediately noticed that Earth Sciences is not a major part of the high school curriculum in Ontario. This is astonishing, considering how so much of our Canadian (and Ontario) economy is driven by natural resources. Perhaps more important, sustainable development on our planet involves understanding how our planet works, and a knowledge of earth sciences is a big part of that.
For example, the United Nations has set a list of 17 sustainable development goals, or SDGs, and of those, 11 include key contributions from the geoscience community (See Gill, 2016, doi: 10.18814/epiiugs/2017/v40i1/017010). Examples include water quality (hydrogeology), agrogeology (soil fertility), disaster risk reduction (landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions), energy supplies (hydrocarbons, geothermal, other alternative sources), improving infrastructure (geological mapping for roads, rock characterisation for dams), and environment/biodiversity management (pollution monitoring). Many of these contributions requires an understanding of earth science fundamentals, including mineral and rock identification, geophysics, geochemistry, hydrogeology, and field mapping skills, all of which are core parts of our earth sciences curriculum at Carleton.
We Earthlings face many challenges today and in the near future, and it is the current and next generation of geoscientists that can provide many of the solutions!
- Brian Cousens