Ph.D. University of British Columbia (Geophysics)

M.Sc. University of British Columbia (Geophysics)

B.Sc. (Hons) University of Victoria (Physics)

Current Position:

Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada

Head, Earthquake Seismology Section

Project Leader, Assessing Earthquake Geohazards

Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria

I am a senior research scientist with Natural Resources Canada, specialising in earthquake hazard studies. I am also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria where I teach courses and supervise graduate students. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers from across Canada and around the world on a variety of topics ranging from subduction zone earthquake hazards, mapping earth structure, studying earthquake sources, and evaluating the effects of local geological structure on earthquake shaking. I lead the Geological Survey of Canada’s National “Assessing Earthquake Geohazards Project” and work closely with emergency managers and decision-makers in the application of our earthquake research. Scientific outreach is a critical element for myself and my team.

Why did you choose a career in earth science?

I have always loved science (from dinosaurs, to astronomy, to following the Apollo missions as I was growing up) and I have always loved asking questions! Why is this? I don’t know, but science is a perfect fit! As an undergraduate Physics student, I became aware of the importance of “waves”, and it seemed to me that earthquake seismology was an excellent way to put physics to work to benefit society (helping to save lives and protect our communities).

How is some of the work you've done relevant to Canadians?

The earthquake hazard research that we undertake is used in many national codes and standards, including the National Building Code of Canada, bridge codes, dam codes, and many more. This information is used on a daily basis by engineers (e.g., for designing critical infrastructure such as dams, bridges, port facilities), decision-makers (e.g., the National Energy Board), and emergency managers (requiring realistic earthquake scenarios to better prepare for future events) all across Canada. It is extremely rewarding to see the results of our latest science being put to work by so many groups to benefit Canadians – protecting us from future earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis.

What do you wish the public knew about earth science?

I wish that everyone recognised how important earth science is to our everyday lives. Everything that we do – from our environment, to the energy that we use, our goods and products, our economy, and our public safety. Earth science is a critical element in all of these things. Earthquake science is a very young science, and evolving rapidly. New technologies are changing the way we do our science, and helping us to be better prepared for future earthquakes and tsunamis that are inevitable.

What is something early-career geoscientists can do to make themselves more likely to get a job?

Develop and nurture a broad skill-set. Follow the latest technology that can benefit research in your field (programming, communications, technological advances), look “beyond what you see” and search for “other areas of research” that may benefit your field of interest. Interact frequently with those who will benefit from your scientific research, and seek their input and advice. Share the results of your research with everyone who will listen! Always publish your research!

Is there anything you wish you knew before you gotten started?

I wish I knew how important the “communications” aspect of science was – from writing research proposals to presenting scientific results to a wide variety of audiences. Had I known, I would have taken more writing courses and some acting or public speaking courses in high school! In retrospect, writing and acting courses would benefit almost any career.

What is your favourite place that your work has taken you?

I have had the good fortune to travel many places around the world with my work. One of the most memorable, and beautiful, was a walk along the Great Wall of China - so much history, so much beauty. One of the most haunting places I visited was Chile, immediately after the 2010 M8.8 subduction earthquake. I spend 10 days travelling through some of the hardest-hit areas from this earthquake and tsunami. Witnessing the impacts of that event (and especially the tsunami) was very difficult, realising that just a few minutes of shaking (that struck without warning) caused some people to lose everything. As an earth scientist it was encouraging to see that very positive impact of earthquake science and engineering – structures that were designed to withstand shaking performed extremely well. It was also encouraging to see people working together to rebuild their communities in the days after the earthquake. This trip clearly demonstrated the importance of our science, and sharing the results of our science.

However, my favourite place that my work has taken me is here in Canada – the unbelievable breathtaking beauty of Haida Gwaii – the ocean, the forest, the history, the most amazing rainbows, and so much more that words cannot describe…

Views expressed in blog posts reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of the CFES.

Education: HBSc. Geophysics, Western University, Ontario

Past positions: Area Manager/Senior Geophysicist at BG International (2008-2010), President/Chief Geophysicist at Sheehan Energy Inc. (1998-2007), Senior Geophysicist at Ulster Petroleum Ltd. (1993-1997)

Current Position: Managing Partner/Chief Geophysicist at Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.

As a managing partner of Petrel Robertson Consulting in Calgary, Canada, I lead teams of geoscience professionals consulting to industry, government, and financial institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. I work all aspects of oil and gas geoscience, from reservoir analysis, through to property evaluations and strategic assessments, to forming the exploration and development groups for companies.

3D Subsurface image of oil reservoir in the Middle East.

Why did you choose a career in earth science?

I choose a career in Earth Science because combining my interest and strengths in math and physics with the day to day operations of the Oil and Gas industry seemed ideal.

I had the academic wherewithal but was interested in the applied applications of my science background. The possession of that knowledge and expertise in an industry where technology is front and center is and has been very rewarding and has opened up opportunities for advancement, challenging projects and interesting travel.

How did you get into the job that you're in now?

I had started my own geoscience consulting company in the late 1990’s and was very successful for 10 years with the entity, but needed a change. An opportunity came up with my current company to take on a similar role but working with an expanded group of geoscientists to draw from including geologists, petrophysicists, structural experts as well as other oil and gas specialists. I seized the opportunity to join my current company for this reason as well as for the opportunity to expand my business and technical expertise into the broader international arena.

What is something early-career geoscientists can do to make themselves more likely to get a job?

I would recommend a few things to help improve your likelihood of getting a job as an early career geoscientist. Network regularly and as much as possible, particularly with people that are related to your field of interest. This may be facilitated by volunteering for an industry related group or by attending industry information, training or social events, often which are free or at minimal cost. Offer to take on a challenging problem for a potential employer – this gives you a chance to show the employer your skill set and expertise (and also your initiative!) so when they can hire they are more likely to hire that highly motivated, known quantity person or will be willing to recommend you to an associate.

Still networking! Mexico City oil and gas conference.
Meeting with Canadian High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel in New Delhi.

What is one of the more interesting places that your work has taken you?

I recently went to India and was part of a Canadian Trade Mission delegation to that country. We were looking to expand our oil and gas business in other countries so the Mission involved many technical presentations to Indian oil and gas leaders, a conference presentation to encourage Indian women to pursue a career in the local industry and considerable travel to various parts of the country. It was a fascinating experience to see the similarities and differences between our two countries and the challenges/opportunities this presents from a business point of view.

Views expressed in blog posts reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of the CFES.

Education: BSc (Hons) Geography, MSc Bio-geography

Current Position: Freelance science writer and editor

Past positions: Environmental consultant at Flatland Environmental, Executive Director at SEAWA: South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, sessional university/college instructor (for over 20 years!)

How did you get into the job that you're in now?

I've always been addicted to science, but halfway through my Ph.D. I realized that I would rather curate science than create it. I became less interested in honing my knowledge of one topic and found more enjoyment answering questions from students and leading discussions. I decided I wanted to share science with a broader audience. Children and young adults are comfortable asking questions. We still have questions when we grow up – we just don’t ask them. We get busy, we don't understand the jargon (so we think we'll look stupid), or we don't know who to ask. That made me sad for the huge swath of the public that is scientifically-enthusiastic and curious.

Where do you hope your career will take you next?

I apologize in advance because I don’t know who should get credit for a drawing I once saw of three nested, slightly-off- kilter ovals. The outside ring was labeled “explainers,” the next was labeled “elucidators,” and the innermost ring said “enchanters.” I want to be an earth science enchanter; someone who delights or fascinates people with stories of the natural world.

Why did you choose a career in earth science?

Some people are destined to become bankers, others to become engineers. I was born to be a mosquito-bitten, mud-covered, backpack-gear-hauling earth scientist. Thanks to my mother – my first and best teacher – I have always been happiest outside. That, combined with an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, propelled me into earth sciences.

What is your advice for anyone considering an education or career in earth science?

Get outside and test-drive your affinity (tolerance?) for field work. As a river scientist, I have been hot,

cold, wet, dirty, tired and sore; but I loved every second of it. Come to think of it, I should add scared to the list – I just had a flashback of me stepping on a still-sleepy rattlesnake beside the Red Deer River in

Dinosaur Provincial Park.

I also think that it is critical to find a mentor; someone doing what you hope to do. Don't be afraid to ask

a lot of questions. A good mentor can save you time, money, and effort by preparing you for the path


What do you wish the public knew about earth science?

Earth science isn’t just for scientists. Every time you step outside, or look outside a window you are experiencing the science of the earth, and there is some very cool stuff out there!

The basics aren’t hard to understand (although I will admit that geophysics gives me a little grief). Many scientists explain things well and take great pleasure sharing what they know. If you ask them a simple question, you will get a simple answer.

Social media is an excellent place to find earth scientists willing to share their latestwork and the work of others. Questions from the curious are always welcome.

Views expressed in blog posts reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of the CFES.

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