BSc Geology, Groningen University, Groningen, Netherlands

MSc Geomorphology & Quaternary Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands,

PhD Marine Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

Personal blog:

Why did you choose a career in earth science?

I don't think I choose earth science – it choose me. I was a tomboy, I was raised in a family of highly educated outdoor lovers and readers (although not scientists). My parents had friends who were field biologists, so when they joined us for hikes, the hikes became ever more interesting and I realized that actually learning to understand nature (not just enjoy it) was appealing. I could have become a biologist just as well, it happened to become geology (as it was called then). If a degree in "natural sciences" had existed, I might have done that.

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

I wish I had known more about how broad earth science is. But that was 40 years ago, the world is so different now, every student has the opportunity now to find that out easily, it's at their fingertips!

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

I taught young Canadians in the few years that I worked here. I think that's relevant. Also, as CFES executive director I worked hard to contribute to defragmenting Canadian earth science. It's unbelievably fragmented with a dozen-plus technical societies representing maybe 15,000 professionals, hosting about eight annual conferences. You couldn't dream it up if you had to. This situation doesn't help in advocating and championing the field at a political level, which is why CFES exists, of course.

What do you wish the public knew about earth science?

Ca. 8 years ago, the American Geosciences Institute came up with the "Nine Big Ideas" that define our field. They also did an excellent series of accompanying YouTube videos about each Big Idea (no. 1 is here: It's very basic stuff and should be part of every secondary school science curriculum. If it was, the public would have the right basic knowledge about the planet we call home.

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

For me as a sedimentologist, working in the modern Mississippi Delta was a dream. It's definitely not my favourite place on earth, because it's incredibly hot and humid, the mosquitoes are the size of dragonflies and it's riddled with poisonous snakes and alligators, but professionally it was amazing. There was this vast delta, my field area was thousands of square kilometers, nobody did what I did, I had my own research vessel, it was an unbelievable opportunity. I learned a lot, our team produced a lot of results, so it was a successful period. I also loved working in the Dutch tidal sea (the "Waddensea") and of course in my own back yard, in Minas Basin, a side arm of the Bay of Fundy, with the highest tides in the world. As I wrote above, I am a backyard geologist, I am most happy when I can work in the area that I call home.

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

I'm not in a job now, because I'm retired, but I'll tell you briefly what I did during my career.

I grew up in the Netherlands, a flat delta plain with exactly two rock outcrops. Families didn't travel far in those days. I didn't see a real mountain until I was 16. So I had no intuitive love of or interest in rocks. While I was intrigued by geology, I struggled through the first few years of my undergraduate education because I didn't feel connected got it. I only stayed with it because I didn't know what else to do. When I discovered that you could study recent sediments, I felt like coming home. I am also am "backyard geologist", I have a strong need to understand my own surroundings, so I have no great desire to work in remote locations, although I do love to travel.

After I completed my BSc and MSc in the Netherlands, I moved to the US where I worked for the Louisiana Geological Survey in the Mississippi Delta Plain for 6 years – lots of unconsolidated sediment! I also completed my PhD there (on parameters of peat formation in the Mississippi Delta). After that I worked for the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology on strategic gas reserves (I did a little bit of that in Louisiana as well) and then I moved back to the Netherlands to teach sedimentology and marine geology at Utrecht University.

Shortly after getting tenured, I took a sidestep when I joined a government think tank on higher education reform, from where I was hired away as Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at an International Graduate School for Geoinformatics and Earth Observation ( In 2002, when I turned 50, my husband and I moved (back, for him) to Wolfville. I worked as an independent from that time onwards. I was an adjunct prof (sedimentology) at Acadia and Dalhousie University, I was executive director of CFES (the dubious honour being that I am to date CFES's only paid executive director) and I ran field schools for the petroleum industry in Nova Scotia and PEI. I retired almost 3 years ago.

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

Oddly enough, it took me quite a few years to find my niche (sedimentology). Earth Science is incredibly broad, it encompasses everything from planetary science and geophysics to paleontology / evolutionary biology.

I would advise anyone considering earth science to find their love, their motivation, their passion. Is it hard rock? Soft rock? Water? Climate? Other planets? Soils? Geochemistry? Geophysics? Museums? Do you love the field, or rather the lab or the IT-side of things? Job opportunities in every sector (Mining, O&G, Environmental, government, academia) are cyclic, so you can't count on anything. Focus on what you love more than anything else. Look for varying summer job opportunities, so you can explore the width of the field. Moreover, don't be afraid to jump off a cliff and make some mistakes.

The world-renowned soprano Barbara Hannigan, originally from Waverly, Nova Scotia, recently received an honorary doctorate from Mt Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Her acceptance speech is worth saving: "I wish you all many unexpected mistakes, that you always have a million questions, that you find and feed your passion with the discipline to support it. And that every once in a while, when you least expect it, you might just fly".

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

I hear a lot about the importance of learning to code. I don't doubt it, but I have no experience with it myself. I still think professionals of any level (starters or otherwise) must be able to write and speak well. Going to conferences is a great tool for developing those skills. The Atlantic Geoscience Society, of which I have been a member since moving here and of which I also served as president, is an excellent example of how societies really should work with (undergrad) students (AGS's superb practices predate my presidency by decades so I claim no credit). Students should go to conferences to learn, to listen, to talk to professionals and other students, build their network (! building network means personal contact, cyber-based networks are only part of the story!) and present their thesis research. In Canada students can do their degree in a coop program. I recommend it. It's a great way to find what you love in your field and to build your network.

In addition, here is some excellent advice from someone who I respect highly, who is only in his mid-40s, who has moved to Canada from abroad and made a career change while here. He started out as a (PhD level) sedimentary geologist in the petroleum industry and now works as an independent consultant, doing a lot of high-level IT work, including machine learning for this industry and its neighbouring fields. Read the entire post here Most important advice: be darn good with data and don't be afraid to look for neighbouring fields, such as archaeology, engineering, geomatics, geospatial analysis, education or government.

I recommend women students especially to join and be active in networks or associations for women in geoscience specifically and in STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) in general. Examples are the Association of Women Geoscientists (AWG) and the Earth Science Women's Network (ESWN). ESWN especially focuses on mentoring, an incredibly important and often underestimated factor of a young woman's professional life.

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


BSc – Institut National Polytechniques de Toulouse – Agricultural and Environnemental Engineering

MSc – Institut National Polytechniques de Toulouse – Hydrochemistry, Hydrology, Soil and Environment

PhD – University of Utah (USA) – Geology/Geochemistry

Current position: I am a postdoc at the department of Geological Sciences at the University of North Carolina (USA). I recently accepted a faculty position at the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Ottawa. I will start on September 1st 2017 and I am looking for motivated students to start this great adventure!

Past positions: I worked in the environmental industry in France during my Masters degree mostly around rehabilitating ancient mining areas as natural reserved. I also worked for Chevron Corporation in Houston for a couple of years after my PhD as an organic geochemist in upstream petroleum exploration.



Why did you choose a career in earth science?

Growing up in a little village of southern France, close to the famous wine region of Bordeaux, I was drawn from an early age to consider the effects of the environment on the biosphere. At the core of the wine making country is the notion of terroir, a patch of land with unique pedological, geographical, geological, and climatic signature that gives specific characteristics to agricultural products. For example, rich soil and long periods of sunlight gives Mediterranean a wine a sweet fruity flavor, while the cold temperature and poor calcareous soil of Bourgogne brings complexity to the Champagne flavor. My childhood trained me to think about the ecosystem as a whole, yet interconnected by both human and natural variables. Years later, having honed my research interests over the course of a Master's and PhD degree, and then through industry related research, I find that I've just begun to discover what exciting mysteries are lying throughout the pages of earth's surface...we just have to know how to read them, and isotope geochemistry is a fabulous translator of the Earth’s novels!

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

A big part of my work is to be a forensics detective using geoprofiling methods… I trace the provenance and movements of animals and products by using isotope geochemistry and geoinformatics! Different rocks have different but predictable strontium isotope signature. Those specific geochemical signatures are transmitted to living beings through the ingestion of local water and food. For instance, the strontium isotopes in your teeth looks like the strontium isotopes of the place where you grew-up! So, for me an immigrant from France, the geochemistry of my teeth still tells that I was born in France! The models I have developed can be used for many applications of provenance. Some are particularly relevant to Canada such as tracking the movements of Pacific salmon, caribous or monarch butterflies for population conservation, authenticating food provenance like Quebec wines, or fingerprinting unidentified

human remains in archeology! Check out my website or

contact me if you want to learn more about my research.

Where do you hope your career will take you next?

At the heart of a faculty job is the idea of being a teacher. Several of my major career path decisions were inspired by exceptional teachers who not only transmitted knowledge but also encouraged discussions, challenged me, and ultimately took teaching to a level beyond mere instruction. My first hope for my career is to give back what I have received. I want to become an inspiring teacher and mentor. I will borrow some words of my favorite author Antoine de Saint Exupery to describe my approach to teaching: “If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people to assemble wood, cut planks, and start distributing work; rather, teach them to long

for the endless immensity of the sea.”

At the heart of a professor’s job is also the idea of being a scholar. As scientists, we are contributing to the construction of a pyramid of human knowledge that helps us answer the challenges of human life on this planet. My hope is to be a part of this great history and to contribute my little stone to the edifice of knowledge so that the present and future generations can better understand the natural system around us. More practically, at the heart of my research are very actual questions of water pollution, climate change, and ecology – all of which have direct implications for our societies. My hope is to be a scientist that is rooted to my local community to resolve specific challenges. For instance, I hope to establish a river observatory network on the Ottawa River to better understand the controls of river water chemistry with implications for conservation policies and human health.

Right: Sampling watersheds to understand the impact of agricultural practices on water quality in Indiana (USA). Left: Sampling ancient fluvial channels to study the impact of greenhouse climate on ancient fluvial system in Big Bend National Park, West Texas (USA).

What do you wish the public knew about earth science?

As scientists, we have a true responsibility to make our research accessible and understandable for the public. We are using tremendous amounts of tax-payer money, and people have a right to understand why. I fully believe that it is our responsibility to communicate our results to the public and to do our best to provide metrics to policy-makers to assess the benefit of our research.

As geologists, we have the advantage of teaching and researching on topics related to major societal issues such as energy, global change, and sustainability. However, the benefits of scientific knowledge are sometimes hard to quantify in terms of immediate profits. For instance, the pioneering findings of Marie Currie did not become useful during her lifetime. Some discoveries are also not directly “marketable.” For instance, research on dinosaurs’ behavior provides little financial benefits but has allowed generations of humans to marvel. I would love for these hidden benefits to be better understood and acknowledged by the public. This is our role as teachers and scholars to help our societies understand and appreciate the benefit of our research.

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

Education: BScH - Queen's University Geological Sciences, MSc - University of Toronto, Earth Sciences

Past positions: various geologist positions in mining and exploration for gold and base metals - in Canada and in Asia

Current position: Geologist with Terralogic Exploration

I'm currently working in a copper mine in northern British Columbia. It's beautiful landscape here! We are currently working with the mine to develop where the open pits should expand to and where the mining infrastructure (waste rock and tailings pond) should be built. The idea is to find areas without any copper in the rock to store waste things, and to expand the open pits to where there is high grade (large amounts) of copper.

Why did you choose a career in earth science?

I chose a career in earth science because I love being outside, nature, and exploring new places. Working in mining and exploration takes you to remote 'off the grid' areas and I love learning about where resources (for example gold, copper or

silver) are inside the earth and why.

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

The mining and exploration industry in Canada is small, and I usually get new contracts by networking and recommendations from old bosses and colleagues.

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

Earth Sciences is a broad field that encompasses many areas and disciplines. Whether you are interested in the environment, volcanoes and natural hazards, oceans and waterways, mountains, or natural resources, just to name a view, then earth sciences might be for you! I think good advice is to study something you are passionate about. You need passion to be successful in both industry and academia in earth sciences. In industry things change quickly and the job market changes greatly with the changing market and economy.

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

Building your network is one of the best ways to get jobs, so I recommend getting involved. Attend conferences and events, join groups such as the SEG, keep your LinkedIn profile up to date!

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

My favorite place that geology has taken me is Myanmar, a country in between India and Thailand. I was working in gold, lead and zinc mines while I was there. It was special because I lived in an entirely different culture and learned what life is like for people in undeveloped nations. Certainly a change from the Northern Ontario forests to the tropic jungles in Asia! I made special friends and memories that I will take with me forever.

Photos provided by Cheyenne Sica.

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

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