EPS Seminar Series: Dr. Daniel Lebel

Friday, January 12, 2024 12:00to13:00

Dr.  Daniel Lebel

Geological Survey of Canada 

Friday, January 12 

12:00 pm 

FDA 232 

Pizza will be served


The geoscience generations of Canada: a few key highlights and future outlook for Generation 8



Canadians have played an integral role in the development, delivery, and application of national and global geoscience on many fronts for the last two centuries. This can be highlighted through a simple framework consisting of eight generation cycles (Figure 1) that together weaves the story and importance of geoscience for national and international development, how it was influenced by policy and historical events, driven by the socioeconomics of their relative generation, and benefitting from major scientific and technical developments such as the steam engine, electricity, petroleum, and computing. Through these eight generations, the passage and further development of the geoscience knowledge, field practice, methods and standards from one generation to the next through education, mentorship and emulation has and remains fundamental.

The importance of geoscience is especially evident through the achievements and continued contribution of geoscientists in Canada ever since the establishment of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) in 1842 (first office in Montreal), through the formidable geoscientific intelligentsia that has grown within Canadian universities, and through the passing of this know-how through networking between government, academia and the mineral, energy and geotechnical sectors that sprung out of the former.

The evolving interplay and relationships between government surveys, academia and industry have been crucial for the development of Canada, as well as public support through major funding. Through all the generations, the support has risen and ebbed. One common denominator and selling point for public and private geoscience support remains its predictive capacity to help find natural resources and mitigate natural disasters. This predictive capacity, including exploration models, has been derived from the development of a vast array of tools and methods to unravel the planet 4.6By history using the power of plate tectonic theory, and the many fields of geoscience.

But not all is not rosy for the future of geoscience given the present difficulties to attract and register new undergrad students, as well as to retain them for graduate studies, as attested by the Canadian Council of Chairs of Earth Science Departments and other international reports for universities abroad. The competition for the heart and brains of students is fierce, in the face of changing demographics, as well as domestic and immigration policies. Other disciplines and professional association are marketing hard to funnel, develop and retain STEM talent (e.g.  Biotalent Canada, ExploreEngineering.ca)  and the challenge for geoscientist renewal will only continue to grow unless a compelling narrative is broadcasted and the young generation is engaged on the exciting opportunities of geoscience for the future.

There are reasons for hope and an urgency to rally the geoscience community around key challenges and opportunities for Generation 8 (2017-2042) of Canadian geoscience, to lead the way to address the major challenges of the 21st Century.

Hence, the 2022 Pan-Canadian Geoscience Strategy (PGS), is a major recent policy milestone, endorsed by all the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of natural resource of Canada, which empowers the thirteen federal, provincial, and territorial geological survey organizations (through the National Geological Survey Committee) to work together on common goals, priorities and national to trans-border projects. It invites broader participation from industry, academia, indigenous groups, and non-government organizations. The PGS includes technical priorities on 1) framework geoscience, 2) mineral resource assessment, and 3) data access, but most importantly for the current STEM geoscience talent crises, some people focus priorities: on 4) the development of the next generation of geoscientists, and 5) public education and outreach.

Aligned with the PGS, and fresh off the press, is the new GSC Strategic Plan 2023-2028. This plan is setting in motion and outlining how more than $100 M of annual federal government funding on geoscience programming will be spent through a new cast of GSC programs. The Plan will require national and international geoscience collaboration to deliver on its major program ambitions for a range of national and global issues including among others: critical minerals, northern remapping, climate change and disaster resilience, renewable energy and CCUS, offshore national sovereignty, marine spatial planning, and environmental cumulative effects.  

Other major and positive efforts are afoot by the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, such as the development of a National Geoscience Strategy for academia, and the current bid in development to host the International Geological Congress in 2028.

There is therefore a momentous opportunity at the present time for Canadian geoscientists to capitalize on the above to attract new, crucial talent to geoscience for Canada, and grow this talent to deliver practical, predictive knowledge to address the biggest challenges of our time, climate change, biodiversity, and global population sustainability.

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