Meet Current Hugh C. Morris Fellows and Follow their Journeys

Neil Fernandes

Mineral Deposits in Sedimentary Rocks Around the World

Neil's Experiential Plan

Many important metals, such as Zinc, Copper, and Silver can be sourced from mineral deposits hosted in sedimentary rocks. As the global population and its technological needs grow, finding and transforming these natural resources in a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and culturally sensitive manner, is critically important.  Neil Fernandes, a doctoral candidate researching sediment-hosted mineral deposit systems at Queen’s University in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, is setting out on a global trek to develop a comprehensive understanding of how to achieve this vital goal.

Beginning in  April 2018, Neil’s near year-long experiential learning journey will take him across 5 continents to learn about some of the world’s most important geological and mineral provinces in Canada, U.S.A., Peru, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden, Namibia and Australia. And whilst he studies the entirety of the global mineral resources chain – exploration, extraction, processing and remediation – he will showcase innovative Canadian geoscience research through presentations, workshops, community engagements, and seminars to young geoscientists.

We invite you to “join” Neil on his journey as he shares posts and footage of his experiences here on our website.

Mid Term Report

“My Experiential Learning Program (ELP) thus far has taken me all to so many different parts of the globe and led to so many experiences that have made fundamental impacts on my personal and professional development. Improving my technical expertise in mineral deposits formed in sedimentary rocks is at the core of every one of the sites on my ELP. However, the real beauty of my experience is that I have been able to see so many of the different layers (cultural, technological, economical, environmental) that are built upon the premise of mineral resources. From interacting with indigenous Alaskans at a remote mine 170 km North of the Arctic Circle, to travelling and camping underneath the stars across Namibia with colleagues at Queen’s University and geoscientists from the Geological Survey of Namibia, to being underground at mining operations in Tennessee. I’m only halfway through my journey but I already feel that my perceptions have changed and paradigms have shifted. I cannot wait to use the knowledge that I have gained and to share my perspectives with the world! ” (by Neil Fernandes)

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Theron Finley

Bringing Global Geothermal Energy Expertise Back to Canada

Theron's Experiential Plan

What is the role that geoscientists can play in the transition away from fossil fuels?  This is a question that drives Theron Finley, a Masters student studying in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta.

To answer this question, Theron is exploring the possibility of high-temperature geothermal energy – a renewable, low emission, high capacity, base-load power source.  Despite its wide use and commercial success in countries such as the United States, Iceland, Germany and New Zealand, there is neither an active industry nor any geothermal power plants yet installed in Canada.  Several factors have coalesced to stagnate geothermal prospects in Canada. These include the low cost of energy from fossil fuel combustion, the high upfront costs of geothermal exploration (especially drilling), and the uncertainty of geothermal resource quality. Theron aims to contribute to geothermal energy research in Canada by gaining a better understanding of the geometry and permeability of major fault zones that act as conduits for hot fluids, so as to be able to better manage economic and technical risks associated with geothermal power production.

Through a four-month experiential learning journey, Theron will travel to carefully-selected world leaders in geothermal energy whose underlying geological setting and temperatures make them good learning comparatives. By journey’s end, Theron will have undertaken a journey across the western United States, Iceland, Germany, and New Zealand. Returning to Canada in February 2019, Theron will then travel to research facilities in various regions of Canada to share all that he has learned, and hopefully, become the spark for a new geothermal energy future here at home.

Beginning in September 2018, you can follow Theron’s journey here on our website, as he blogs about his experiences and shares the story of his adventure through absorbing story-telling and stunning photographs.

Mid Term Report

“The first two months of my ELP have been incredible, and I have learned more than I ever hoped I would. I began with a visit to Fairbanks, Alaska, where I learned about the use of low temperature geothermal energy in cold climates. While there is a small amount of electricity generated by geothermal energy, the truly exciting application is for food security in the north. I then moved to Iceland, where geothermal energy provides 27% of national power generation, and around 90% of all space heating. I learned about exploration efforts from experts at the Iceland GeoSurvey, and visited several geothermal power plants, and district heating systems. My next stop was at the University of Nevada, Reno. The US is the world’s largest producer of geothermal energy, and some of the best resources and expertise are found in Nevada. While in town, I attended the Geothermal Resources Council annual meeting, which offered 3 days of great talks on geothermal energy innovations, as well as fieldtrips to nearby geothermal areas, and a short-course on 3D modelling of geothermal systems. Next up are Salt Lake City and Berkeley, before I head to Germany.” (by Theron Finley)

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Kaj Sullivan

Isotope Geochemistry: A Journey in Versatility and Innovation

Kaj's Experiential Plan

Albert Einstein once said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” This is the journey upon which Kaj Sullivan, a doctoral student in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering at Queen’s University, is embarking.

Working on a multidisciplinary research project that applies isotope geochemistry, a field traditionally applied to earth sciences, to the field of medical research, Kaj is working to investigate the potential of Copper and Zinc isotopes in serum as biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Beginning in June 2018, Kaj’s year-long experiential learning journey will provide him with extended periods of time at leading research laboratories in Japan, the United Kingdom and at the National Research Council in Canada. During these visits he will engage in the characterization of nickel isotopic standard, calculate isotope fractionation in biological processes, and research zinc isotopes as biological markers of breast cancer.

Kaj describes the approach he will take for his learning journey the best: “The versatility of isotope geochemistry is what makes it such an exciting field of research. It allows isotope geochemists to enter the territory of other researchers as ‘deliberate amateurs’ and find innovative solutions to old problems.”

Learn more here on our website as Kaj’s research journey unfolds.

Mid Term Report

The Kimberley Foundation has provided an incredible opportunity for PhD students to step outside of their regular studies to perform research and build partnerships that would not have otherwise been possible. As an experimental geochemist, I used this opportunity to visit theoretical chemistry researchers in Japan to learn about the theoretical estimation of isotope fractionation. Their research is essential for the interpretation of isotopic data measured by experimental geochemists, like myself. My time there consisted of learning to use computational chemistry softwares to estimate isotope fractionation of copper and zinc in simple complexes. I also visited researchers at Imperial College London to work on a study investigating the use of zinc isotopes in serum as biological markers of breast cancer. This work also involved the measurement of zinc isotopes in malignant and benign breast tissues, along with histologically normal tissue adjacent to tumours to determine how the distribution of zinc isotopes in breast tissue relates to serum. I look forward to what the next six months will bring as I continue my journey at National Research Council Canada in Ottawa where I will work with researchers to characterize a purified copper isotopic reference material.

Follow Kaj's Journey
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