Students study volcanoes, glaciers and craters in Canada

In a new program, free to students through the North American Mobility Grant, COM students spent five weeks with Dr. Veronica Sanchez, COM professor, studying geology. They spent a day in Central Texas testing their field geology skills before traveling 2,300 miles to study Canada’s geology.

“Being able to do field work as a freshman is a huge opportunity,” explained Theresa Chandler, a COM student who plans to major in geology. “The thing I was most excited about was getting to see things I’ve read about and seen pictures of in nature.”

COM student Chelsea Murray agreed.

“This was my first geology class. What really helped me was we had a lot of hands-on here with rocks and minerals so it was really easy to identify them in Canada.”

The results of their comparison of Canadian and Texan geology surprised them.


“There’s a correlation between the rocks here and there,” said student Theresa Chandler.

Not only were many of the types of rock similar – granite, limestone and gneiss (metamorphic rock) – but many of the same events, such as volcanism and mountain formation shaped the topography in Texas and in Canada.

In New Brunswick they saw how ancient glaciers and volcanoes carved the ridged rocks. Continuing to Onaping Falls in Ontario, they saw geologic impact of an ancient asteroid crash.
 
“It looks like punched glass,” described student Joey Lively.

While the class prepared them to identify rocks, they were still overwhelmed at the beauty and grandeur of Canada’s natural resources.

They trekked to the Bay of Fundy, where arch-like cliffs hollowed by tide erosion ring the waters.
 
“The Bay of Fundy was an area where sea water rose 40 feet in three hours. The water comes rushing in and it recedes,” explained student Christian Gonsoulin. “We were able to walk the sea floor and see all of the area normally underwater.”
 
One of their greatest accomplishments was trekking to Mount Carleton, the highest point in New Brunswick at 2,690 feet. Armed with maps, compasses and cell phone apps, they measured elevation, observed the rock composition and recorded their findings in field notebooks.

The COM program with the North American Mobility Grant has sent a total of 10 students to Canada. One traveled last fall, and at St. Lawrence College last spring three studied woodworking and green building.
 
“This is a unique environmental study abroad program. You’re learning science, geology and culture at the same time,” said Luis Sabido, director of the North America Mobility-Study Abroad Program. “Many of these students had never been out of the United States. They spent two nights on the island by themselves (with professor Veronica Sanchez). They developed skills they will use later on in the workplace, team building. That’s what we want is for students to develop leadership, motivation and the will to achieve.”
  
Their journey also took them to St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, also part of the North American Mobility Grant. There they stayed in dorms, attended professor Ian Kilborn’s lecture on alternative “green” energy and toured the school’s photovoltaic and wind energy labs.
 
Throughout their visit they imbibed another culture, ordered in French at a Montréal Subway and tasted “poutine,” a traditional mix of fries, cheese and gravy purchased from street vendors and restaurants throughout Canada.
 
“The class serves more than geology,” explained geology professor Dr. Veronica Sanchez. “They did get exposed to a different culture. It’s a step in self-growth.”
 
The students feel what they learned relates to all majors. While they gained basic field geology skills, they also discovered how to appreciate nature and implement sustainable practices.
 
“Geology has wide-scale applications,” said Lively, a COM business major. “Canada’s really big on green building (techniques), and I want to eventually own my own business and I want to follow those practices.”
 
They stretched themselves – academically, socially and physically.
 
 “I pushed my limits,” said Chandler. “I wouldn’t have had that chance if not for this.”

Onaping Falls still bears impact of an ancient asteroid crash.
Students explore the Bay of Fundy.

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