Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Available NSERC USRA Projects, Summer 2015

The Department of Earth Sciences advertises the following NSERC USRA positions for the summer of 2015. However, these are not an exhaustive list, and any eligible students should feel free to contact any faculty of their choosing. We accept applications both from Western students and from outside university students intending to spend the summer 2015 in London.

Pleistocene-Holocene Climate Change & Stable Isotope Paleolimnology of Manitoulin Island

Fred Longstaffe
The successful candidate will join our CRC-CFI supported  ‘Back to the Future’ initiative – based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science – to reconstruct Holocene climate change in the Great Lakes region. This specific project combines fieldwork and laboratory work to determine the lake level and climate history of the Manitoulin Island region since ~14,000 cal years before present.  Working as part of a research team, you will collect sediment cores from the area, and use them to obtain suitable proxy materials (shells, organic matter, biogenic carbonate, diatoms, etc.) for which stable isotopic and organic geochemical tests can be used to determine paleotemperature, paleohumidity, glacial meltwater influxes, organic matter sources, and lacustrine and terrestrial productivity.


Stable Isotope Investigations of Climate Change in Southern Ontario since 2,000 cal BP

Fred Longstaffe
The successful candidate will join our CRC-CFI supported  ‘Back to the Future’ initiative – based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science – to reconstruct Holocene climate change in the Great Lakes region. This specific project combines fieldwork and laboratory work to determine the lake level and climate history of the Pinery (near Lake Huron) and Barry Lake (near Lake Ontario) areas,  since ~2,000 cal years before present.  Working as part of a research team, you will collect sediment cores from the area, and use them to obtain suitable proxy materials (shells, organic matter, biogenic carbonate, diatoms, etc.) for which stable isotopic and organic geochemical tests can be used to determine paleotemperature, paleohumidity, glacial meltwater influxes, organic matter sources, and lacustrine and terrestrial productivity.


Stable Isotope Ecology of Pleistocene Megafauna and the Tall Tales of Climate Change and Overkill in the Yukon and Ontario

Fred Longstaffe
The successful candidate will join our CRC-CFI supported  ‘Back to the Future’ initiative – based in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science – to reconstruct terrestrial paleoecology and climate in Beringia, Yukon, and southwestern Ontario prior to the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. This specific project combines fieldwork and laboratory work directed at collection, sampling and analysis of the bones and teeth of Pleistocene megafauna (mastodon, mammoth, horse, bison, etc.).  Working as part of a research team, you will examine bones, teeth and tusks of ancient megafauna to extract information about vegetation and climate using the stable isotopic signatures of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen that are preserved in animal tissues.

Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite

Phil McCausland
Many fragments of a very primitive, unusual early Solar System meteorite arrived in January, 2000 on the frozen surface of Tagish Lake, northern British Columbia. A large number of specimens from the search that year are now present in Western’s meteorite collection. These Tagish Lake meteorite samples require further careful description and followup study of some unusual features –the project is to assist Dr. McCausland, Western’s Curator of meteorites in this descriptive work and to explore the interesting discoveries in this group of samples, leading to a report of the key features of the Tagish Lake collection and possibly their scientific implications. It is expected that this work will involve X-ray Computed Tomography and other 3D imaging techniques to establish 3D models of the meteorites and their interior structure. Experience with introductory mineralogy is helpful, but not required.


Paleogeography of North America during the Early Paleozoic

Phil McCausland
The permanent magnetic record in rocks such as limestone and red shale can act like a frozen compass to record the ancient direction to the north pole at the time when the rock formed. This work uses samples from Western Newfoundland to estimate the ancient location of North America with respect to the Earth’s polar regions at ~490 million years ago, by laboratory measurements of sample stepwise demagnetization to reveal the ancient magnetic direction. A possible development of this work with Dr. McCausland is to conduct new sampling of similar-aged rocks. Note that this work will require two to three weeks’ residency in Windsor, Ontario during the summer, to work at the excellent Paleomagnetic Laboratory, University of Windsor. All other work is based at Western.


Investigation of new, unknown meteorites

Phil McCausland
Explore several new meteorites with Dr. McCausland, Western’s Curator of meteorites using non-destructive techniques such as X-ray Computed Tomography 3D imaging and related techniques as well as by microscopic examination of rock thin sections. This work is anticipated to result in the submission of official descriptive reports for several new meteorites, and can lead to further scientific study of interesting discoveries where warranted. Experience with introductory mineralogy is helpful, but not required.


Statistical analysis of natural and induced seismicity

Robert Shcherbakov
Earthquakes are triggered by processes involving complex stress redistribution in heterogeneous rocks with varying strength, and changes in fluid pore pressure. As a result, the full understanding of the physical processes which control seismicity triggered by energy-related activities such as hydraulic fracturing (HF) and fluid disposal or withdrawal remains a challenging task. Statistical analysis and stochastic computer modeling can provide invaluable insight into the physics and statistics of induced seismicity and can help to improve the design and planning of HF and disposal programs related to resource recovery, thereby mitigating the associated risks. This project will provide a systematic study of the statistical properties of induced earthquakes, including development and application of stochastic models to quantify the occurrence of induced seismicity.

Statistical modelling of volcanic eruptions

Robert Shcherbakov
In this project the students will study various aspects of volcanism on Earth, particularly, the statistical characteristics of temporal sequences of eruptions. In addition to the temporal statistics, the spatial scaling properties of volcanic landforms which are related to the processes of volcano formation on Earth and other planets will be studied. The results of the project will provide a basis for the development of realistic physics-based volcano eruption models. They will also allow to gain a better understanding of the physics of eruption processes and is crucial from the volcanic hazard assessment and mitigation points of view where probabilistic forecasting plays an essential role.