Natural Resources

A Brief History of Terrain Sciences at the Survey

A brief history of terrain sciences at the survey

Terrain sciences - the general term encompassing surficial mapping, aggregate studies, environmental geology, and the study of the Quaternary period has been a major activity of the Newfoundland Survey for 25 years. Before that time, geologists had included observations of the Quaternary and surficial environment as part of their general mapping, but little formal work had taken place. There had been some attention paid to granular aggregates, specifically a project by John MacKillop that evaluated beaches round the island for aggregate quality in the 1950s and 60s.

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Early Days

The first geologist hired specifically as a terrain science geologist was Doug Vanderveer, who had trained as a senior assistant with Geological Survey of Canada geologist Doug Grant in the late 60s and early 70s. Doug was hired in 1973, initially to undertake gravel resource/beach inspections, and rapidly demonstrated that there was a real need for terrain science studies. Doug was originally part of the Mineral Evaluation section, but in 1976 established the Environmental Geology Section with 3 assistants: Fred Kirby, Randy Ricketts and Byron Sparkes. All subsequently developed their own projects, spurred on by the Mineral Development Agreements of the late 70s. Doug had diverse interests in environmental geology, initiating projects in peat, clays for ceramics, aggregate and exploration geochemistry and was a tireless and effective promoter of terrain science studies.

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The Environmental Geology Section continued to expand following its inception in 1976. Joe Atkinson worked as computer support for a period, developing the aggregate database before moving on to more general survey duties. Randy Ricketts worked on aggregate mapping in the late 1970s and early 1980s before moving to agriculture. His brother Jerry worked with Fred as a student and was kept on as office support, eventually moving up to project geologist with responsibility for aggregate studies. Dan Bragg followed a similar path, and developed a bedrock aggregate programme.

Martin Batterson was originally housed at the Department in the summer of 1982, after gaining a Masters degree from Memorial University, while working on a surficial mapping project on the Waterford River basin for the Department of Environment. Martin's assistant that year was Spencer Vatcher, who came and went from the Department over the next 18 years. Martin was hired by the Department in fall 1982 on a student-assistant basis for field work, but rapidly was given more responsibility, and in 1984 he and Jerry led 2 large crews to the Strange Lake area. This was a joint till geochemistry - aggregate project and marked the start of over 10 years of Labrador work for Martin. The section by this time had a full time lab technician, Christine Blackwood (nee Spurrell), who had previously been working for the Geochemistry Section.

Dave Taylor started his career with the Survey as a student assistant with Martin at Strange Lake, as did Sharon Scott. Dave graduated that year and continued with the Department as a temporary employee. Sharon spent several summers working on summer projects until graduation and was extended as a temporary employee for varying lengths of time.

Most of the staff had come up through the system, but in 1985 the Survey hired externally, recruiting MaryAnne Mihychuk who had completed a Masters at Brock University. MaryAnne was designated to work on surficial mapping and drift prospecting in the Buchans area, and later the Daniels Harbour region. MaryAnne's tenure was brief and she moved back to her home in Manitoba, later to reach the distinguished position of Manitoba's Minister of Industry, Trade and Mines.

By this time Bev Wareham had joined the section (after previously working in the laboratory), mainly as technical support, and she was soon joined by Lloyd St. Croix, MaryAnne's assistant in Daniels Harbour who stayed on as a temporary employee

A major upheaval in the section took place when Fred Kirby and Bev Wareham moved to the regulatory side of the department in 1987, Bev to work on land use planning, and Fred to continue aggregate work.

MaryAnne was replaced by Dave Proudfoot in 1986, who had recently completed a Ph.D at University of Alberta, and when hired was in a post-doctoral position with the GSC. When Doug Vanderveer left after ten years with the Survey in 1987 (to work with the Ontario government), Dave took over as senior geologist. In 1988 Dave Liverman was hired to replace Dave Proudfoot's project geologist position. Both Daves were trained at University of Alberta - an institution that seems to have provided more than its fair share of Newfoundland based Quaternary geologists (Norm Catto and Trevor Bell of Memorial Geography both have Ph.D's from University of Alberta as well).

Sharon Scott and Spencer Vatcher (who also worked for Martin in Strange Lake) by this time had technical support positions working on database development. Both also had spells in the lab after Christine left in around 1992. Byron Sparkes also left around this time to work on an MBA. Byron later returned to the department for a couple of years as the Minister's executive assistant.

Martin's Labrador projects had finished by this point, and the mapping efforts concentrated on the Island part of the Province, with a mixture of projects aimed largely at the mineral exploration industry and at more general mapping designed for the broad spectrum of clients interested in surficial data.

Dave Taylor and Lloyd St. Croix by this time had independent responsibility for their own project, a 5 year striation mapping effort that covered a huge area of Newfoundland.

The Section cooperated to produce in 1991 the first surficial map of Newfoundland at 1:500,000, compiled under the direction of Dave Liverman and Dave Taylor. This map was produced by hand-colouring, then scanning the final version, with the bulk of the pencil work being done by Sharon Scott, Christine Blackwood and Dave Taylor, air-photo interpretation by Martin, Dave Liverman, Dave Proudfoot and Lloyd St. Croix.

Dave Proudfoot departed in 1992, to travel, and to investigate opportunities for running an adventure travel business in Baja California. However Dave quickly returned to geology, and soon established himself as a highly regarded consultant in British Columbia, based out of his home on Denman Island. Sadly, he contracted cancer and after a short illness passed away in 1998.

Sharon Scott moved to the project level in 1993-94 to work on placer geology and till geochemistry, but when funding lapsed moved to British Columbia to work in the forest consultancy industry.

The section operated without a senior for nearly a year, but then merged with the geochemistry and geophysics section under the direction of Peter Davenport, ending its tenure as an independent group. The next few years saw activities restricted, with the loss of the lab technician, and Dan Bragg moving up to join Fred in the regulation side of the department (Dan sadly died in 2003). Technical support was also restricted. Lloyd St Croix after spending two years working on urban geology of the St. John's area left to pursue other interests, leaving terrain sciences at its lowest staff levels since the early 1980s.

Around this time, the section was able to return to environmental geology projects with two new initiatives. In 1993 a cooperative coastal monitoring programme was set up with the GSC Atlantic office, concentrating on the Avalon Peninsula, and this continues today. In addition, a joint project between Dave Liverman, Dave Taylor and Martin Batterson researched the history of geological hazards in the Province, and this formed the core of the Survey's hazard research, that now has developed into hazard risk mappping.

In 1995, Martin and Dave's book "Landscapes of Newfoundland and Labrador - a collection of aerial photographs" was published as a report by the Survey. This proved to be the most popular publication the Survey has produced, so much so it was re-printed in 1999.

With the departure of Peter Davenport in 1998, Dave Liverman moved into the senior's position for Geochemistry Geophysics and Terrain Sciences, and in 2001, Shirley McCuaig was recruited to fill his project geologist position. Shirley had recently completed a Ph.D at Simon Fraser University. After conducting field work in southern and central Labrador, White Bay, and western Newfoundland, Shirley left in February 2006 to pursue a career in the consulting industry in Alberta.

In 2008 Dave Liverman moved out of the Section to take on the role of Director of the Survey, and Shirley's vacant position was filled by Jennifer Smith. Jennifer had worked for the Section as an undergraduate and graduate student, acting as senior assistant on two Labrador projects, as well as mapping the Porcupine Strand area of Labrador as part of her M.Sc thesis (these maps were published by the Survey). Jennifer, after completing B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Memorial, had been working with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey. Martin Batterson became Senior Geologist for the section.

Denise Brushett, another recent Memorial graduate with a Master's degree, joined the section in 2009, but after two field seasons in the Gander area left to move to Ottawa in December 2010.

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