Articles tagged with: Michael Pisaric

  • Geography and Tourism students put skills to the test in central Ontario

    A crisp fall breeze and the smell of pine recently welcomed Daniel Marshall into a different type of learning environment.

    The fourth-year Geography student can normally be found deep in the Mackenzie Chown Complex learning about physical geography. But, during this year’s fall Reading Week, an experiential education trip took him out of his comfort zone and into the field.

    Along with 34 other participants from the Geography and Tourism Department’s Physical Geography and Human Geography and Tourism Studies field courses, Marshall took part in a weeklong experiential learning exercise in central Ontario. The annual trip is designed to connect in-class learning with practical on-site research skills that are necessary for all geographers.

    “Sometimes in the classroom you lose focus on what you are actually studying,” Marshall said. “To be in the field and make the observations myself and get my feet muddy allowed everything to come full circle.”

    While the human geographers and tourism students went into Peterborough to gather data, Marshall and his fellow physical geographers went further afield to places such as Lochlin, Ont., where they collected soil and water samples.

    “We brought a specialized tool and took a sample from about four metres down,” he said. “We got a core that, if interpreted in a lab, could have given us 10,000 years worth of data about the area.”

    The ability to conduct applied research and maintain detailed field notes is a skill Geography and Tourism Studies Department Chair Michael Pisaric considers invaluable.

    “The field courses provide our students with hands-on experience that allows them to put their training and academic studies into practice by connecting first-hand the classroom learning they have done to the real world,” he said.

    Longstanding teaching assistant Darren Platakis, who has worked with countless students in his 10 years helping with the trip, echoed the sentiment.

    “Seeing the growth in their confidence, whether it’s conducting face-to-face interviews or using a new piece of equipment, is very satisfying,” he said.

    Gaining practical experience with tools of the trade provides students with a leg up for when their studies are completed.

    “Nobody wants to hire an advisor who has no field experience,” Marshall said. “An exercise like this makes you more marketable as a person.”

    With days of working to develop useful skills came a sense of unity among participants on the department-wide trip.

    “At the end of the day, we were all reunited as a large group and it was nice to be together,” he said. “We had a few large outdoor gatherings around the fire pits and shared stories of our day. It gave us the opportunity to become a close-knit group and contributed to the closeness of the department as a whole.”

    The work of the students in the area has also led to lasting conservation efforts in the local community.

    “Because of the work of previous classes from Brock, the Lochlin Esker and Wetlands site we visited has achieved Provincially Significant Wetland and Area of Natural and Scientific Interest status,” he said.

    For Marshall, the most eye-opening portion of the week was seeing the way the concepts learned in the classroom actually existed in the environment.

    “You can read as much as you want on a topic, but until you’re actually looking at that feature or talking to those people, there is a huge divide between what the textbooks say and the actual observations you make in the field,” he said. “It really worked for me to help close that gap and approach things in a more well-rounded way.”

    As he prepares to use his newfound experience to take on a thesis and apply for master’s programs, Marshall hopes that others will consider studying Geography as well.

    “Geography is everything and how it’s related,” he said. “Anyone who likes nature, the environment or being outside already loves geography. So, why not study it as well?”

    Visit the department’s website to learn more about Brock University’s Geography and Tourism experiential opportunities.

    Reposted from The Brock News.

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  • Brock-led team collects samples at Crawford Lake to explore possible Anthropocene reference site

    It’s like taking a photograph of Earth every year for a thousand years.

    The difference is that the ‘camera,’ in this case, is a freeze core, a long, hollow aluminum tube filled with a mixture of dry ice and ethanol to cool it to minus 80 degrees Celsius.

    On Tuesday, Aug. 14, a group of researchers from three universities and led by Brock University Professor of Earth Sciences Francine McCarthy used a freeze core to gather layers of sediment spanning the last millennium from the bottom of Crawford Lake in Milton.

    Master’s student Autumn Heyd (left) and PhD student Andrea Krueger were among a Brock University-led research team studying Crawford Lake in Milton to be a possible location to define a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene.

    The professors and student researchers from Brock, Carleton and McMaster universities used the freeze cores to collect layers of sediments from the bottom of the oxygen-free depths of the lake, creating ‘tree rings’ of sorts.

    They collected the samples in the hopes of confirming a new episode in the world’s geological time scale known as the Anthropocene.

    Sediment and rock layers give scientists clues about the Earth’s plant and animal life, human activity, and other details within the planet’s geological time scale. Earth is officially in the Holocene, but the scientific community has identified the mid-20th century as being the start of the Anthropocene.

    “Because we have those annual layers of sediment in Crawford Lake, we can tell exactly when 1950 is. We can point to a layer and say, ‘That’s 1950,’ then we have the ideal location,” says McCarthy. “Hundreds of years from now, people will be able to come here to find 1950 and that’s the important thing.”

    Gesturing to the raft, McCarthy explains what lies ahead for the research.

    “Over the next year or two, my colleagues and I, along with students, are going to be analyzing and comparing what went on before 1950 and after,” says McCarthy.

    She points out that an obvious example of time stamping would be more lead in the sediment from before gasoline went unleaded.

    If they find what they’re looking for in these sediments, the research team will make a submission to the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), an international group charged with evaluating proposals on where evidence of the Anthropocene can be best seen.

    If the AWG were to vote in favour of using Crawford Lake, the proposal would then be evaluated by the International Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, chaired by Brock Professor of Earth Sciences Martin Head.

    Head, who is also a member of the AWG, says that the Anthropocene is distinctive from the Holocene in that that human activities have shifted the way our planet is now behaving as an integrated system.

    This shift is known as the Great Acceleration, a mid-20th century phenomenon associated with global industrialization, commercialization and a huge increase in energy use.

    “Since the beginning of the Anthropocene, we may have actually exceeded the ability of the Earth’s system to self-regulate in ways that it did before, so that’s why the Anthropocene is important on a number of different levels,” he says.

    Brock researchers at Tuesday’s sediment collection included McCarthy, Head, Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric, Biological Sciences PhD student Andrea Krueger and master’s student Autumn Heyd.

    A Brock University-led research team lowers the freeze core into Lake Crawford to collect sediments as part of an effort to identify the lake as being a possible location to define a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene.

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  • Achievements of Geography and Tourism Studies professors and students recognized by FOSS

    The Department of Geography and Tourism Studies would like to congratulate our professors and students who were recognized last week by Brock’s Faculty of Social Sciences at their annual Celebration of Excellence.

    • Dr. Julia Baird, Assistant Professor (Canada Research Chair, Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience)
    • Dr. David Butz, Professor (Brock SSHRC Institutional Grant)
    • Dr. Michael Pisaric, Professor (NSERC Discovery Grant)
    • Dr. Kevin Turner, Assistant Professor (Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund)
    • Dr. Ebru Ustundag, Associate Professor (Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance Teaching Excellence Award)
    • Katelyn Pierce, MA in Geography student (Ontario Graduate Scholarship)
    • Connor Dingle, MA in Geography student (Best Major Research Paper)

    Read the full story on the Brock News.

    Graduate student award winners and their supervisors and mentors were among the honorees at the Faculty of Social Sciences Celebration of Excellence. From left, Dawn Zinga, Acting Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Megan Earle and supervisor Gordon Hodson, Xiaomei Zhou and supervisor Catherine Mondloch, Christie Milliken accepting on behalf of Devon Coutts, Ebru Ustundag accepting on behalf of Connor Dingle, and Ingrid Makus, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.


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