Last updated: March 27, 2008 @ 11:40AM

Earth Sciences

Master of Science in Earth Sciences

Field of Specialization
Earth Sciences

Ian D. Brindle

Associate Deans
Gregory C. Finn
Richard J. Cheel

Graduate Faculty

Uwe Brand (Earth Sciences), Richard J. Cheel (Earth Sciences), Frank Fueten (Earth Sciences), Martin J. Head (Earth Sciences), Francine M. McCarthy (Earth Sciences), John Menzies (Earth Sciences & Geography), Keith Tinkler (Earth Sciences & Geography)

Associate Professors
Gregory C. Finn (Earth Sciences), Daniel P. McCarthy (Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences)

Adjunct Professors
Steve Cook (Fonthill, Ontario), Andrew Panko (Brownfield Revolutions Inc.)

Graduate Program Director
Frank Fueten

Administrative Assistant
Diane Gadoury
Mackenzie Chown D431
905-688-5550, extension 3526

Program Description
Graduate students in Earth Sciences join a research-intensive environment and undertake work with internationally recognized faculty who contribute to a wide variety of geoscientific fields. The Department of Earth Sciences emphasizes personal and tailored graduate supervision. Research areas include: glacial geology and geomorphology, watershed geochemistry, lichen biomonitoring, marine and terrestrial palynology, stream flow dynamics, isotope carbonate geochemistry, the structural geology of Earth and Mars, climate change, and Quaternary geology.

Earth Sciences graduates are prepared for careers responding to the needs of world governments, industries and social structures facing global change.

Admission Requirements
Successful completion of an Honours Bachelor's degree, or equivalent, in Earth Sciences, with a minimum overall B average. Agreement from a faculty advisor to supervise the student is also required for admission to the program. Applicants may be required to write the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants holding a degree without sufficient concentration in the area of the intended Master's degree may be required to complete additional courses beyond those outlined as required for degree completion.

The Graduate Admissions Committee will review all applications and recommend admission for suitable candidates.

Those lacking sufficient background preparation may be required to complete a qualifying term/year to upgrade their applications. Completion of a qualifying term/year does not guarantee acceptance into the program.

Part-time study is available.

Degree Requirements
For full time students, the program is a six term or two year program.
Candidates with an honours degree or who have completed a qualifying year, require a minimum of one year of residency. Also required is satisfactory completion of a program that must include ERSC 5F90 (thesis), ERSC 5P95 and two half-credit courses numbered 5(alpha)00 or higher.

Completion of additional course work in specific areas may be required in some cases. All candidates are required to present a seminar on the topic of their thesis project.

The department is fully equipped with geochemistry, palynology, sedimentology, hydrology, dendrochronology, lichenometry and micromorphology laboratories. In addition, the department has a sedimentary flume lab and carbon-14 dating equipment. The department shares the facilities of electronic, machine, woodworking and glassblowing shops with other departments.

Course Descriptions
Note: Not all courses are offered in every session. Students must consult with the Graduate Program Director regarding course offerings and course selection and must have their course selections approved by the Graduate Program Director each term. Refer to the Timetable for scheduling information:
MSc Thesis
Students under the supervision of a faculty member will conduct original research, consisting of field/lab work, data/information analysis and writing of a thesis. The research topic will be decided by the supervisor in consultation with the graduate student. The graduate student will be expected to make a public presentation, and will sit for a defence of the thesis research.

Structural Geology
Study of the relationship between strain and fabric elements in tectonites. Textures. Multiple strain histories and textures. Relationships between strain and geotectonics.

Structural evolution of different types of "orogenic" belts. Emphasis will be on Canadian examples where possible. Limitations that structural evolution places on the acceptability of proposed tectonic models. Global systems of orogenic belts through time.

Phanerozoic climates, with special emphasis on the Quaternary. Techniques of climate reconstruction: fossil assemblages, stable isotope analysis, dendrochronology, sedimentary evidence. Causes of climatic change. Implications for predicting future climates.

Stratigraphic Palynology
Geological record of palynomorphs from the Precambrian to present, with emphasis on the marine realm and evolution of the acritarchs and dinoflagellates; applications in petroleum exploration.

Quaternary Palynology
Concepts and techniques in palynological investigations of marine and terrestrial Quaternary deposits; the Pleistocene and Holocene climatic changes; applied atmospheric palynology, dispersal of palynomorphs.

Environmental Geochemistry
Principles of availability, mobility and accumulation of metals in the lithosphere and hydrosphere. Cycling of metals in soils and soil chemistry. Chemical weathering and stability regimes of minerals in aqueous systems. Anthropogenic influence on inorganic contaminants in sediments, soils and water. Quality control and assurance of sampling procedures.

Quaternary Geochronology
Geochronological methods and techniques applicable to correlation and dating of Quaternary deposits and events (radiocarbon dating, varved sediments, the fossil record, paleomagnetism, tephrochronology, dendrochronology, paleotemperatures). Quaternary chronology in Canada and correlation with other parts of the world.

Study of the physics of glaciers. Mass balance and glacier budget. Mechanics of glacier movement. Conditions of the ice/glacier bed interface. Dynamics of large ice masses. Glacier surges. Response of glaciers to changes in mass balance. Glaciers and climate. Glacier dynamics and glacial landforms.

Advanced Paleoecology
Correlation between modern ecosystems and those in the fossil record; reconstruction of past environments and the time-sequence of such environments. Applied paleoecology; delineation of past sedimentary basins using biofacies and lithofacies; evolutionary development of ecosystems; paleoecosystem analysis and models.

Sedimentary Environments
Study of modern depositional environments with emphasis on processes and the resulting facies organization. Development of facies models and their application to selected ancient examples.

A detailed survey of volcano morphology, distribution of Quaternary volcanic belts, experimental volcanic petrology and volcanic geochemistry. The current ideas on the interrelations between volcanics and plate tectonics are summarized and the volcanic processes of the present are compared to those of the geological past, including ancient continental shield volcanic rocks.

Carbonate Diagenesis
Descriptive and chemical diagenesis of carbonates. Geochemistry of inorganic and organic carbonate grains. Low temperature thermodynamics of elemental and isotopic redistribution. Application of biogeochemistry and chemostratigraphy to global events and evolutionary processes.

Quantitative Methods in Geology
Elements of data analysis and programming. Applications of statistical methods to geological data. Stochastic models in geology.
Prerequisite: an undergraduate course in statistics.

Fluvial Geomorphology
Principles of flow dynamics. Origin and measurement of turbulent and laminar flows; bed roughness; shear stress and velocity. Flow competence; drag and lift forces, initiation of motion, suspension and bedload. Flow capacity, deterministic and probability models of sediment transport. Field studies of steep gravel and bedrock channels.

Formation of lake basins; physical and chemical characteristics of lake sediments and the water column; geological factors in the development of lakes; eutrophication; the fossil record in lake deposits; lakes as a resource (water consumption, recreation, conservation).

Quaternary Geology
Modern concepts of glaciers and glaciation as landscape forming factors; techniques and methods for study and mapping of Quaternary deposits and physiographic features; the influence of glaciation as a factor in Canadian land use.

Graduate Seminar
Students will present two seminars (on two different topics), each supplemented by a corresponding essay. One topic must differ from the thesis topic.
Note: attendance at all departmental seminars throughout the academic year is required.

ERSC 5V70-5V79
Selected Topics in Quaternary Science
An investigation of a specific area or group of related topics in Quaternary science. This course will be designed for individual students and approved by the graduate studies advisory committee.

ERSC 5V80-5V89
Selected Topics in Crustal Studies
An investigation of a specific area or group of related topics in Crustal studies. This course will be designed for individual students and approved by the graduate studies advisory committee.

ERSC 5V90-5V99
Selected Topics in Contemporary Geology
An investigation of a specific area or group of related topics in contemporary geology. This special research course will be designed for individual students by the graduate studies advisory committee and approved by the department.