Regional News and Updates


AUGC 2010 at Acadia University

The 60th Annual Atlantic Universities Geological Conference (AUGC) was hosted by the Fletcher Geology Club and Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Acadia University on November 28-30th, 2010.  The conference was attended by close to 100 undergraduate students (as some graduate students and faculty members) from Acadia, Dalhousie, Memorial, Saint Mary’s, Saint Francis Xavier, and UNB, in addition to representatives from government and industry.

The student organizing team included Leah Chiste, Graeme Hovey, Nor Afiqah Mohamad Radzi, and Dwight DeMerchant, assisted by faculty advisor Dr. Sandra Barr.  Thanks to the hard work of this committee over the past year and the generosity of many donors, the conference activities were well supported, this enabling as many students as possible to attend at a reasonable cost.

Registration began on Thursday afternoon, and the registration package included a commemorative plaid shirt emblazoned with the conference logo.  On Thursday evening, a welcoming party was held at the Old Orchard Inn in Greenwich, near Wolfville.  In addition to entertainment by the Hupman Brothers band, the evening included the “Challenge Bowl”, a Jeopardy-style competition sponsored by the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) in which two-person teams from each university competed.  The winning team of Matthew Vaughan and Anne Belanger (Dalhousie University) was awarded a trip to the annual meeting of the CSEG (in Calgary, May 2011) to compete nationally, with the potential for the winning team there to continue to an international competition in the USA.

On Friday, the students participated in their choice of one of three field trips led by Acadia professors:

(1)  Rocks, Mud, and Scenery: An Introduction to the Amazing Geology of the Wolfville Area:  (co-leaders Sandra Barr and Ian Spooner).

(2)  Stratigraphic and Structural Enigmas of the Noel Shore (co-leaders Rob Raeside and Peir Pufahl).

(3)  Economic Geology of the Windsor Sub-basin (leader Cliff Stanley).

In keeping with the season, Friday evening’s activities included a “ghost-walk” featuring a graveyard visit and encounters with some interesting characters from Wolfville’s past history.

On Saturday morning, representatives from the student clubs met to discuss AUGC business, with the main focus being the updating of the AUGC constitution.  Several changes in the constitution were approved, including changing the name to Atlantic Universities Geoscience Conference and updating of the procedures to allow for both oral and poster presentations.  Information about the awards was made more generic, as many of the details change regularly and those changes (such as the value of each award) are outside the direct control of the AUGC itself.

Oral and poster presentations began at 9 am in the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre on the Acadia campus.  It was a full day, with a total of 25 student presentations (18 oral and 7 poster), the most ever at an AUGC, as well as presentations by representatives from CSEG and Geoscientists Nova Scotia.   For the student oral presentations, the panel of judges comprised Chris White (Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources), Aaron Grimeau (CSPG), Sarah Trend (Imperial Oil Resources, St. John’s) and Mark Graves (Acadian Mining). Posters were judged by Jacey Seebach (CSPG) and Sarah Trend.

The closing banquet was held at the Old Orchard Inn.  The guest speaker was Dr. Randy Miller, New Brunswick Museum, who gave an entertaining and informative talk on the recently approved Stonehammer Geopark in the Saint John area, southern New Brunswick.

Awards were made as follows:
- APICS-NSERC award ($500) comprised of $400 from NSERC and $100 from the APICS communications award: Travis McCarron, St. F.X. “The origin and composition of polyphase inclusions in tourmaline from the Greenbushes pegmatite, Western Australia.”
- CSPG (Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists) award - a plaque for the best presentation of a petroleum geology-related paper.  Value $500: Frank Ryan, (MUN) “Early Jurassic Gordondale Member – Shale gas potential and XRD, wireline log, and TOC analysis.”
- Frank Shea award - best paper in economic geology. Awarded by the Mining Society of Nova Scotia, value $500 to the winner, and $100 to the student club: Sarah Gordon (UNB) “The petrogenesis of calc-alkaline lamprophyres from Mali, West Africa.”
- CSEG Foundation award - awarded to the best paper in geophysics.  Value $300: Matthew Vaughan (Dalhousie) “High resolution seismic stratigraphy (GPR) of braided channel complexes in the Triassic Wolfville Formation – controls on reservoir heterogeneity.”
- Best Poster award, provided by Imperial Oil: Nor Afiqah Mohamad Radzi (Acadia).  “Petrography of stratigraphic units in the subsurface in the Phetchabun Basin, Thailand.”

In addition to these awards, all of the presenters were awarded a certificate recognizing their efforts from the Atlantic Geoscience Society.

Building stones, granite, Meguma and an old fort

Urban field trips don’t inspire all geologists but they seem to work well for educators.  For one Nova Scotia EdGEO 2010 attendee, the field component was an “eye opening event to the geology in front of my nose”.  As part of the 2010 program, two half-day field trips to downtown Halifax and to York Redoubt National Historic Site were co-led by Milton Graves and Anne Marie Ryan and Patrick Potter and Terry Goodwin, respectively.  A repeat participant felt “[t]he Halifax building tour was extremely informative”.  For another, the York Redoubt Site was a “great site to connect history to geology”.  Several teachers said the urban-style field trips would allow them to easily adapt the field activities to their part of Nova Scotia.  That’s music to the ears of the organizers and presenters.

Aside from the field trips, two sets of hands-on activities allowed the educators to ‘get their hands dirty’.  The first set, run by Anne Marie and Milton, prepared the participants for the minerals and rocks they would observe in the field.  The second session was led by Nova Scotia teachers Tracy Webb and Jennifer Carroll who introduced a set of activities intended to weave connections between geology and other sciences.  A number of teachers wrote on the evaluation form that they enjoyed this session, however one specified the activities “were innovative in delivery and can easily translate to classroom activities”.  This meets one goal of the Nova Scotia program which is to raise teachers’ interest in the subject of geology through the provision of activities that can be easily (and willingly) used in the classroom.

The Nova Scotia EdGEO Workshop Committee has run an annual August workshop since 1994.  That’s well over 300 educators who have attended the 2-day program over the 17 years of the program. One high school geology teacher said it quite well when he wrote “[k]nowing the geology of your own province makes teaching so much easier.”

May I take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped over the years to organize and present the EdGEO workshops throughout Nova Scotia. You’ve done a terrific job!

Jennifer Bates
Chair, NS EdGEO Workshop Committee



by Graham Williams

            Laing Ferguson, one of the outstanding geologists in the Maritimes and a giant figure in the Atlantic Geoscience Society, was recently honoured by a celebration of his life since moving to Mount Allison University.    His achievements include his geological discoveries, especially at Joggins, his commitment to various organizations and his encouragement and support of numerous students he inspired to pursue geology.  The event was organized by Mount Allison University’s Alumni Office.

            Fittingly, the gathering was held at the Joggins Fossil Centre on Wednesday, 20th October.  Starting at 6.00 pm, attendees were able to tour the Museum and display area, as well as taste the delicious hors d’oeuvres and welcome refreshments.  This was followed at 6.35 pm by a series of presentations, each restricted to five minutes, with John Read acting as emcee.  The room was packed, mostly with past and present members of staff plus alumni of Mount Allison University, geological associates and representatives of the societies that Laing devoted much of his time to on a voluntary basis. As befits the guest of honour, Laing sat in the front row, with Joyce at his side.  His three sons and other relatives, including two grandchildren, managed to find seats in the packed room.

            The speakers, in order of presentation, were Jenna Boone of the Joggins Fossil Institute, Graham Williams of GSC Atlantic, Ken Adams of Mount Allison University and now a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Robert Campbell, President of Mount Allison University, Ken Adams of the Fundy Geological Museum, and Neil Ferguson, Laing’s son.

             Jenna discussed Laing’s role in promoting Joggins and some of the significant finds he has made in these storied cliffs.  Evidence of his research can be found throughout the Joggins Fossil Centre, adding a new dimension to some of the displays.  And his enthusiasm for the geological sites has been infectious on a national and international scale.

            I highlighted some of Laing’s research findings, especially the discovery of the Arthropleura trackways.  Estimated to be two metres long, the millipede-like Arthropleura was one of the largest land arthropods that ever lived.  Just imagine one of those monsters trying to crawl into your sleeping bag if you were camping in the woods.  Laing also came to some significant conclusions concerning why root systems of tall stumps are rare, why rapid burial was not needed to explain the preservation of trunks of the giant clubmosses Sigillaria and Lepidodendron, and why Stigmaria, the roots of the clubmosses, were not transported after death.

            Laing’s studies of the Joggins cliffs are encapsulated in the excellent paperback, “The Fossil Cliffs of Joggins”, published in 1988.  This classic, which is still selling well after 22 years on the market, represents one of Laing’s early ventures into the field of outreach publishing.  Previously, he had been one of the driving forces behind production of the “Geological Highway Map of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island”.

            I went on to note that a discussion of Laing’s geological achievements would not be complete without some reference to the Atlantic Geoscience Society, whose success owes much to his commitment.    When AGS was born in 1972, the annual dues were an exorbitant $1.00.  Fortunately, Laing, who has always appreciated value for money, was one of the first to become active in the new Society, a major boost since support from Academia was initially tepid. 

            Everyone was shocked when the Society’s annual dues doubled to $2.00 in 1977, but this did not stop Laing from hosting and organizing the first AGS Colloquium, “Current Research in the Maritimes”, held at Mount Allison University that December.

Author Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Joyce Ferguson and Ken Adams for all the information they provided for this article and for serving, at very short notice, as informal reviewers.

Grand Re-Opening, Fundy Geological Museum

Submitted by Ken Adams, Director, Fundy Geological Museum and Deborah Skilliter, Curator of Geology, Nova Scotia Museum

The Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia celebrated its grand re-opening on October 13, 2010 after a one million dollar renovation project. The province, through Tourism, Culture and Heritage and Economic and Rural Development, contributed $550,000 and the federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, contributed $450,000 to the Cumberland Geological Society for the project. The project was collaborative, involving staff of the Fundy Geological Museum, the Board of the Cumberland Geological Society, the Nova Scotia Museum, and others.

The Fundy Geological Museum tells the story of the geology of the Bay of Fundy, with a specific focus on the Triassic and Jurassic periods of geological time. At the end of the Triassic Period, there was a major extinction event that wiped out approximately 80% of all life at that time. Scientists are still debating the cause of this great extinction, but much evidence suggests that massive basalt flows may have contributed to the extinction. Mineral and gem enthusiasts have long flocked to the shores of the Bay of Fundy in search of precious minerals and gems contained with the basalt flows. Following this great extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, novel life forms began to exploit the new habitats. The rocks in the Parrsboro area contain the world’s most complete record of vertebrate animal fossils that lived just after Triassic-Jurassic extinction and include creatures called ‘proto-mammals’ - animals that later gave rise to mammals, giant crocodile-like reptiles, strange amphibians, and some of Canada’s oldest dinosaurs.
The new exhibits provide a range of experiences for visitors and include the Bay of Fundy Time Machine, a first hand view of the geological history of the Parrsboro area beginning with the ancient supercontinent Pangea; replicas of Canada’s oldest dinosaurs - including a large, herbivorous dinosaur that is yet to be named and another known as Coelophysis sp., a lean, mean carnivorous hunting machine; fossilized trackways from insects to dinosaurs; and a Big Bowl of Rock Soup, exploring links between geology and Nova Scotia's cultural heritage.

According to Ken Adams, Director, the Fundy Geological Museum is positioned better than ever to interpret the stories of colliding continents, changing climates and Canada's oldest dinosaurs. The new exhibits encourage visitors to extend their educational experience by going out into the world around them to further hone their new “geological eyes” and ways of seeing. As we all know, geologists shouldn’t be kept indoors.

More information about the museum is available at

Canadian Offshore Resources Exhibit and Conference, 2010

The NS CORE conference was held October 5-7 at the Cunard Centre in Halifax. The conference theme was "Breaking New Waves in the East Coast Energy Industry", but Premier Darrel Dexter had a different theme...something like "Breaking the back of oil and gas exploration in the East Coast Energy Industry". Dexter painted a gloomy picture for the next few years for the offshore gas industry and instead chose to focus on energy alternatives for Nova Scotia...such as wind and tidal generation. Considering the millions of dollars Nova Scotians are paying for a "Play Fairway Analysis", it seems a sad message to send to the offshore energy sector. Conservative Sen. Fred Dickson gave the closing address. He issued a warning: without a concerted voice from the region, noting that there is a chance energy projects that are in the best interest of the Atlantic may be given a lower priority, compared to demands from other parts of the country. His message was "think locally, act locall, while maintaining a global perspective" ...doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Neither Dexter nor Dickson said to "go nuclear".

The conference hosted a number of thematic sessons including "sustainable energy", "fabrication", "onshore and shale gas", "new frontiers", "offshore updates", and "finding the prize". By and large, the conference lacked any science or geology of any type for that matter, with the principal focus on business and marketing. Very much a scaled back version from the Good ole days.

David Mosher

II Central Atlantic Conjugate Margins Conference Report - Lisbon, Portugal

by D.Calvin Campbell

The II Central & North Atlantic Conjugate Margins Conference was held in Lisbon, Portugal, on September 29- October 1st 2010. Conference fieldtrips to Portugal and Morocco were held prior to and following the conference. The objective of the small conference (~250 attendees) was to provide a forum for researchers from academia, government and industry from around the world to share geoscience knowledge focused on the Central & North Atlantic margins. The first Atlantic Conjugate Margins conference was held in Halifax in 2008 and a follow-up to this meeting is planned for Ireland in 2012.


Keynote presentations included:

Gianreto Manatschal - The lesson from the Iberia-Newfoundland rifted
margins: how applicable is it to other rifted margins?

Sierd Cloetingh - Thermo-mechanical models for rifted basin (de)formation: an integrated approach.  Lisbon’s famous Padrão dos Descobrimentos  (Monument to the Discoveries) as seen from the Tagus River.

Octavian Catuneanu - Sequence Stratigraphy: state-of-the art and applications to exploration.

Michael Enachescu - Upper Jurassic Source-rocks in the North Atlantic.

Jakob Skogseid - The Opening of the Central and North Atlantic.

Session presentations and posters spanned a range of passive margin topics from rifting models to margin stratigraphy to petroleum systems. Compared to the previous meeting in Halifax in 2008, the 2010 conference had greater focus on the North and South Atlantic conjugates. The conference forum provided an excellent opportunity for Atlantic Canadian researchers to present to international researchers conducting similar work on their respective margins. More information about the conference can be found at the conference website:


Conjugate Margins of the Central Atlantic II – Lisbon 2010 Field Trips –
Lusitanian Basin Portugal and Agadir-Essaouira Basins Morocco

By Les Eliuk- Dalhousie University and Geotours consulting (

The Second Conjugate Margins Conference of the Central Atlantic in Lisbon had pre- and post-conference field trips. While the conference encourages seeing similarities across the Atlantic, being able to walk on the rocks is thanks to a major Old World difference of the Tertiary Betic-Atlasic (Alpine) orogeny that inverted basins in Portugal and Morocco and brought up the Triassic to Cretaceous rocks to crop out. Rocks in the New World margin are mostly deeply buried and far at sea. The two trip areas were well ‘conjugated’ with the Lusitanian Basin giving insights into smaller-basin pre-rift marine settings like its match in the Grand Banks while the Agadir-Essaouira Basins were a match for Nova Scotia’s pre-rift Triassic and post-rift Jurassic-Cretaceous.  I was fortunate to go on both field trips and found them the highlights of the conference. This is not to belittle the conference and its organizers. After all the hard-working conference co-chairs, Professors Nuno Pimentel (Lisbon Univ.) and Rui Pena dos Ries (Coimbra Univ.), were also the trip leaders for the Lusitanian Basin field trip. The Moroccan post-conference field trip was ably planned and led by Dr. Abdallah Ait Salem (ONHYM) and Professor Mohamad Hafid (Kenitra Univ.). The reader is referred to the conference website – - for a summary of the field trip itineraries with colourful scenic photos of many of the localities visited. Obviously what stood out for me was focussed by ‘carbonate-colored glasses’. And indeed there were a lot of carbonates and a lot of red beds.  Many of those outcrop red beds, unlike the situation on the American side of the margin, were even in units younger than Triassic-to-earliest-Jurassic rocks such as the Newark-Fundy basins.  I believe that is a difference between the conjugate sets in major paleoclimatic (connected later with diverging paleolatitude) conditions that is not only still seen now - semi-arid versus humid - but seems to have existed very early starting in the middle Jurassic. That in turn may have linked implications for differences in types and amounts of major sediments such as siliciclastics and coals versus carbonates and evaporates...and potential reservoirs and source rocks.

The pre-trip was a great ‘sold-out’ introductory 4 days in the central coastal Portuguese field prior to a well done 3 days in the ‘office’ at the Lisbon Gulbenkian Conference Centre. The Lusitanian Basin trip was an opportunity to summarize for the 22 participants (at least 10 from eastern Canada) a basin analysis project Pimentel and Pena dos Reis were just completing for PetroBras. A well-illustrated 59 page guidebook aided understanding the main evolutionary development of this long-lived basin. As we went from Coimbra in the north to near Lisbon in the south we were shown a full spectrum of depositional environments from non-marine to deep basin in outcrops illustrating: the first rifting episode (Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous), second rifting episode (Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous), three-stepped break-up and drift (Early to Late Cretaceous) and basin inversion (latest Cretaceous to Miocene and perhaps the conditions for the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 may still be a risk). The trip provided a well-balanced overview;   Although  I had spent nearly a month in Portugal in 2001 with a decidedly ‘unbalanced’ emphasis on shallow-water carbonates; I repeated only two localities on this trip. We saw a spectrum of oil shows, potential source rocks and large areas whose geomorphology were highly influenced by the location and dissolution of the linear salt structures along the basin margin.  After a 3 day break full of interesting talks in Lisbon ( the sidewalk cobbles we walked on were quarried from Jurassic back-reef lagoons), I flew to Agadir in southwest Morocco with most of the other 12 participants (down to just 4 Canadian east coasters).

The ambitious plan of our enthusiastic trip leaders meant we did not get to all the stops listed in the well illustrated 46 page guidebook that was supplemented by 2 sets of handouts and later references (for an overview see Hafid, Zizi, Bally and Ait Salem, 2006, Structural styles of the western onshore and offshore terminations of the High Atlas, Morocco, Comptes Rendus Geosciences, 338, 50-64). The first of 3 days was reconnaissance of the Argana valley Triassic synrift red bed sequence between the High Atlas on the northwest and the mostly Paleozoic Anti-Atlas on the southeast. Seeing fan conglomerates, alluvial deposits, basalts and aeolianites I felt an affinity with the Bay of Fundy. As we walked up a red rippled and mud-cracked wadi to examine similarly-coloured 200-million-old look-a-like features, it was apparent northwest Africa has been a lot more environmentally ‘conservative’ both in climate and deposition than its New World conjugate margin. The next day we crossed the western High Atlas looking at outcrops on both sides of a large anticline that exposes the complete Mesozoic section. Besides seeing more evaporite-carbonate beds than I have seen since my time in the Devonian Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and much more red beds, we looked at great exposures of Late Jurassic reefal carbonates located on a former broad shelf or intra-shelf basin. In fact if you want East Coast Late Jurassic carbonate analogues from Morocco, folks have been spending too much time, too far northeast looking at carbonates of the Early-Middle Jurassic inverted failed rift basins of the main High Atlas.  ‘Sadly’, due to a mix-up in flight planning by your reporter that scheduled a day too early return, I was left at the Cape Ghir first stop of the third and last full day as the rest of the group headed north to the walled city of Essaouira. I spent the rest of the day wandering around the expansive outcrops of the Late Jurassic eastern Atlantic shelf reefal carbonate margin that comes onshore near the Cape Ghir lighthouse. Stromatoporoids and especially corals, some over 2 meters across, were everywhere with areas of sand flat rich in large megalodont or dicerid clams. In other outcrops muddier carbonate held lamellar microsolenid corals in a forereef setting.  On the previous day we had walked a section where coral reef core was replaced with porous zebra dolomites and, while that setting was an intrashelf basin, I felt like I might have been walking over Deep Panuke gas reservoir. Elsewhere we were shown prograding forereef slopes above stacked margins. Did I mention the hotel-spa-bar on the reefal(?) carbonates overlooking that vista. As they say in the movies “I’ll be back".