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Studying the Earth Beneath our Feet

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If there is one thing that a teacher loves to hear, it’s that they inspired their students. Whether that is an improvement to a young person’s character or a kindled aspiration to reach for a specific career, if a teacher knows that they made a difference in a child’s life, then it was all worth it.
In the case of Valley-born and raised Lauren Eggie from the SVRSS Class of 2008, a certain biennial Geography field trip inspired her into an academic field and a career that she enjoys today.
“I’m currently working at Imperial Oil as a geologist-in-training,” said Eggie, explaining that she cannot yet call herself a full-fledged geologist because she has yet to receive full accreditation from the professional governing board in Alberta known as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.
Although she currently resides in Calgary, her job takes her out to the Kearl Oilsands Project north of Fort McMurray.
“I go to the field relatively infrequently to discuss with the site geologist out there and see what they’re doing,” said Eggie. “Most of the time, I’m running our drilling program that we do every year, which I’m learning to do from my mentor.
“We have to look at the deposit every year, evaluate it, and create a mine plan for when we go in and actually excavate it.”
The promising career path that Eggie has ended up on started with a trip to Alberta with the SVRSS Geography class in her Grade 12 year.
“That was the reason why I really started to fall in love with geology,” said Eggie. “That class was really fantastic doing mineral identification and learning about faulting and plate tectonics.
“The trip really sealed the deal for me, because I found it so fascinating to be able to come out (to Alberta) and to understand the history of our planet.”
Eggie’s trip was the first year that Kevin Kirkpatrick took over for Serge Richer, the previous long-time leader and initiator of the educational expedition.
“The part I love about geology is that we can look at the landscape and understand how it got there, pre-humans,” said Eggie. “It’s definitely a puzzle. You are given a data suite from drilling holes in the ground every (for example) 125 metres. You look at these pinpricks in the ground and try to understand what was happening when that was actually deposited.
“It’s really interesting to me to be able to take all those little puzzle pieces and put them together into something that makes sense, and that’s something that you can put on a map, and understand. It’s one of the greatest puzzles, and I get to do it every day.”
Eggie’s passion for geology was sparked in high school, but grew and developed as she went through her two post-secondary degrees, first her Bachelor of Science in Geology, followed by her Masters of Science in Geology, both of which she studies at the University of Manitoba.
Her acumen for higher education has also served her well, receiving numerous awards and scholarships through her academic career.
“Going into my Masters degree, I was awarded a very large scholarship known as the Julie Payette Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada,” said Eggie.
Most recently, she received the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Thesis Award, which she received in December for her Masters Thesis that she finished as part of her degree completed in 2017.
Her Masters Thesis topic was on “Sedimentology and petroleum reservoir characteristics of the Mississippian Pekisko Formation, northern Alberta”.
“I was looking at Mississippian aged limestone from northern Alberta,” Eggie explained. “The ones I was looking at are fully saturated with oil, so that’s part of the reason why they’re of interest. I was trying to interpret the way it was deposited, and what controlled the deposits, to try to predict where the units are that have the best reservoir properties for being the oil and gas reservoir.
“I was also looking at what processes affected it after it was deposited so during the time it was buried, because there are a lot of different processes that can occur in carbonate rock, especially when you have hot fluid going through them; things can be dissolved out and minerals can be precipitated. Figuring out that story is a big part of understanding if it can produce oil.”
Of course, her education didn’t stop once she left university, as the learning is never over in a field of science.
“If you don’t keep learning as a geoscientist, you will lose your job, essentially, because you’re not going to keep up,” said Eggie. “Especially now that there is a huge component of technology in what we do.
“We do really advanced computer modelling for a lot of our work. It’s really interesting to be looking at new technologies, and trying to apply those technologies to do our job better.”
For those that may be interested in studying geology, the potential career paths go beyond the industry of oil and gas.
“There is the academic side where you could be a professor or an instructor at a university,” said Eggie. “But, there are also a lot of environmental jobs that are spun out of geology because they need to understand water movement and the subsurface.”
Various types of mines, including coal mines, diamond mines, and gold mines all also utilize geologists. Incorporating engineering with geology also leads into different sub-fields.
“Depending on what kind of project you are working on, (the amount of time in classrooms and laboratories) varies in some cases,” said Eggie. “In oil and gas, you are looking at sedimentary rock, spending a lot of time in labs looking at cores that have been drilled from all over the province.
“Whereas, if you are doing a more field based project, you could be up in the Northwest Territories for three months a year, or you could be around Churchill for six weeks doing work and having to have a polar bear monitor with you with a shotgun. So, there are definitely a lot of opportunities to do different things and get involved in that side.”
Eggie also recommended that if any student is thinking about studying geology, they should do it early on in their post-secondary career.
“I know a lot of people who ended up in geology after they had finished half of another degree, took a course in geology because they were interested in it, then switched over,” she said. “You also have to do it for the right reasons. A lot of people hear about the salary and get really interested in it based on that. But, it’s tough, and it’s a tough go right now (in the job market), with no guarantee that this will end. You have to want it and be passionate about it.
“As time goes on, you get really good at looking around. And, when you are in your landscape, you can understand where that came from, and what happened long before we ever stood on the earth. That kind of thing makes me feel part of something bigger.”

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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