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Students gain a geological view

Prof. Nick Eyles talks with students on the geologic road trip. (Photo by Ken Jones)

About 40 first-year students boarded a bus at UTSC at the end of March for a weekend field trip across Southern Ontario, led by Nick Eyles, professor of geology and environmental science. I was a teaching assistant on the trip.

The trip was part of UTSC’s iExplore program, a series of classes and activities which give students a chance to get experience in a field of study they might be interested in. This particular trip was intended to give students hands-on opportunity to experience and learn about the local environment.

We loaded onto the bus on Saturday morning and began our trip with a short drive to the Scarborough Bluffs, the dramatic escarpment along the edge of Lake Ontario. Many students exclaimed that they had no idea such a unique environment was so close to our campus. Our drive continued through the urban areas of the City of Toronto as we discussed issues of industrial developments and contaminated sites.

Passing through Hamilton we stopped at the Jolley Cut, a dramatic road cut that slices through 25 meters of the Niagara Escarpment exposing rocks over 400 million years old. From the top of the escarpment we were also able to look down to Hamilton Harbour and discuss environmental issues confronting the Great Lakes.

The rest of the trip included a varied itinerary. We traveled to an abandoned quarry near the shores of Lake Erie, where students enjoyed the opportunity to hunt for fossils. Of course we visited Niagara Falls and discussed the geological forces that created them.

The highlight of our trip was a hike through the woods down to the bottom of Niagara Gorge. Although the weather was a bit temperamental at times, it certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm and interest.

This was a great opportunity for us to share our passion about environmental science and geoscience with our students. Judging by some of the comments I received, the trip changed the way many of the students now look at the world around them. One student told me that simply driving down the highway is a different experience for him as he notices geological features he wouldn’t have before. Another student took her family back to Niagara Falls and explained what she had learned on the course.

Many students said that the trip made them consider studying environmental science and geology, and some are looking to future courses and opportunities to experience field trips and Environmental Science Field Camps to such diverse places as Costa Rica and Iceland.

Kathy Wallace is a PhD student and teaching assistant.

© University of Toronto Scarborough