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Interactive display brings 3 billion years of geologic history to U of T Scarborough

Geology Professor Nick Eyles helped create Rock Walk, a new interactive display that brings 3 billion years geological history to U of T Scarborough. (Photo by Ken Jones)

A new interactive display called Rock Walk is bringing 3 billion years of Ontario’s geological history to life at the University of Toronto Scarborough. 

The display, which is the brainchild of Geology Professor Nick Eyles, includes 38 rocks in a landscaped display as well as signs with information for each.

“In many ways Canada is all about geology,” says Eyles, who has hosted several geology documentaries for the CBC and has received awards for communicating science to the public.

“Geology controls the landscape and influences a lot of economic activity across the country,” he says. “There’s also a very long geological history in Ontario and Rock Walk is a reminder of that right here on campus.” 

The oldest rock, a piece of Granite from northwestern Ontario, is 2.9 billion years old, while the youngest, a piece of limestone from the Niagara Escarpment, is about 400 million years old. The display features rock samples from across Ontario, including Bancroft, Peterborough, Niagara, Parry Sound, Elliot Lake and Scarborough. The heaviest sample is 3.5 tonnes, which is roughly 7,700 pounds or 3,493 kilograms.  

HGH Granite, a company based out of Hamilton that specializes in custom stonework, transported the rocks and helped arrange them on campus. Eyles and his grad students also travelled around campus to pick out rocks that had been deposited from ancient retreating ice sheets.

Eyles adds that most of the rock in Ontario are metamorphic, which are billions of years old and have been altered by exposure to intense heat and pressure. 

“These rocks are a lot different from how they started out, so we thought this was a good metaphor for what students experience when they come to university – they’re very different people when they leave,” he says.

As a legacy of U of T Scarborough’s 50th Anniversary celebration, Rock Walk is one of many projects to receive funding aimed at celebrating the unique spirit of the campus and inspiring future generations of students.

Lina Arbelaez-Moreno, a master’s student who helped with the project, hopes the display can act not only as a welcoming entrance to the campus, but a place where people can relax and reflect on the history of the province that predates humanity. 

“There’s an artistry to the rocks,” she says. “Not only are the shapes and textures visually attractive, it can draw people in to learn more about geology.” 


© University of Toronto Scarborough