My name is Grace Arabian and I am currently an undergraduate student in the Physical and Environmental Geography program at the University of Toronto. While I study hard during the year, my summer has allowed me to take my education beyond the books. Through funding from the Centre for Global Change Science (CGCS), I have had the opportunity to work as a research assistant with Professor Nick Eyles at UTSC.
My experience began in April, with an exciting field camp in Iceland, where I and 18 other students were able to study environmental science through hands on experience. The course was led by Dr. Eyles, Kathy Wallace, our Teaching Assistant, and Kristinn Gudjonsson, an Icelandic geologist. Located along the Mid Atlantic ridge, where the North American plate and the Eurasian plate are splitting apart, Iceland is the ideal place to study geology. We were able to study everything from geothermal energy, volcanoes, glaciers, to climate change. Each student was required to prepare a poster on a topic and present it in the field. My topic was on Icelandic earthquakes. It was great to be able to present to my peers about the South Iceland Seismic zone, an area with transform faults that can have earthquakes of magnitudes up to 7. The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with the perfect mix of education and adventure.
Next it was back to Canada, where I have spent most of my time working with Kathy Wallace, a Ph.D student here at UTSC. The basis of my summer project is to explore intracratonic earthquakes is Southern Ontario using a series of maps. Despite being in the centre of the Canadian craton, Ontario has been prone to major earthquakes in the past. Many people will remember the Val-de-Bois earthquake that occurred in June last year. The 5.0 magnitude earthquake was felt all along southern and eastern Ontario and into several of the US states. My project has been to investigate the relationship between the earthquake epicentres and the geologic history. Earthquakes felt today are a result of rifting that occurred millions of years ago, when the world's supercontinents Rodinia and Pangea broke up. Part of my summer research includes creating a scientific poster and presenting in front of my peers who are also participating in CGCS.
As a part of my learning process, in May I attended the annual conference held by the Geologic Association of Canada (GAC) at the University of Ottawa with Kathy. Kathy and I attended several sessions on various topics in geology, particularly focusing on the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben and earthquake hazards within the region.
Though my focus has been on earthquakes, in June I was able to stray a little from this research and work with Tom Meulendyk, a research assistant for Dr. Eyles. Tom's current project investigates the sand dunes at Long Point, Lake Erie. Tom and I went up to Long Point in mid-June and surveyed the dunes using ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The experience was great for learning how to use geophysical equipment, as well as getting hands on field experience. I was even lucky enough to spend my 21st birthday up by the beautiful beach and exploring the dunes.
Like every other undergraduate student, I am still unsure of where my studies will take me and what the future has in store. Working with Dr. Eyles has given me a truly unique summer experience, allowing me explore the landscapes of Iceland, begin my own research, attend a conference, and get hands on field experience.