Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences,
The University of British Columbia

Current News

Dominique Weis elected AGU VGP President-elect!

DSC_4608Congratulations to PCIGR Director Dominique Weis, who was elected President-elect of the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology (VGP) Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The Leadership Development/Governance Committee recently announced the results of the 2018 AGU Elections. Newly-elected leaders begin their term on 1 January 2019 and serve a 2-year term.

The chemical and physical evolution of rocks and minerals, particularly igneous and metamorphic rocks, falls under the purview of the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology Section. Because of the Section’s interest in studying and mitigating the hazards of volcanoes, its work has a direct bearing on public safety and the preservation of life. VGP overlaps strongly with other Sections, such as Planetary Sciences, Tectonophysics, Seismology, Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism, and Hydrology.

PCIGR research supports new theory on how Earth’s subduction zones formed

Subduction zones are unique to Earth and fundamental in its evolution, yet we still know little about the causes and mechanisms of their initiation. A new study, co-authored by PCIGR researcher Matthijs Smit and published this week in Nature Geoscience, investigates a fossil system, the archetypal Semail Ophiolite of Oman, which exposes both lower and upper plate relics of incipient subduction stages.

Lu–Hf and U–Pb geochronology of the lower and upper plate material indicate that initial burial of the lower plate occurred before 104 million years ago, predating upper plate extension and the formation of Semail oceanic crust by at least 8 Myr. Such a time lag reveals far-field forced subduction initiation and provides unequivocal, direct evidence for a subduction initiation mechanism in the geological record.

Pressure–temperature–time evolution of the Semail metamorphic sole.
Pressure–temperature–time evolution of the Semail metamorphic sole. [Fig. 6 of Guilmette et al., 2018]

Guilmette C., Smit M.A., van Hinsbergen D.J.J., Gürer D., Corfu F., Charette B., Maffione M., Rabeau O., and Savard D. 2018. Forced subduction initiation recorded in the sole and crust of the Semail Ophiolite of Oman. Nature Geoscience, 11, 688–695. 

Nature Geoscience article: Forced subduction initiation recorded in the sole and crust of the Semail Ophiolite of Oman

UBC Science story: New theory on how Earth’s subduction zones formed

PCIGR PhD Student Evelyn Freres Wins RFG 2018 Data Speaks! Competition

Congratulations to Evelyn Freres who won the Data Speaks! storytelling competition at the Resources for Future Generations (RFG) conference in Vancouver this week.

Students were challenged to reimagine their research with a non-specialist audience in mind, with the goal of educating their audience about what they do, why they do it, and why it’s important.

The top 40 candidates were then invited to a 5-minute video interview during the conference.  Students were judged on the accessibility of their research to a non-specialist audience, their reasoning and their creativity.


Evelyn’s original abstract title “Can you really trust your neodymium isotopic ratios?” was revised to “Do you trust your data?”  In her video, Evelyn explains that her research aims to discover the limitations to acquiring precise and accurate data, which will in turn help other researchers “understand our planet in the best possible way.”

Click here to watch Evelyn’s award-winning video:

Evelyn was subsequently interviewed by the competition host Seequent, a global leader in the development of visual data science software and collaborative technologies.

In this article, Evelyn takes us through her scientific journey, from digging up her grandmother’s backyard in Brazil to analysing neodymium isotopes on a mass spectrometer in Canada:

Another PGICR PhD student Rhy McMillan was also selected as one of the top 40 candidates.  Rhy’s original abstract title “Splitting Obsidians: Striking a Balance Between Precision, Accuracy, and Preservation with SS-LA-ICP-MS during Obsidian Belonging Provenance Studies” was revised to “Increasing our Confidence in the Interpretation or the Identification of the Geologic Source of Obsidian Belongings Found at Archeological Sites.”

Click here to watch Rhy’s video:

PCIGR Contributes 20 Presentations at RFG 2018

PCIGR students, staff and faculty are contributing an impressive 20 abstracts at the Resources for Future Generations (RFG) conference in Vancouver BC from June 16-21, 2018.

The team will be presenting 2 posters and 18 talks, including a Thematic Keynote (The Earth Through Time) given by PCIGR Director Dominique Weis.  PCIGR research presented at the conference spans billions of years, from the Earth’s earliest continents to present-day metal concentrations in honey and salmon.

RFG 2018 is the first international conference dedicated to the availability and delivery of resources to sustain future generations. The conference will examine three critical resources – energy, minerals and water – in the context of the earth, environment, society, and the needs and roles of future generations.

Conference Website:


PCIGR Partners with UBC Research Cluster to Explore Indigenous History and Environments


PCIGR is actively involved in the development of a pioneering new research excellence cluster at UBC: Indigenous/Science: Partnerships in the Exploration of History and Environments.  The cluster was funded through the Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters 2017 competition, which provides seed funding to enable the formation and growth of interdisciplinary networks of researchers focused on solving key challenges facing society that transcend the traditional boundaries associated with departments, institutions, and funding agencies.

The Indigenous/Science research cluster seeks to catalyze a conversation and study of Indigeneity and science, with specific application to understanding Indigenous history and the environment via both empirical evidence and critical social theory.  Their focus includes the Indigenous past, its material and historical manifestations, the environmental context within which it occurred, and the study of this past.

The cluster includes UBC researchers from four faculties and six departments/schools, as well as researchers from the University of Victoria and institutions in the United States, Belgium, and France. They are working with representatives of several First Nations to develop partnerships that will mobilize their research capacities to address issues that are relevant to the communities.

PCIGR Director Dominique Weis is one of three co-PIs leading the initiative, PCIGR Research Associate Marg Amini is a researcher in the Materials Analysis Group, and PCIGR PhD student Rhy McMillan is part of the core planning team.  PCIGR is one of the cluster’s key analytical facilities and will play a large role in the Materials Analysis Group, tasked with producing quantitative data for the project.  The laboratory will provide trace element, radiogenic isotope and stable isotope analyses and help answer questions such as: What is the original context or ‘source’ of artifacts, bones, teeth? Where did X come from? When did X happen? What geologic/biologic processes caused the observed chemical, isotopic, and structural characteristics?

PCIGR cluster video:

Indigenous/Science cluster website: