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

Dominique Weis recognized as a UBC Great Supervisor

PCIGR Director Dominique Weis was recognized as a great supervisor by her PhD student Rhy McMillan during UBC’s second annual Great Supervisor Week (May 7-13, 2018). Graduate students were encouraged to give kudos to their graduate supervisors using #GreatSupervisor and #UBC on Twitter or Facebook.

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Dominique and Rhy then attended an event celebrating UBC’s great supervisors at Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on November 1, 2018.  Congratulations Dominique on this well-deserved honour!

Great supervisor Nov1

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: