Geology

Geology is the study of planet Earth – the materials of which it is made, the processes that modify these materials, the resulting products, and the history of the planet and the life forms it has sustained since its formation c. 4.55 billion years ago. Geology considers the physical forces that act on the Earth, the chemistry of its constituent materials including rocks, minerals, soils and water, and the biology of its past inhabitants as revealed by fossils. The knowledge thus obtained is placed in the service of humanity – to aid in the discovery of energy and mineral resources in the Earth’s crust, to identify and optimize land usage for agriculture and other activities, to identify geologically stable sites for major structures/development, and to inform society concerning the hazards associated with living on an active, dynamic planet.

Fossilized, dinner-plate size, algal mounds (stromatolites) of the Rocknest Formation

Fossilized, dinner-plate size, algal mounds (stromatolites) of the Rocknest Formation as exposed at Port Epworth (Nunavut), western Canadian Arctic. The dolomitic strata of the Rocknest Formation are between 1970 – 1880 million years old. Stromatolites, here preserved in life position, constitute some of the earliest traces of life itself on Planet Earth. Photo by Marc St-Onge (GSC).

Modern geology stems from the 19th Century “Scottish School of Geology”, with the physician, geologist, and gentleman scholar, James Hutton (1726-1797) as its founder. Early adherents including Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) advocating the “present is key to the past” concept (uniformitarianism) and William “Strata” Smith (1769-1839) producing the world’s first nationwide geological map – the “map that changed the world” – were contemporaries of the Canadian Sir William Logan (1798-1875), founder and first Director of the Geological Survey of Canada. During the latter part of the 20th Century a key new paradigm – plate tectonics – revolutionized geology by providing an explanation for the longevity of continental crust, the transitory nature of oceans, and the origin of mountains both young and old. Canadians such as Tuzo Wilson (1908-1993) and Paul Hoffman (b. 1941) contributed much to the development and application of plate tectonics to the global rock record.

Folded and fault-imbricated light-coloured crystalline gneiss and rusty coloured sedimentary and volcanic strata

Folded and fault-imbricated light-coloured crystalline gneiss and rusty coloured sedimentary and volcanic strata, Ptarmigan Fiord (Baffin Island, Nunavut), eastern Canadian Arctic. Height of fiord wall is ca. 450 metres. The crystalline gneiss is between 2.92 – 2.70 billion years old and the younger sedimentary and volcanic units between 1.96 – 1.89 billion years old. Faulting of crystalline rocks with sedimentary and volcanic strata is typical of what can be documented in the deeper levels (roots) of mountain belts, in this case the Himalayan-scale Trans-Hudson orogen of North America. Photo by Marc St-Onge (GSC).

Today geology spans a wide spectrum of sub-disciplines that are addressing issues ranging from the origin and history of supercontinents, the dynamics of ancient and recent glaciations, the evolution of mineral and energy systems, to environmental questions associated with natural resource development. Clearly not only is the science of geology exciting, it is mission-critical.

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Tools and Applications

  • Canadian Geochronology Knowledgebase
    The CGKB compilation represents publicly available geochronological information for Canada. The data is compiled from federal, provincial and territorial government publications and reports, university theses, books and journal articles.
  • Expedition Database (ED)
    The Expedition Database (ED) contains information (metadata) and data related to marine and coastal field surveys conducted by or on behalf of the Geological Survey of Canada (Atlantic and Pacific). ED is a source of information on "Stations" where geological samples such as piston cores, grab samples, bottom photography were collected.
  • Geoscience Data Repository for Geophysical Data
    (Borehole, Geochemistry, Gravity, Magnetic-Radiometric-EM, Seismic and Magnetotelluric)
    This site allows for you to discover, view and download, free of charge, the following information using these services: airborne and marine geophysics, gravity data, borehole geophysics, and seismic and magnetotelluric data.
  • Lexicon of Canadian Geological Names on-line
    This site provides information about over 12,000 geological names used in Canada. The names are from several sources, now stored in a single database. The names are of two types: lithological units and chronological units. The lexicon is a work in progress; some names remain to be added, others are incompletely described, and many descriptions require updating.

Federal Programs

  • GEM : Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals
    The Government of Canada is investing $100 million over five years (2008-2013) in its new Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program to provide the geoscience knowledge necessary for private sector exploration companies to guide investment decision, as well as for government to inform land-use decisions such as the creation of parks and other protected areas.
  • Targeted Geoscience Initiative 4: Increasing Deep Exploration Effectiveness
    The Targeted Geoscience Initiative 4 (TGI-4) is a collaborative federal geoscience program that provides industry with the next generation of geoscience knowledge and innovative techniques, which will result in more effective targeting of buried mineral deposits.