Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX master's student in Spain researching ore deposits, supercontinent formation

March 22nd, 2017
Lori Paslawski

It’s been a particularly interesting and educational few months for StFX earth sciences master's student Lori Paslawski who has been in Spain since January working on a project in collaboration with the Spanish Geologic Survey.

Ms. Paslawski is researching the formation of the ancient supercontinent Pangea, the potential geologic linkage between Nova Scotia and Spain, and how this supercontinent formation resulted in some of the world's most prolific copper, lead and zinc deposits.

The project is an extension of her supervisor, StFX earth sciences professor Dr. James Braid’s ongoing research in Spain looking at ancient mountain building processes.

“In simple terms, my project is focused on aiming to understand the formation of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, which is a region in Spain and Portugal that hosts massive ore deposits, and its relationship to southern Nova Scotia,” says Ms. Paslawski of Beaverlodge, AB, who graduated from StFX last year with an undergraduate degree in earth science.

“Current plate tectonic models show that these regions were spatially juxtaposed during the last supercontinent Pangea, so we want to understand the geodynamic history of these regions, with relation to one another.

“During my time in Spain I have been examining field relationships between various volcanic, plutonic, and sedimentary rocks in order to understand how the region formed. I have also been collecting samples which will be used for age-dating (geochronology), and geochemistry, which will aid in the interpretation of the field relationships.”

Ms. Paslawski says this type of project is interesting because it is like trying to solve a puzzle when you are only given a few pieces.

“I have to come up with a geological interpretation based on my own observations, limited quantitative data, and previously conducted research in the area. I think the nature of geologic research is that you only ever see 'part of the story,' and have to come up with a viable interpretation based on that. This makes it interesting, but also difficult.”

She will be in Spain about three months, time which includes field work, processing her samples at a university in Madrid, and some travelling.

“The project was initially designed by my supervisor Dr. Braid in collaboration with some geologists from the Spanish Geologic Survey. However, the focus of the project has changed quite a bit since I started, based on what has interested me the most in the field. It has developed much more into my project, which is exciting,” she says.

Dr. Braid says Spain is an ideal location to study these processes because the ancient stitch between North America and Europe is preserved today where a piece of ancient North America remained attached to Spain. Plate reconstructions also show that when Pangea was amalgamated, Nova Scotia was likely adjacent to Iberia, so the geologic story recorded in Spain during the amalgamation of Pangea complements the story recorded in some rocks that make up Nova Scotia.

The data collected will contribute to a better understanding of supercontinent formation processes and the vital role they play in the development of economic ore deposits, he says.

Funding for the work comes via Dr. Braid’s NSERC Discovery Grant and the Spanish Geologic Survey.

“Lori was one of the strongest undergraduate students I have seen during my tenure at StFX. She has an inquisitive and adventurous spirit, attributes that are vital in completing a geoscience M.Sc., especially when fieldwork is overseas,” Dr. Braid says.

“I knew Lori would be a perfect fit for this project and was delighted when she agreed to continue her presence at StFX after her B.Sc. Her project is ambitious, involves integrating multiple datasets with on-the-ground observations, working on an international scale and should provide insight into ancient processes that were key in our planet's evolution and providing resources that we use today.”

Ms. Paslawski says joining the StFX Earth Science Department has opened many opportunities for her, ranging from work experience to travelling to the chance to further her education by completing a master’s degree. She says the atmosphere within the department encourages collaboration, teamwork, and the development of relationships between faculty and students, including invaluable mentorship from faculty members. 



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