The UNB Earth Sciences faculty and affiliated adjuncts carry out a wide variety of fundamental earth sciences research supported by comprehensive technical and infrastructure support maintained by UNB Earth Sciences, other UNB Facilities on campus, and in collaboration with Provincial and Government Survey organizations and nearby universities.
Ore deposits geology
Ore Deposits Geology (Economic Geology) research at UNB is focused on the genesis of a variety of mineral deposits-forming systems, including their implications for exploration and resource evaluation. The research has been on orogenic gold deposits, Cu-Mo-Au porphyry deposits, granophile mineral deposits (Sn-W-Mo-Bi, Li-Cs-Ta, and REE-Y-Nb - critical metals), volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits, and skarn and related IOCG systems. Evaluating the role of fractionating high level magmatic systems in the genesis of these various ore-forming systems is an important direction in our group's research, i.e., the magmatic hydrothermal setting. Our focus in dissecting these complex systems is to use a wide range on field through to microanalytical techniques coupled with a detailed knowledge of the physical and chemical aspects of evolved magma-fluid and fluid-rock reactions.
The geometry, kinematics and processes of Earth deformation form the core of research in structural geology and tectonics. In combination with field based studies, special emphasis is placed on a process-oriented (materials science) approach through the application of electron-beam techniques to microstructural and microchemical studies. Transmission electron microscopy forms a significant component of the research. Fault zones commonly act as study areas, including the Minas fault zone, Nova Scotia, and the Denali fault system, Yukon. Microstructural studies from various fault zone drilling projects currently include the San Andreas Fault (SAFOD), the Alpine Fault, NZ (DFDP) and plate margin megathrust of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake, Japan (JFAST).
The structural geology of impact craters is a strong area of expertise at UNB, wherein very high strain rate processes prevail. This includes opportunities for field-based studies on Earth, investigating planetary tectonics beyond Earth via remote sensing technologies, and appraising microscopic processes via analytical electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. Understanding faulting, folding and deformation in seconds, in some cases involving large displacements (kilometers) provide exciting topics for research.
Metamorphic petrology/isotope geology
Research carried out on metamorphic rocks aims to reconstruct the evolution of ancient mountain building events by examining the textural, geochemical, crystal-chemical and isotopic systematics of major and accessory minerals. Projects typically involve combinations of field and laboratory investigations supported by micro-analytical measurements to determine paleopressure and paleotemperature conditions as well as fluid chemistry, and assessments of open- and close-system behaviour. Studies of trace-element zoning in metamorphic porphyroblasts are combined with detailed in-situ U-Pb geochronology by LA-ICP-MS, to unravel the effects of episodic metamorphism and deformation. Project areas may include Precambrian and Phanerozoic orogenic belts, contact aureoles, and metamorphosed ore deposits. This research is supported by the use of long-lived radiogenic isotopes (Nd, Hf, Sr) as tracers of crustal residence and crustal affinity. Stable isotopes (O,S, H) are additionally used as thermometers and tracers of fluid sources or fluid mixing.
The broad research focus is on the structures (including trace fossils), stratigraphy and inorganic geochemistry of sedimentary rocks. Recurrent themes involve the analyses of strata from the Silurian to Carboniferous of the Maritimes and the Cenozoic of Utah and the Caribbean. Recent projects have focused on (bulk-rock) chemostratigraphy and diagenesis of fine-grained strata with the purpose of identifying trace (toxic) components of source rocks and improving their stratigraphic correlation in petroleum basins.
Applied glacial geology/Quaternary geology
The understanding of surficial processes is paramount to recognition of potential hazards, site evalution and exploration for buried mineral and industrial resources. Research in these areas has been focused on dynamics of glacier systems and landscape formation. Recent research activities have included: evaluation of geochemical content of urban soils; engineering assessment of stratigraphic architecture; methods of wetland delineation and assessment; bathymetric research in the Bay of Fundy; geoarchaeology; the geological evolution of the Saint John River and Grand Lake drainage systems; differentiation of glacigenic and earthquake deformation; and research on historical earthquakes and landslide events with emphasis on delineation of processes and potential future occurrences. Future projects may include: delineation of buried valley systems, saline intrusion, glacial landscape and bathymetry of submerged coastal areas, prospecting in glaciated regions, and sediment and landform genesis.
Aqueous, Environmental, and Hydrothermal Geochemistry
This field of research is a compenent of other fields of research on water (fluid) and their interactions with soil, till, and rock that range widely in temperature and pressure from ambient conditions to high temperature systems. In the past, and to some extent the present, research involves either environmental geochemistry research or ore deposits research (hydrothermal), for systems formed by high temperature fluids. Environmental Geoscience/Geochemistry research has ranged from contaminant transport, acid rock drainage, mine waste drainage, water quality aspects, through to land fill site waste disposal to nuclear waste disposal issues of ground water research, including flow and protection of unconfined aquifers. This is supported by courses like natural waters and exploration geochemistry at the undergraduate level and many courses available at the graduate level. Some aspects of baseline geochemical studies are related to both fields of research. In addition, Medical Geology is a growing field, due to the fundamental nature of how mineralized rocks in the natural environment are incorporated into the food chain, with resultant health effects. Anthropogenic issues are obviously a part of any of these research fields. The facilities here within Earth Sciences (Geology) include a geochemistry wet labe, Inductively Coupled Plasma - Emission Spectrometry, and Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry.
Igneous petrology/experimental petrology
The mineralogy and petrology of impact melt sheets generated by the collision of asteroids or comets with planetary surfaces is a major area of interest within the impact cratering group. We are interested in understanding superheating, assimilation processes, fractionation and links to target geology as source rocks for the melting process. In addition, frictional melting is studied extensively, via both field studies and laboratory experiments.
Hypabyssal felsic magmatic systems closely related to various types of mineralization are examined in terms of source fertility, emplacement and crystallization dynamics, as well as related fractionation and volatile phase exsolution.
Applied Geophysics/Rock Physics
Planetary geology/hypervelocity impact
The Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) opened in April, 2001 and is the first facility of its kind in Canada. PASSC is a growing group of scientists and engineers involved in researching planetary geology, space- and impact-related technologies and their associated applications. Currently PASSC comprises a full-time staff of 9 (including technical and senior research scientist postions), 6 graduate students and typically 1-4 undergraduates under the Directorship of Dr. John Spray. PASSC works directly with world-renowned space agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), providing direct involvement with two missions to Mars (Mars Science Laboratory and ExoMars) and Earth analogue studies. The core of PASSC is its research program. The goal is to provide and realize world class training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and senior researchers in science and engineering. Our main areas of activity are investigating planetary materials (including Earth, lunar, martian and asteroid materials), planetary landforms and cratering and shock processes. PASSC hosts Canada's Regional Planetary Image Facility and maintains the Earth Impact Database (EID). In addition to investigating natural impact-related phenomena, PASSC operates a ballistics facility that can accelerate projectiles from subsonic through to hypersonic speeds under controlled, reproducible conditions. The High-speed Impact Research and Technology (HIRT) facility is an off-campus PASSC R&D unit that is operated by a team of engineers and technicians. This facility performs impact tests for academic, aerospace, defence and space applications, and also provides high-fidelity computer simulations of high-speed impact damage and shock effects.