2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 115-8
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


WULFF, Andrew H., Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #31066, Bowling Green, KY 42101-1066

“How do I start” may be the first question not only for undergraduate students interesting in research in economic geology, but also for faculty members. The broad field of economic geology encompasses exploration (field, lab, basic and technology-aided mapping), evaluation of deposits, mining and mine construction, acid drainage and other environmental aspects. Courses in mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, structural geology, hydrology, and geophysics all may be used as portals to research, starting with an initial, intentional focus on their relationship to economic geology.

Students at Western Kentucky University take a course in Analytical Techniques early in their major course sequence, which includes training in geochemical (XRF, SEM-EDS), mineralogical (Raman Microscopy, XRD), and petrological (PLM, reflected light microscopy) techniques. Samples of ore deposits provide interesting mineral assemblages, often with obvious uses and histories that captivate students both from cultural and geological contexts. Alumni have willingly sent suites of rocks (and stories) from favorite ore locales. These projects may be continued in later courses (e.g. Mineralogy, Petrology).

Consideration of the types and grades of deposits provides a pragmatic context for choice of exploration and analytical techniques. Applications of remote sensing and computer-based modelling to exploration and exploitation of actual resources are, in some ways, more “real” than more theoretical modelling. Projects may take the form of a team of scientists, each with their own focus or analysis to complete. Environmental questions, water issues, and even accounting and productivity may be additional aspects to the project. Skills developed in the research process may be immediately used in entry-level and higher positions. Isotope and fluid inclusion analyses (inclusions and matrix) require access to more involved instrumentation, but sample preparation is often straight forward. Software is available that facilitates modelling of deposits and mine design and construction. Often, research may be initiated by simply addressing the question of how research in economic geology is any different from research in mineralogy, petrology, or structural geology.