Geologist in Residence success

Pukaskwa National Park

By Carly Robillard

In August 2023, Pukaskwa National Park hosted geology professor Dr. Joanna Hodge for two weeks as part of a Geologist in Residence program. This second year of the program again provided learning opportunities for visitors and staff to appreciate the unique rock formations along the north shore of Lake Superior.

While there are many places across Canada where world-class geological examples show the formation of the earth’s crust, it requires someone with a strong geological background to communicate and illustrate those stories. Thanks to our proud partners at the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES), the idea for a Geologist in Residence program at Pukaskwa National Park was born – bringing together geological formations, geological knowledge, and good storytelling.

When CFES put out a call to develop a “Geologists in Parks” pilot project, Pukaskwa answered the call, and in August of 2022 we took our first shot at offering a Geologist in Residence program together. That first pilot, run with Dr. Victoria Stinson, was a big success, and we decided to keep building on the relationship and lessons learned for a second run in 2023.

For two weeks, Dr. Joanna Hodge camped, hiked, marvelled, and worked with Parks Canada staff at Pukaskwa to create learning opportunities for both park staff and visitors. Together, we offered two drop-in sessions, two guided hikes, and two staff presentations. In total, over 60 participants came out to talk about, learn from, and gain an appreciation of, the geology of Pukaskwa with the help of a professional geologist.

As project coordinator for the program, I enjoyed Joanna’s ability to explain the ways in which the geology of Pukaskwa National Park determines which living things end up making a home here. From the mosses that hide in the cool shade of the eroded dykes, to the unique arctic saxifrage soaking up calcium in the rock of the cliffsides, to the clear green waters that are home to the especially-large brook trout known as coasters; the rocks of Pukaskwa are a big reason why certain species are here. Around every corner, there was a new interaction between rock and ecosystem that made me realize how much I take the earth under my feet for granted.

I particularly enjoyed using a double-stuffed Oreo to visualize tectonic plate interactions before eating it!

The intention behind the collaboration with CFES was to run a pilot program that could be transferred to other Parks Canada sites. Now that we have two successful years of solid programing under our belt, we look forward to encouraging other national parks to host a Geologist in Residence. I look forward to sharing the lessons learned with interested teams, and I hope more visitors will be able to participate in one of these learning activities on future journeys across the country.


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