A piece of Ottawa’s geological history has home on campus

Beth McLarty Halfkenny, curator and outreach co-ordinator for the Department of Earth Sciences, is pictured here in front of the Steacie Building, with a grouping of rocks that weigh up to 10,000 pounds, and date back about 1-billion years. (Kristy Strauss Photo)

Beth McLarty Halfkenny has always wanted to display a piece of Ottawa’s geological history on the Carleton University campus.

Now, in front of the Steacie Building, the university community will find numerous pieces – including rocks that weigh up to 10,000 pounds, and date back about 1-billion years.

“I’ve been thinking, probably for as long as I’ve been here, about getting space on campus to highlight local geology. I wanted it to be used as general interest for the community, and as a teaching tool,” explains McLarty Halfkenny, curator and outreach co-ordinator for the Department of Earth Sciences.

About three years ago, she started working with the Ottawa-Gatineau Geoheritage Project – a group that promotes greater public knowledge and appreciation of geology in and around the National Capital Region – to excavate materials while Highway 417 was under construction.

Once the rocks were dug up, they found a permanent home on campus last year. McLarty Halfkenny says moving day was a group effort, and involved construction trucks, volunteers, campus staff and students.

“It was a big collaborative effort,” she says, adding that it felt great to see the final product. “It’s one of those things that you don’t think is really going to happen. The stars have to align, and it was pretty darn exciting.”

Rocks from the current display include local types such as late Cambrian sandstones from Kanata and a large Gatineau Precambrian boulder that was moved by glaciers 12,000 years ago.

The display also includes rocks from Carleton University’s own campus.

“When they did the excavation for the (River and Canal) buildings, I was given permission to bring a couple rocks up from the pit,” McLarty Halfkenny says. “In an urban setting, it’s hard to find out what’s happening under the surface.”

The geology on campus includes limestone, and the display will bring a mix of the area’s local rocks to students.

“We’re going to be able to bring first-year students to look at sedimentary structures, rock types, and how they’re weathered differently,” she says. “This is an opportunity to get up close and personal with these rocks.”

Next, McLarty Halfkenny would like to see signage on the rock display that explains each piece.

Additionally, she would like to dedicate the display to Alice Evelyn Wilson – the first female geologist/paleontologist in Canada who later taught at Carleton University.

McLarty Halfkenny hopes that the rock display will show the wider community a very important part of Ottawa’s history – especially through the earth sciences perspective.

“I see this installation as a way to engage the public, and show them why things are where they are,” she says. “When you look at plants and ecosystems, the reason why they’re there is because of the geology underneath.”


This entry was written by Kristy Strauss and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=11167

Kristy Strauss

By Kristy Strauss

Kristy Strauss graduated from Carleton's journalism program in 2009. She is a regular contributor to Carleton Now. She has worked as a reporter for the Kemptville Advance. She currently reports for EMC Ottawa South.

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