MP Peter Kent speaks with Carleton delegates Richard Ernst and Sarah Davey at the Research Matters Pop-Up on Parliament Hill, May 18, 2016

Carleton Experts Talk Volcanic Events at Parliament

By Kirsten Fenn

Two Carleton University Department of Earth Sciences experts were on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, May 18 to explain giant volcanic events to MPs during a pop-up university research fair.

Prof. Richard Ernst and PhD student Sarah Davey spoke about the climatic and economic implications of the events, also known as Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs).

LIPs occur every 20 to 30 million years, causing global warming or cooling, mass extinction, and even the dismantling of continents, said Ernst, adding that Canada is made of pieces of land that have broken apart over time because of these events.

“It’s really important to understand geology because it tells us the history of climatic change on the Earth,” he said.

The Parliament Hill Pop-Up Research Park is hosted by Research Matters, a joint project between 21 Ontario universities to make research accessible to the public. The goal is to teach government officials about the work students and community partners are doing to improve the way Canadians live, and to educate the public about how research impacts their lives.

Davey said the work she and Ernst are doing can help us reconstruct what Earth used to look like and understand how its tectonics change over time.

LIPs have also contributed to Canada’s large stores of “valuable minerals like gold [and] nickel and copper and a lot of other important metals,” Davey said, something that capture the attention of MPs.

Some had “never heard of Large Igneous Provinces and the impact these events have had on shaping the Earth,” she said.

Ernst said the event presented “a chance to talk in a very friendly, open way with members of Parliament about something we love to talk about: our research.”

“It was an honour to represent Carleton in that way and . . . we had MPs who were fascinated by what we were talking about.”