"Courtney is a leader in Earth science communication in Canada. She has already developed a successful informal education program for youth and is advancing geoscience communication and engagement nationally through her work with the Canadian Federation for Earth Sciences. By engaging stakeholders and underserved communities, her research seeks to connect emerging practise with the theoretical frameworks of disciplines such as education and communication to ensure that geoscience communication is effective, engaging, relevant and accessible."

- Dr. Eileen van der Flier-Keller

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Student Profile: Courtney Onstad

August 23, 2021
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Earth Sciences doctoral student in the Faculty of Science

I completed my B.Sc. (Hons.) in 2018 and M.Sc. in 2021 in Geological Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. I completed two undergraduate honours projects focusing on a uranium deposit and Li-bearing pegmatites. I have worked on exploration programs in northern Saskatchewan and Nunavut and am a registered Geologist-In-Training in Saskatchewan. In 2018, I initiated a formal geology outreach program at the University of Saskatchewan and reached over 1000 K-12 students in the Saskatoon area. Volunteering has always been a strong passion and lead me to sit on many executive committees including the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, the Alberta Women’s Science Network, the International Conference on Arctic Margins, and the Western Inter-University Geoscience Conference.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I specifically came to SFU for my current supervisor. The discipline within the Earth sciences that I'm currently studying is a relatively new and niche subject. Dr. Eileen van der Flier-Keller is the only professor across Canada working in this space. From previous discussions with other researchers and faculty, I had also come to learn that the Earth sciences program at SFU was a strong department.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My research aims to promote, support, and advance geoscience communication in British Columbia. Geoscience communication is defined as any initiative which communicates the earth sciences to an audience of non-experts. I hope to achieve this by 1) creating geoscience educational resources for students and teachers; 2) designing exhibits and outreach resources to demonstrate geoscience concepts at museums, fairs, conferences, field trips to mine sites, heritage sites, and local geologic wonders; and 3) evaluating best practices using student’s, teacher’s and the general public’s feedback on educational resources to assess their impact. Having a society that understands basic geoscience ideas and how it relates to or impacts their everyday life is important to creating an informed and well-rounded community.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I have been amazed at the incredible diversity of opportunities for researchers at SFU and some of the unique classes offered. Already I've taken a course that questions the role of the university, which I think is very progressive of a university to offer. I am very impressed that SFU offers a science communication course, since most universities do not. I have also been able to take advantage of resources offered through the Knowledge Mobilization Hub on communicating research for policy.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

Graduate Dean's Entrance Scholarship. This award is the only reason I'm currently pursuing my studies at SFU. Typically, private for-profit companies or government departments/agencies fund Earth science research. However, since my specific discipline is quite niche, those opportunities were less likely.

 

Contact Courtney: courtney_onstad@sfu.ca

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