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Alumni Stories: Ashley Kirwan

Co-Founder of Orix Geoscience follows passion for a creative science leading to business success

An Interview with Laurentian Alumnus, Ashley Kirwan.

It all began with her passion to travel, hike and explore the outdoors. Leaving high school, Ashley was interested in a major that would allow her to work and travel so she enrolled in Geography at Laurentian University. After taking a first year Geology course as an elective, she knew there was no turning back.   

The professor of the first year Geology course at the time was Dr. David Pearson, the founding director of Science North in Sudbury. His passion, visual teaching style and devotion to geology was contagious making it easy for Ashley to become infatuated with the natural sciences.

 

“Everybody lives on earth but not everyone thinks about the ground beneath their feet.”

“My initial passion was to learn as much about geology as possible, since there are so many different areas to discover. One day you could be learning about plate tectonics, the next you are learning about the formation of the universe. Geology is so multifaceted– it sparked my interest right away. Everybody lives on earth but not everyone thinks about the ground beneath their feet. How did earth actually form and when? What is causing plates to move and how are volcanoes and valleys formed?"

“You’re seeing the world for the first time on a truly macroscopic scale.  You’re able to take a step back and look at the landscape through a different perspective. Geology is a creative science that requires problem solving, by taking observations and interpreting results. Seeing a rock feature that was formed millions of year ago and being able to make a case for how or why it formed could potentially point you in the right direction towards a prospective area for exploration.”

Discovering Orix

Sudbury is a hub for geoscience, surrounded by exploration and mining companies, geological government surveys, scientific research centers, and academic institutions. This provided Ashely with the opportunity to work during her studies. She gained experience while working full time in the summers and part time during the school year for the Ontario Geological Survey, Mirarco, and KGHM (formerly QuadraFNX and FNX Mining). By the time she graduated, it was a very natural transition into the workforce.

“My first day at work was no different than my last day as a student. I was already fully functioning as a junior geologist.”

Upon graduation Ashley continued to work on exploration and mining projects in Sudbury and Nevada. After 6 years of working for junior and mid-tier companies she decided it was time for a change. Ashley and her business partner decided to start something new and incorporated Orix Geoscience Inc. in May of 2012. The initial team of three worked from coffee shops building their reputation with junior exploration companies based on a creative business model. 

 

Building a company that stemmed from her creative passion  

“As a geological group we support a multitude of different clients. It allows our team to stay engaged by being exposed to different commodities and project objectives. Projects range from looking through historical geologic documents, going out in the field to map and log core, and interpreting results for continued target generation. It’s a very multifaceted approach which is very similar to what I liked about Laurentian.”

Her passion for the creative science lead Ashley and her business partner to establish a niche in the industry where they bridge the gap between historical geological methods and computer modelling, going from paper to pencil and doing interpretations by hand, to then integrating them with high caliber 3D software.

“We actually take out a pencil and draw our ideas, interpret the geology and then we integrate data into 3D computer programs for visualization and modelling”

“There is something lost with not using paper and pencils. We try and bridge that gap between hand drawn interpretations and highly efficient 3D software and that’s where the creative science comes in.”

 

Partnerships and an efficient business model

Orix Geoscience’s objective is to help clients strategically explore their properties to find new prospective areas or expand a resource they may already have. They do this by making observations from large historical datasets, creating GIS compilations, interpreting geology, ground truthing through mapping, and executing drill programs. They offer a variety of services to reach their clients goals. 

“We’ve built a really efficient process to be able to go through a large amount of information whether it’s paper or digital. We break it down so we can make relevant observations and recommendations to then follow through with exploration. We work with our clients internal teams and have built strong collaborative partnerships.”

 

Emulating core values to build a strong team of geologists

“I am a proud Laurentian alumnus. Every single professor at the Harquail School of Earth Sciences is passionate about what they teach and all have a supportive nature challenging students to reach their full potential. They’re extremely creative and all have their own style of teaching. With small class sizes, you get to know your professors and peers very well creating an open environment for learning. It becomes a family.”

“Every geologist we have hired from Laurentian is challenged to recognize their potential. The school produces highly motivated geologists ready to go above and beyond. This is something we live and breathe at Orix. We are always looking for our employees to do their best while also emulating a supportive environment.  We hold a very high standard for our quality of work and workplace culture. We hold leadership sessions, employee and industry events, and we make sure to celebrate our employee’s achievements throughout the year. It’s a very family oriented business.”

Orix now has 3 offices in Sudbury, Winnipeg, and Toronto, and has 63 full time employees. They have worked with major mining and junior exploration companies throughout Canada, the USA, Africa and Ecuador. 

 

"In first year I didn’t even know geology was an option. Try to not become too worried about having to know your exact career path right away. Try taking a variety of elective courses to get a good sense of your options, from arts to science. If you’re a creative and outdoors person who is also interested in science, take the first year geology course, you never know what path it may take you on.” - Ashley Kirwan