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Extensive contributions to Precambrian geology earn Laurentian professor national medal

In the summer, Dr. Elizabeth C. Turner is usually busy with fieldwork in remote regions ranging from Canada's northern Baffin Island to the Central African copper belt. It's been this way for decades, she says. This summer, Turner is instead in her research lab, analyzing Congolese samples and writing up findings at Laurentian University's Harquail School of Earth Sciences. She's taking a moment to reflect on her most recent accolade, the Geological Association of Canada (GAC) Howard Street Robinson Medal, which recognizes "a respected and well-spoken geoscientist who will further the scientific study of Precambrian geology." 

Reacting to the recognition, Turner said, "it was a pleasant surprise." Driven by scientific curiosity and a love of fieldwork, Dr. Turner seldom stops looking for evidence to advance knowledge of the geologic time scale and Earth's evolution. 

For thirty years, the preeminent geologist has focused on the Precambrian eon, a vast geologic time-span between 541 million and 4 billion years ago. During this time, sedimentary rock recorded evidence of the planet’s evolving chemical and biological status.

“These signs give us a glimpse into how life on the planet evolved and clues that can lead to finding valuable ore deposits,” Turner explained. It takes a lot of time and experience to become proficient with fieldwork, but for Turner, it’s addictive. “I’ve been spending 2-4 months a year doing fieldwork in sedimentary basins in northern Canada since 1990.” Turner's contributions to the field range from helping to discover the earliest forms of fungi in Canada's Arctic to fostering an international research group that's uncovering the development of Precambrian basins and their economic potential. 

According to GAC, Dr. Turner's "expertise is founded in 30 years of remote mapping and stratigraphic work in Canada's north, and in detailed microanalytical studies of depositionally and diagenetically complex sedimentary rocks." Her areas of focus in the Precambrian eon include the Neoproterozoic of the Mackenzie Mountains (NWT), the Mesoproterozoic of northern Baffin Island (Nunavut), and recently, Neoproterozoic puzzles in the Central African copper belt (Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia). 

Dr. Turner has been teaching and supervising Laurentian University geology students since 2005, leading the next generation of researchers and geoscientists. 

Dr. Douglas K. Tinkham is Director of the Harquail School of Earth Sciences at Laurentian. He said that "we're pleased that Dr. Turner received this national recognition from the Geological Association of Canada, which affirms Laurentian University and the Harquail School of Earth Sciences as a global leader in Precambrian and economic geology research and teaching. Elizabeth is a relentless researcher and an inspiring professor who is very deserving of this outstanding award of achievement in her field."

For further information about the Harquail School of Earth Sciences, visit hes.laurentian.ca


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