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Faculty Profile: Dr. Shawna White, Geology

Faculty of Science
Additional Departments: Geology

Shawna White

Saint Mary’s welcomes Dr. Shawna White to the Department of Geology 

Saint Mary’s University is pleased to introduce the newest faculty member in the Geology Department, Dr. Shawna White.

Originally from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. White completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial University and earned her MSc and PhD at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She taught in Ontario and upstate New York before relocating to Halifax.

After beginning her university science education in physics, she realized she wanted a job where she could spend more time outside. In the third year of her program, she fell in love with geology after taking a couple of Earth Science electives and spending a summer doing field work in Northern Quebec as a field assistant. 

“I loved it. I knew that this is what I wanted to do,” said Dr. White. “I decided to do structural geology and become a field geologist. My research is rooted in ‘boots on the ground’ research —going into the field, looking at the rocks, collecting samples, and mapping the geology.”

As a field geologist, Dr. White is currently interested in studying Northern Appalachians processes. Her PhD focused on understanding the evolution of the Appalachian Mountain belt in western Newfoundland through geological mapping, geochronology (dating rocks), and interpretation of geophysical datasets.

“Geological mapping, combined with the interpretation of other forms of geological data sets, collected by exploration companies, government, and academia, provides us with a more complete picture that we can use to gain a deeper understanding about how rocks are formed and deformed through time.   

“There are different ways to determine the geochronology, or the age of rocks,” she explained. “We can determine the relative age of sedimentary rocks from the fossils within. With other types such as volcanic rock that erupted from volcanic environments millions of years ago, we need to find specific mineral grains to date them.”

Normally Dr. White would be in the field for six weeks to three months each summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on those plans this year. During her postdoc work she worked in regions of Northern Ontario, mapping ancient (2.7 billion year old) volcanic rocks. Her and her team would work anywhere from more remote back country working from a car on the side of the road.

“This summer I have a lab research assistant helping me set up an ArcGIS project with colleagues who are working near Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories,” she explained. “We're planning a proposal for a future mapping project in an area that's very remote and not well understood. The first step is to take all the available information, such as geological maps, geophysical data, the locations of wells that have been drilled, and outcroppings of rocks and compile and geo-reference them so we can see what's there before we head out. 

Dr. White teaches structural geology at Saint Mary’s. The class will cover geologic structures, and how we can build geological maps and geological cross sections.

Welcome to Saint Mary’s, Dr. White!

Shawna White

Shawna White

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Faculty of Science
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Saint Mary's University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3C3

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