Students, researchers and community groups now have access to an expanded and enriched earth sciences learning environment in the South Okanagan with the opening of the UBC-Teck Geological Field Station in Oliver, B.C.
Funded by $2.4 million in contributions from UBC Science alumni, friends and Teck Resources Limited, the facilities replace aging structures that have hosted the University’s geological field school in Oliver since the 1950s.
“The new UBC-Teck Geological Field Station will help build Canada’s skilled mining workforce of the future, while also supporting important research across the natural sciences,” said Don Lindsay, President and CEO, Teck. “We are proud to support this new facility to provide critical hands-on learning experiences for future resource industry professionals.”
A $1 million donation from Teck is the single-largest contribution to the revitalization project that includes a new 400 square-metre (4,300 square-foot) teaching and dining facility, and new staff quarters and student accommodations. Additional funding was provided by 200 UBC alumni and friends.
“This is an outstanding example of our researchers, alumni and industry partners coming together to bolster enriched learning opportunities for our students—and in areas of key importance for British Columbia and Canada,” said Dr. Meigan Aronson, Dean of UBC Science. “The impact will extend well beyond our Faculty and across our campuses.”
The new facilities will be used by UBC students across multiple departments, including Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Geography, Forestry, providing critical field skills, and serving as a valuable new resource for sustainability research, and for outside groups to host workshops, meetings and retreats.
“The Oliver field school is unlike any other geology field course in Canada, and our expanding program has outgrown the existing 70-year-old facilities,” said Dr. Ken Hickey, director of the UBC Oliver geology field school and assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.
“Geological mapping is the cornerstone of geology and competent field skills are critical to any successful professional geoscientist. Thanks to the generous donation from Teck, students will now gain this critical training in an exploration-style camp setting dedicated to modern experiential learning practices.”
Every year, third- and fourth-year students spend up to three weeks in the field at the station, learning geological mapping techniques, and how to live and work in a realistic camp setting.
The redevelopment will enable the facility to open its doors to others in the community and be used almost year-round to support work in the geosciences, botany, climate studies, ecology, forestry and other areas. The revitalized station will also play a central role in major new educational initiatives, with a focus on inter-disciplinary experiential learning and the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and practices.
A donation by Peter and Maggie Bradshaw supported key components of the project, with the Peter and Maggie Bradshaw Experiential Learning Centre comprising the main space of the facility.
“The UBC-Teck Geological Field Station is designed to be used from spring to fall every year by groups undertaking research over the full range of the natural sciences, from the rocks to the atmosphere, and everything in between, including water, flora and fauna,” said Vancouver mining industry innovator Peter Bradshaw, founder of the Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining at UBC.
“It’s our hope that the knowledge and wisdom generated by this research will be shared and integrated between disciplines and across generations, resulting in a deeper understanding of our magnificent planet, and better approaches to support a sustainable future.”
Quinton Willms graduated from the UBC geological sciences program in 2018, and is currently a Masters candidate in geological sciences at UBC. He also works as a geologist in the Yukon.
“The field school was the most relevant industrial geology experience I gained while at UBC,” he said. “Not only did it incorporate everything we learned in the classroom into a field course, but more importantly taught life lessons like time management and personal adaptability when things didn’t go as planned.”
Construction of the UBC-Teck Geological Field Station began in December 2019, with the new facilities opening to students this Spring. The site is situated on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.