Faculty of Science

Ancient vapours are helping researchers identify gold deposits in Nova Scotia

Kevin Neyedley, left, and Dr. Jacob Hanley of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax are doing research supported by Nova Scotia’s Mineral Resources Development Fund. (Photo: Kelly Clark/Communications Nova Scotia)

Kevin Neyedley, left, and Dr. Jacob Hanley of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax are doing research supported by Nova Scotia’s Mineral Resources Development Fund. (Photo: Kelly Clark/Communications Nova Scotia)

Vapour trails from an ancient volcano may point the way to an economic opportunity in modern-day Nova Scotia.

Researchers at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax are using the composition of ancient volcanic vapours, trapped in tiny fragments in rocks, and other geological features, to learn more about a type of precious metal deposit called epithermal gold. Their work over the past year was supported by the province’s Mineral Resources Development Fund.

Geology professor Dr. Jacob Hanley said the project’s goal is to gather information on how and when the gold deposits formed, and to generate exploration criteria that may predict where the highest concentrations of gold may be found in the province. Giving companies a better idea where to explore has financial and environmental benefits.

“The more information we gain about where the deposits are sitting in this vast array of rocks which we have in the province, the better off the environment will be. The overall footprint is smaller in terms of that activity.”

Hanley and PhD student Kevin Neyedley received a $47,500 grant from the development fund in 2018 for their project, which focuses on deposits in the Eastern Cobequid Highlands. The area is about 50 kilometres north of Truro, Nova Scotia.

Continue reading the full article from the Department of Energy and Mines.

Mineral Resources Development Fund expansion announced at Saint Mary’s University

Dr. Jacob Hanley and Kevin Neyedley chat with Sean Kirby, left, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, and Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette. (Photo: Kelly Clark/CNS)

Dr. Jacob Hanley and Kevin Neyedley chat with Sean Kirby, left, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, and Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette. (Photo: Kelly Clark/CNS)

Businesses, prospectors and researchers now have more support for innovative projects in the mining sector as the result of a provincial government announcement at Saint Mary’s University.

As part of Budget 2019-20, the province is increasing the Mineral Resources Development Fund by $800,000 to a total of $1.5 million. Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette opened the fund to applications in an event at Saint Mary’s on April 9.

“Mining is a globally competitive sector that creates career opportunities for our young people, while generating revenue for programs and services that benefit all Nova Scotians,” said Minister Mombourquette. “These investments make connections and develop new ideas that help our companies stay at the forefront of technology and environmental protection.”

Saint Mary’s University Professor Dr. Jacob Hanley and PhD student Kevin Neyedley received $47,500 from the fund in 2018. They are working on research and gathering geological information about how strategic minerals formed. This will help identify where deposits may be located and then extracted with minimal environmental impact.

“It is vitally important for Nova Scotians to have access to the most current scientific knowledge, gathered using cutting edge research tools,” said Dr. Hanley.

“Our research can help attract companies by reducing exploration costs for industry and reduce the impact that grass-roots exploration has on the environment through narrowing the size of mineral deposit targets,” said Mr. Neyedley.

Last year, the province supported 28 projects including mineral exploration programs, professional development, innovation, university research and training opportunities for young people.

Dr. Danielle Tokarz's research receives boost from the federal government

The research of Saint Mary’s new chemistry faculty member, Dr. Danielle Tokarz, into the microscopic structure of large molecules in living animals and plants received a big boost, as a result of an investment of $153,026 from the federal government.

Dr. Danielle Tokarz

Dr. Danielle Tokarz

The research of Dr. Tokarz focuses on the structure of large molecules inside animals and plants which are relevant to the wellbeing of Canadians including collagen in humans and other animals, as well as cellulose and photosynthetic membranes in plants. The funding will allow Dr. Tokarz and her interdisciplinary team of chemists, physicists and biologists to build a new type of laser microscope, one that can measure the structure of microscopic regions of plant and animal tissues at record high speeds. The technology will allow the first live measurements of tiny structural changes in living creatures, allowing a fresh look at functioning biological phenomena. The research will address questions in biology such as, how does collagen degrade in organ tissues during ageing, and how woody cellulose, the leftover plant material after tree removal, can be efficiently degraded for conversion into biofuels.

In addition to the short term benefits of this research in increased knowledge of fundamental biological processes, long term benefits for Canadians are expected in healthcare and industry. Studies of collagen in the extracellular matrix during ageing will offer advances to the healthcare of Canadians. Studies of cellulose structure will have an impact on local industries including biofuels, pulp and paper, and biodegradable materials. Finally, studies of photosynthetic tissues will have applications in increasing plant growth efficiency, growing plants in colder climates and increasing global food supply. The proposed nonlinear laser microscope will be the first in Atlantic Canada, giving students and faculty the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology.

Maximizing land use and earning more money for farmers part of new federally funded research at SMU

Research into how poor-quality, marginal land can be used to produce biomass as a potential revenue stream for farmers underway at Saint Mary’s University received $1.2 million in funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriScience program and the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub Fund.

“Community is at the heart of all that we do at Saint Mary’s University, including our research,” said Saint Mary’s president Robert Summerby-Murray. “We are committed to working with the community and sharing our expertise to find innovative solutions to real-world challenges. I want to thank the Government of Canada for supporting Atlantic Canadian researchers who are at the forefront of agricultural research, research that will benefit us all.”

Dr. J. Kevin Vessey

Dr. J. Kevin Vessey

Led by Dr. J. Kevin Vessey, the project receiving funding is called “Purpose-Grown Biomass Crops: Efficient Production, Yield Modelling and Real-world Verification.” The five-year project aims to determine what substances and organisms best promote plant growth and decrease production costs in a variety of plants including willow and switchgrass. The project will assess the yield potential of the crops on marginal soil areas on farms and AAFC research sites across Nova Scotia. The result is a database and yield prediction model for the four crops under examination.

“The long-term goal of my research is to enhance the bioeconomy, the part of the economy that uses renewable biological resources from the land and sea, of Nova Scotia. To do this we need to increase the production of biomass for processing into biofuels and other bioproducts in a sustainable way,” said Dr. Vessey.  “This research is crucial to de-risking the use of biomass by providing a sustainable feedstock supply, which can attract more biomass processors to Nova Scotia. It has the potential of greatly diversifying the Province’s biomass feedstock inventory, while also contributing to rural economies and environmental sustainability.”

Sites for the project extend from Yarmouth to Inverness County. Partners on the project include: Acadian Seaplant Ltd, ADECO BioResources Inc., The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Port Hawkesbury Paper, and Propel Bioenergy.

The funding comes as part of the federal Biomass Cluster announced on Monday, Feb. 11 by Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The Cluster, led by the BioFuelNet Canada Network, includes a federal investment of up to $7 million along with an additional $3.1 million in contributions from industry, for a total investment of $10.1 million.