The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES) is funded, in part, by your CSEG membership fees. This article provides information on what the CFES is, does, and how CSEG members benefit from it.
What do Canadian geophysicists, geologists and geotechnical professionals have in common? (No, this is not the start of a bad joke.) They are all represented by the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES), an umbrella organisation of Canadian earth science societies. Thirteen technical and professional societies (member organisations) comprise CFES (Figure 1). They, along with seven observer organisations (Figure 2), come together to address common issues and to further geoscience in Canada. Each member organisation has a voice through its representative on the CFES Council. For the CSEG, Mike Hall has filled this role since 2019 when he became the first CSEG member nominated directly to the position.
Historically, the CSEG was a charter member of the Canadian Geoscience Council (CGC), formed in 1972, and later reformed as the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES) in 2006. Hereafter we collectively refer to the two organisations as CFES. From 1972 up until 2019, a CSEG Executive member, typically the President or Vice President, represented the CSEG on the CFES Council. Many CSEG members contributed in the early years, including Roy Lindseth and Peter Savage. More recently, Dr. Graziella Kirtland Grech and Dr. Rachel Newrick have served as Presidents, with Tom Sneddon as External Engagement Director and Canada Prize Foundation President, Mike Hall as Member Organisation Representative and Board member to the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), and Ron Larson as the associated Canada Prize Awards Foundation President.
Figure 1. CFES member organisations
Figure 2. CFES observer organisations
Mission and Programs
The CFES mission is to be the coordinated voice of Canada’s earth science community and to ensure that decision makers and the public understand the contributions made by earth science to Canadian Society and its economy. Six strategic objectives guide the work of CFES:
1. to provide a coordinating role and common voice for its member organisations and the earth science community in Canada, 2. to coordinate public policy advocacy on behalf of earth science in Canada, 3. to facilitate public awareness of earth science and earth science literacy, 4. to represent and promote Canadian earth science internationally, 5. to provide service to member societies in particular, and to the earth science community in general, and 6. to coordinate support for professional and academic organisations in Canada.
These objectives have lead to the development of a series of initiatives and goals that are outlined in a 3-year rolling plan. At any time, member organisations can bring forward ideas and initiatives to CFES. All CFES initiatives are carried out by working committees and task forces. There are many projects currently in progress, including:
1. summarizing the recent CFES statement on climate change, 2. refreshing the CFES website with a focus on careers in geoscience, 3. revitalizing the Canada Prize in Earth and Environmental Science, and 4. evaluating the potential for Canada to hold the 2028 International Geological Congress.
CFES is in a position to coordinate overlapping efforts among member organisations to maximize efficiency and effect. One example is to expand early career mentorship within the geosciences. The CSEG is working on this with other member organisations and observer organisations.
Nationally, CFES works toward and supports initiatives benefitting the geoscience community and public. In 2022, Geoscientists in Canadian National Parks, an innovative, collaborative project between CFES and Parks Canada, was unveiled at Pukaskwa National Park, along the eastern shore of Lake Superior. The success of this programme has led to a second year.
Promotion of the importance of earth science to all Canadians is undertaken through CFES’s membership in the Ottawa-based Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE). This group informs federal parliamentarians, decision makers and other federal leaders, on the importance and significance of Canadian research and innovation to economic development, and to society as a whole. Recent PAGSE talks presented on behalf of CFES include “On the path to a net-zero carbon economy: carbon capture, utilization and storage” by CSEG member Dr. Don Lawton, (https://youtu.be/xPlk6KgrSx4), “Metals and sustainability – Earth’s Odd Couple” by Dr. John Thomson, plus a contribution to the SciEng pages entitled “Canada’s Role in the Responsible Supply of Technology Metals” by Dr. John Thompson and Dr. Steve Piercey. Mike Hall serves as the CFES representative to PAGSE.
Important to many member organisations, education advocacy is provided by the Canadian Geoscience Education Network (CGEN), the education arm of CFES. CGEN has a national network of volunteers that focuses on increasing public awareness of geoscience, and increasing geoscience literacy. Recently, CGEN published an Educational Outreach and Public Engagement Guidebook (in both English and French) that can be freely downloaded from the CFES website.
CFES and CGEN are working to refresh the www.earthsciencescanada.com careers website, initially built in 2009 during the International Year of Planet Earth. CFES is looking for Canadian geoscientists to provide some insight into the jobs they do, to show young people the breadth and variety of jobs available to folks who study geoscience.
You can help create Canadian content by filling in the questionnaire, and explaining your earth science job and experience as an earth scientist. CGEN plans to include collected answers, including quotes as testimonials, on our “What’s It Like?” page, so that young people can get a sense of what working as an earth scientist is really like, from real people. The website is aimed at high school students, teachers/guidance counsellors and parents. Please consider this as you formulate your response, especially when using technical terms, jargon, etc. Visit https://careers.earthsciencescanada.com/questionnaire/ or scan the QR code (Figure 3) to get involved.
Figure 3. Help CFES create content for the upgraded geoscience careers website.
Two other important publications that CFES has been involved with are: Four Billion Years and Counting – Canada’s Geological Heritage (Introduction | fby-qma (fbycbook.com) and Geoscience and Canada – Understanding our Earth: The vital role of Canada’s geoscientists (Figure 4). Both were written for a general audience and much of the material can be freely downloaded, in both English and French, from either the CFES or CGEN websites.
Figure 4. CFES publications of general interest.
Internationally, CFES interacts with the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), both as an affiliate member and on the Canadian National Committee (CNC-IUGS). CFES has also been key to the development of Canadian Geoparks that forms part of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.
CFES and CSEG
Currently, four CSEG members are active within CFES: Rachel Newrick, Mike Hall, Tom Sneddon and Ron Larson. Hear about the experience in their own words.
Mike Hall (CFES Member Organisation Representative on Council and PAGSE Board Member)
When I was asked by Dr. Neda Boroumand in February 2019 to be the CSEG representative for the CFES, I confess that I had never heard of it before. It is likely that some of you reading this article are in a similar position, though the CFES has become more visible recently due to social media activity such as regular postings on LinkedIn. The introduction above gives a good overview of what the CFES is and does, so I will talk about my involvement as a Council member and CFES Representative to PAGSE. In my first CFES committee meeting, I was struck by the Bacon and Eggheads (B&E) initiative of PAGSE. With a few other CSEG members we set out to arrange such a talk, which culminated, after several iterations with the B&E committee, in Don Lawton giving his talk on carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). This talk drew the largest ever audience from parliamentarians and was a good case of promoting the geosciences. It is time to find other possible topics and presenters, to put geoscience, and especially geophysics, in front of the parliamentarians.
In attending meetings, mostly online with one in-person meeting in Ottawa, I came to realize how the CSEG has much in common with other member organisations. In David Nordin’s physical absence, I presented the Widespread Mentorship Initiative at the 2022 AGM, which is an initiative to build a multi-society, multi-industry, multi-discipline, nationwide mentorship program. It was very well received. Most member organisations are struggling to get their message across and are suffering from fewer young people joining their industries or enrolling in university courses. Getting the message out that the geosciences are important, just as much so going forward with new forms of energy in the mix as in the past with hydrocarbons being predominant, is very important. Almost everything that will contribute to this new energy mix involves interaction with the earth, whether it be siting windmill and solar panel farms, modular nuclear reactors, or exploring for suitable sites for CCUS or geothermal, hydrogen, lithium, critical minerals extraction, etc.
In line with the need to promote geoscience, the CFES provided several free licenses for each of its member organisations to attend the Geologize course (Practical Geocommunication 3.0 (geologize.org)) so that members could learn how to effectively communicate with the general public on matters perceived to be sensitive. CSEG members took advantage of the offer, and the course is now widely available until 2024 through provincial regulatory bodies such as APEGA, EGBC and PGO, courtesy of Geoscientists Canada, and through the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG).
Currently, the CFES is leading the bid to host the 2028 International Geological Congress (IGC) meeting in Canada. I served as the CFES rep on a local Calgary committee, which was successful in getting Calgary nominated as Canada’s city for the bid. Vancouver and Montreal were also in the running. Devika Naidu will take over from me to serve on the CFES special committee for this bid. Bringing this huge event to Calgary would be great for Calgary and the local geoscience community.
Tom Sneddon (External Engagement Director and President of the Canada Prize Foundation)
While no longer a member of CSEG, I was a member for over four decades and thus a prime target for Rachel as a volunteer Board member during her CFES presidency. The role of External Engagement Director was open and a natural role for me! It has been an interesting two year voyage that allows reconnection with many people across the country that I worked with while Director of Geoscience for APEGA. My principle focus for the current year is reintroducing the Canada Prize Foundation (CPF) and Canada Prize Awards Foundation (CPAF) into the CFES fold. Ron Larson and I have crafted a memorandum of understanding for the CFES Board to consider, which will be the vehicle for the job. We are also working on a business plan for the two Foundations which will be used to launch the 2023/2024 program. Stay tuned! We will need nominations for the awards and hope to begin awarding in 2025.
As External Engagement Director, I am also working closely with Dr. Katherine Boggs of Mount Royal University, who is the International Director for CFES. Katherine is renewing efforts for a new National Geoscience Research Plan (NGRP). Stay tuned for news about this, as well.
The CSEG is central to the application of geophysics to energy development in all its forms, to engineering geoscience and to critical minerals exploration and development. Its contributions are central to the CFES mandate. My role will continue to include consultation on all national geoscience matters with your society, working through Council member Mike Hall and his efforts to promote the science and CSEG to all Canadian applied geoscientists, researchers and educators.
Ron Larson (Canada Prize Foundations, as well as prior involvement as Interim President of CFES)
In around 2012, as CSEG President, I attended the CFES AGM. The primary purpose, from a CSEG perspective, was to determine if membership in CFES should be maintained. In my experience, AGMs tend to be somewhat boring set pieces. That particular meeting was anything but boring. In what might be called a moment of existential crisis, the CFES Council and Board were dissolved, then rearranged – and I found myself as the CFES Interim Vice President-Elect, assisting the equally new Interim President in transitioning towards renewed stability – and recommending, despite the confusion, that the CSEG remain a member organization. The experience was rewarding. I was able to meet talented geoscientists from many disciplines who were located in all parts of the country, which, in a way, renewed the ”Wow, that’s interesting!” enthusiasm I’d felt almost thirty years earlier at university. We were able to push some projects over the finish line. I have good memories of signing my name to the publishing contract for the Five Billion Years and Counting book, and of seeing Dr. Godfrey Nolan’s personal satisfaction in adding Canadian entries to UNESCO’s list of global Geoparks (English language website here: https://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks). We were able to keep some of the hibernating activities, such as lobbying activities like Bacon and Eggheads, just warm enough to be subsequently continued. Right now, I’m working with the Canada Prize Foundations, a pair of entities started many years ago and presently re-homing under the auspices of CFES, which seek to fund and and award a significant Prize for Sustainable Earth Science modeled after the Nobel Prize and others, like the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize, and the Japan Prize. Another opportunity to meet remarkable people, and do some interesting work.
Rachel Newrick (Past Member Organisation Representative, then CFES President)
My first personal involvement with CFES was as CSEG Vice President in 2014, sitting on Council. Prior to 2014, the CSEG President filled the role of CFES Council Member but the lack of continuity made it difficult to keep abreast of the initiatives and history of the organisation. The same concerns existed for limited one-year representation on the CSEG Foundation and GeoConvention boards, so Ron Larson (CSEG Past President), Rob Vestrum (CSEG President) and I decided that the CSEG would be better served if the incoming Vice President took on one of the key representative roles (CFES, CSEG Foundation or GeoConvention) and held it for three years throughout their time on the Executive. During my final year on Council, I approached Graziella Kirtland Grech to run for the CFES Board, and within a short while she was elected as President-Elect. A few years later I found myself in the same position running as President-Elect. It is interesting to have been on both the Council and the Board of CFES, as well as on the Exective of a member organisation, because there are ultimately many different viewpoints to consider. I find it wonderfully incredible that 13 member organisations working together under the CFES umbrella can achieve so much. We certainly have far more in common than we have differences.
I am at the end of my term on the CFES Board and will be sad to leave the group that has achieved so much. Each year there are up to four vacancies on the Board of ten, given the 3-year terms, so if you have an interest in collaboration between geoscience organisations, or can bring a particular strength to the organisation, then please step up. Like all organisations, CSEG included, CFES can use volunteers to help in areas of social media, communications, geoscience education and in bridging gaps to like-minded organisations.
Being an active CFES member organisation sends a strong message that the CSEG is fully invested in the full breadth of Canadian earth science issues and opportunities. CFES is what the member organisations make of it, and CSEG is a strong participant. There are many opportunities for individual CSEG members to participate in CFES. If you would like to find out more about CFES, or become involved, please reach out to Rachel, Mike, Tom, Ron or the CFES directly, at CFES – Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (cfes-fcst.ca).
Dr. Rachel Newrick, P.Geoph., P.Geol., FGC attended Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand obtaining a BSc (Geology) and BSc Honours (Applied Geophysics) before obtaining a PhD in Exploration Seismology at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She co-authored “Fundamentals of Geophysical Interpretation” with Dr. Larry Lines, has contributed to the “52 Things…” books published by Agile, and spoken at numerous events. Rachel is an international seismic interpretation instructor teaching introductory and advanced courses in-person and virtually. She is a Past President of both the CSEG and CFES and is passionate about all things geoscientific.
Mike Hall, P.Geoph. is the President of GeoVectra, Calgary. He received his Master’s in Electronic Engineering from the University of Calgary specializing in sign bit Vibroseis. He has 40+ years of experience, with service at CGG, FSI, Geokinetics, INOVA, GXT, SIS and others, covering survey design, acquisition, processing, and interpretative processing (QI). His main focus is reservoir characterization, seismic imaging and development geophysics, using 3D seismic with other disciplines to achieve interpretation objectives. He has expertise in land, transition zone, OBC and marine seismic work throughout the world, and is keen on ensuring integration between acquisition, processing and interpretation while incorporating external information for calibration and control. Mike is a certified professional geophysicist with APEGA and an active member of AAPG, SEG, CSEG, EAGE. He is a current member of CSEG DoodleTrain and VIG Committees and CSEG representative on the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences.
Tom Sneddon, P.Geol., recently retired as Director of Geoscience for APEGA. He has broad geoscience experience, with over 30 years practicing experimental watershed research, hydrology, hydrogeology, environmental geology, oil and gas prospect development, drilling programs, and extensive field work in minerals exploration and development – in both government and industry. Using this diverse background, he applied it to the promotion of professionalism within the geosciences, through his role at APEGA. He is a former Editor for the CSPG Reservoir, President of Marmot Research Inc. in Calgary and continues to volunteer with APEGA. He is a Professional Geologist and a Member of both APEGA and EGBC. Tom presently serves on both the Canada Prize Foundation and Canada Prize Awards Foundation as President and Vice President, respectively.
Ron Larson, P.Geoph., has recently retired after 37 years’ experience with consulting companies and oil & gas companies. Throughout his career, Ron volunteered with technical societies and their foundations. Notably he served the CSEG as Vice President, President & Past President (2012-2015), and as CSEG Foundation Chair in ~2017/18. In an earlier role on the CSEG Board, Ron was part of discussions that set up the CSEG Foundation, due in part to a secondary role on the CSEG Scholarship committee. Ron was the CSEG President during successful negotiations between the CSEG, CSPG and CWLS (Canadian Well Logging Society) to establish a permanent partnership to operate an annual joint Convention, now GeoConvention. As CSEG representative to CFES, Ron volunteered to sit on an interim CFES executive board in ~2013. Ron has recently been honoured with the Meritorious Service award from the CSEG. Ron presently serves on both the Canada Prize Awards Foundation and Canada Prize Foundation as President and Vice President, respectively.