The Earth Sciences Department at the University of Waterloo was founded in 1965, an offshoot of Civil Engineering. Today it is one of the largest geoscience departments in Canada, with 31 faculty, 26 Adjunct faculty, and a staff of 48. Our undergraduate population is currently 197, 116 in Science and 81 in Geological Engineering. Of these undergraduates, 62 are women. The graduate population is 145, of which 40 are women, 103 are Canadian, 88 are M.Sc. students and 53 are studying for their Ph.D. (with 4 non-degree). In 1992 the Department occupied parts of 14 buildings, at least 8 of them portables. Today that number has been reduced to 3, but at the expense of removing most of us to the northeast corner of the campus, far from the centre of Science. A major new building that will house Earth Sciences while linking the Engineering and Science faculties is in the planning stage. Be generous when our fund raiser calls!
The major areas of research are (roughly in order of the number of faculty involved): Hydrogeology, Environmental Geology. Isotope Geochemistry, Geological Engineering, "Classical" Geology, Quaternary Science, and Geophysics. The Department also hosts a Quaternary Sciences Institute, the Institute for Groundwater Research, and the Waterloo Centre for Groundwater Research. The latter is a Centre of Excellence established by the Province of Ontario in 1987. Research funding for the Department as a whole in 1992-93 was about $7,200,000, the highest of any department in the University.
Since when does a "Geology" department have the largest research budget in a highly research-oriented university, especially when that research has virtually no component of (a) petroleum exploration or (b) major national initiatives such as Lithoprobe? This unusual situation has its origins in a decision made in the late 1960's. The Department's founders wisely decided that there was no future in competing directly against the other established and highly competent geology departments within the Ontario system. Try asking yourself - if you were to found an "alternative" department today, one that would be prepared for the world 25 years hence - what would you choose as a specialty? With a great deal of encouragement from the geoscience community as a whole, they decided to specialize in Environmental Geology. While there was - and still is - some confusion as to just what that term means, at Waterloo it very soon took a more concrete form, namely Hydrogeology. The beginnings of what was to become a major preoccupation with the quantity and quality of our planet's drinking water was just emerging in those days, and the gamble - for such it was - paid off. The Department is now recognized internationally for its contributions to this field.
Geophysics was not really part of those early plans, although a position was allocated for a geophysicist in 1972. John Greenhouse began a Geophysics Option within the undergraduate program and this has typically graduated from 2 to 5 students a year who are fundamentally geoscientists with more than the usual background in mathematics and physics. At the graduate level we have always been integrators, turning out a modest but steady stream of Masters students with skills in both geophysics and Hydro/Quaternary/Engineering geology, capable of working in either field. The emphasis shifted towards geophysical applications to contaminant hydrogeology in the early 1980's, and our research program is still focused on this area. In the late 1980's we became increasingly involved in research on groundwater contamination by chlorinated organic solvents, as part of a large multidisciplinary program on the subject. These materials are very poor geophysical targets that's the bad news. The good news (of a sort) is that billions of dollars are going to be spent around the world in the next few decades to locate and remove these materials from the ground. Because they usually sink through the groundwater, they are dangerous to drill for, and any means of detecting them remotely can expect to see widespread use. This makes them a particularly interesting challenge.
With the formation of the Waterloo Centre for Groundwater Research in 1987 we were able to establish a Physical Properties Laboratory by wooing Dave Redman from the University of Toronto. Peter Annan of Sensors and Software, an Industrial Associate of the Centre, began his second (or is it third) career as part-time Research Professor with the lab. Tony Endres, a specialist in physical properties and a Research Associate with the Centre, and George Schneider the geophysics technician, round out the group.
Geophysics, then, is a small but still growing part of Earth Sciences at Waterloo, with a rather specialized agenda. As interest in environmental geophysics grows, we find ourselves with far more opportunities and student applications than we can handle, and job opportunity for M.Sc. graduates with this dual geophysics/hydrogeology background remains strong. If there is any career message for the '90s, however. it is that these demands change quickly. We need to broaden the program with time, but it is unlikely that we will ever compete directly with the more traditional geophysics programs stressing mining, hydrocarbon exploration, etc.
Students interested in graduate or undergraduate work at Waterloo should write to the Chairman, the Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1.