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Kathleen Gould, M.Sc., P.Geo., Senior Geologist

How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology before you entered university?

I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, a fantastic place with wonderful outdoor spaces. In high school I remember enjoying geography and making hand drawn maps, but unfortunately, we didn't have a dedicated earth science course. I went to university to become a physiotherapist! I liked the hands-on aspect of physiotherapy, and it seemed like a practical, lifelong job, all the things, in retrospect, that I like about geology. I headed to Saint Mary's University in Halifax, and took Intro to Geology as an elective course, and became very interested in a domain I had previously not known much about, other than hearing about my aunt’s experiences as a hydrogeologist. Several things happened to make me drop physio and choose geology as a career:

  1. Saint Mary's has a small but mighty geology department, with top-notch research and close-knit geology student society. Being there and learning together with other like minded students was instantly fun and I got to see my older peers progress, graduate, and take jobs in a wide variety of roles (lesson learned = Geology has lots of options!).

  2. My 2nd year mineralogy professor, Dr. Georgia Pe-Piper, offered me a summer job working in her petrology lab and that gave me confidence and hands-on experience. Dr. Pe-Piper has been a lifelong mentor to me (lesson learned = there's room to learn and grow in geology and there are amazing women leaders).

  3. Lastly, I took a co-operative education program which was four, four-month work terms over your undergrad. I had the chance to work across government and industry: I worked as an intern at an environmental company; performed geohazard and seismic interpretation at the Geological Survey of Canada; and was a GIS analyst at the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. It gave me invaluable work experience, helped me pay for my university, and focus my career (lesson learned: geology gives the gift of being a lifelong scientist while having a lucrative career).

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

I really wanted to work in the petroleum industry. It seemed like a perfect job, I would get to keep working on sedimentary rocks using core geology techniques in a focused, results driven business. I stayed at Saint Mary's for a M.Sc. in Geology because they had a graduate level co-operative education program and I had a great thesis project working on reservoir quality of Cretaceous sandstones in the Scotian Basin, co-supervised by Dr. David Piper, an incredible sedimentologist at the Geological Survey of Canada., and again with my mentor Dr. Pe-Piper. During my M.Sc., I worked on a research cruise offshore of Newfoundland and in Calgary for Imperial Oil. I was awarded the first Pengrowth-Nova Scotia Petroleum Innovation Grant to complete my research.

My career since graduating then has been a wide variety of roles in mineral exploration and energy industries. I worked for several field seasons as an exploration geologist in the historic Keno Hill silver district in the Yukon while picking up winter work in southern Ontario while my husband completed his PhD. In 2010, I returned to Nova Scotia for contract work as a sedimentologist for the Offshore Nova Scotia Play Fairway Analysis project. At the end of 2011, I joined my husband in the UK where he was working as a post-doc at Oxford University. I was incredibly lucky that an innovative petroleum consultancy, Neftex, had an office in a nearby town. I applied there and ended up working at the peak with 100+ geoscientists on a variety of core products (maps, charts, etc.) underpinned by models of plate tectonics, sea level change, paleoclimate and geological structure, used by the petroleum and mineral industries. Haliburton bought Neftex in 2014 to add it to their Landmark Software line. In 2015 we moved back to Canada, and I have continued to work in geoscience software as a technical advisor for the R&D groups working

on development of our petroleum systems and carbon storage modeling software, and now in technical sales, an exciting role where I get to work with a variety of customers across the energy and minerals space. Most recently I have become focused on geoscience as it applies to the carbon storage and geothermal domains, in addition to traditional oil and gas. I volunteer with a number of groups supporting women in geoscience and the energy transition and enjoy helping with university outreach.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

Yes, I would pick geology and the same career trajectory again. It hasn’t always been easy, but I love my career and the experiences geoscience has given me. I do wish I took more hydrogeology and maybe just a bit of engineering in school!

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?

Three best things about my career:

  • Working as part of a team both with my colleagues and clients.

  • The opportunity to continue to learn new and innovative ways to model the subsurface using a combination of hands-on traditional geoscience and innovative software.

  • Being a geoscientist during this time of accelerated energy diversification and transition is beyond exciting.

Three things I would change:

  • Losing great people from our industry to other sectors during the downturns.

  • Provide more mentoring programs inside of companies as some of the great minds of geoscience are retiring and our industry could be better at transferring to the up and coming geoscientists.

  • Provide more mentoring programs inside of companies as some of the great minds of geoscience are retiring and our industry could be better at transferring to the up and coming geoscientists.

Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you?

We need all hands on deck and a diverse workforce brings the wide variety of ideas and perspectives to the table needed for continued innovation and we need this now more than ever. Geoscience is a fantastic career option and efforts to make it more inclusive and a valid career choice for everyone should start at a young age.

Why should it be important for everyone

A diverse team makes better decisions and produce superior results because everyone brings something unique to the table. This is true across any industry, and it makes for a better society all around!

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

Say yes to challenges. Never forget that you have a right to equal opportunities given to your peers no matter who you are. Question things that don’t feel right. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and negotiate for a fair salary (a common issue with women in STEM fields). Find good mentors and sponsors inside and outside of work and use them, they want to help! Volunteer for one or more of the great geoscience organizations, especially women’s groups like Women Geoscience Canada, and grow your network while giving back. Your network will be one of the most valuable tools in your toolbox, most jobs (including the majority of mine) have been the result of my network and connections.

What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

I am a lifelong learner and during the pandemic with everyone online I benefited from the sudden increase in a wide variety of online short courses, recorded talks and conferences. It allowed me to learn so much more from experts in everything from mineral exploration, geothermal and carbon storage, to hydraulic fracture modeling. I always have a stack of papers and talks to watch on the weekend.

Outside of work, I love to be outdoors, cross country skiing, mountain biking and hiking in the beautiful Canadian wilderness with my husband and friends. I also enjoy kicking back at one of our many local breweries! Cheers!

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