Geological Survey of Canada

The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC; French: Commission géologique du Canada (CGC)) is a Canadian federal government agency responsible for performing geological surveys of the country, developing Canada's natural resources and protecting the environment. A branch of the Earth Sciences Sector of Natural Resources Canada, the GSC is the country's oldest scientific agency and was one of its first government organizations.

Geological Survey of Canada
Commission géologique du Canada
Seal of the Geological Survey of Canada
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Canada
HeadquartersOttawa, Ontario
Annual budgetCAD $70 million
Minister responsible
Agency executives
  • Daniel Lebel, Director General – Atlantic and Western Canada Branch
  • Donna Kirkwood, Director General – Central and Northern Canada Branch


In September 1841, the Province of Canada legislature passed a resolution that authorized the sum of £1,500 sterling be granted to the government for the estimated expense of performing a geological survey of the province. In 1842, the Geological Survey of Canada was formed to fulfill this request.[1]

Selwyn GSC survey party 1871
The First Canadian Pacific R.R. and Geological Survey parties for British Columbia, July 22, 1871. Photographer: Benjamin F Baltzy. Courtesy: Toronto Public Library Digital Collections
Geological Survey of Canada building (69409 LS) (cropped)
Geological Survey of Canada building in Montreal, 1852–1874

William Edmond Logan was in Montreal at the time and made it known that he was interested in participating in this survey. Gaining recommendations from prominent British scientists, Logan was appointed the first GSC director on April 14, 1842. Four months later, Logan arrived in Kingston, Ontario, to compile the existing body of knowledge of Canada's geology. In the spring of 1843, Logan established the GSC's headquarters in Montreal (in his brother's warehouse and then in a rented house on Great St. James Street (now Saint Jacques Street).[2] One of the prominent cartographers and the chief topographical draughtsman was Robert Barlow, who began his work in 1855. Chemist T. Sterry Hunt joined in the early days and the Survey added paleontological capability in 1856 with the arrival of Elkanah Billings.[1] After Aylesworth Perry was appointed as acting librarian in 1881 he prepared the catalogue of reference works on geology, mineralogy, metallurgy, chemistry and natural history.[3] George Mercer Dawson became a staff member in 1875, progressed to assistant director in 1883 and finally to director of the Geological Survey of Canada in 1895.[1] The Geological Survey of Canada first began allowing women to conduct fieldwork in the early 1950s.[4] Dr. Alice Wilson, the first of these women, lobbied for the inclusion of paleontologist Frances Wagner shortly afterward.[4] Around this same time, the GSC employed a third woman Dr. Helen Belyea.[4]

Programs and activities

Geological Survey of Canada
Geological Survey of Canada building, Ottawa

Seismograph Network

The Canadian National Seismograph Network is monitored by the Geological Survey of Canada.

Geomagnetic monitoring

The Geological Survey Canada operates a network of 14 magnetic observatories throughout Canada, located as follows:[5][6]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Christy Vodden (1992), No Stone Unturned: The First 150 years of the Geological Survey of Canada, Geological Survey of Canada Web site
  2. ^ Dictionary of Canadian Biography: "Logan, Sir William Edmond"
  3. ^ Pauline MacDonald and Rosemarie Pleasant (2004), 150 Years Of Library Service, Natural Resources Canada website.
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Geomagnetism - Magnetic Observatories Archived 2010-08-28 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "GSC Canadian Magnetic Observatories". Retrieved 2018-05-01.


External links

Andrew Lawson

Andrew Cowper Lawson (July 25, 1861 – June 16, 1952) was a Scots-Canadian geologist who became professor of geology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was the editor and co-author of the 1908 report on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which became known as the "Lawson Report". He was also the first person to identify and name the San Andreas Fault in 1895, and after the 1906 quake, the first to delineate the entire length of the San Andreas Fault which previously had been noted only in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also named the Franciscan Complex.

Lawson was born on July 25, 1861, in Anstruther, Scotland. He moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with his parents at age six. In 1883, he received his B.A. degree in natural science from the University of Toronto. He worked for the Geological Survey of Canada while pursuing his graduate degrees. He received his M.A. from the University of Toronto in 1885, and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1888.

In 1890, he left the Geological Survey of Canada to work as a consulting geologist in Vancouver. In October of the same year, he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Mineralogy and Geology at the University of California in Berkeley. He became a full professor in 1892, and a Professor Emeritus from 1928 to his death on June 16, 1952.

Lawson was president of the Geological Society of America in 1926.Professor Lawson was a consulting geologist for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s.

His home in the La Loma Park area of the Berkeley Hills in Berkeley, California, now called the "Lawson House", was especially designed for him by noted architect Bernard Maybeck to withstand earthquakes. The house is an officially designated local landmark.

The mineral Lawsonite is named for him, as is the Lawson Adit, originally a mining construction research tunnel on UC Berkeley's campus. During the Cold War, it was used to house special equipment to monitor Soviet nuclear tests. It's currently used to house seismological instruments.

Lawson Hill (elev. 1,128 feet), located west of the Briones Hills in Contra Costa County, California, is named for him.

Charles Mortram Sternberg

Charles Mortram Sternberg (1885–1981) was an American-Canadian fossil collector and paleontologist, son of Charles Hazelius Sternberg.

Late in his career, he collected and described Pachyrhinosaurus, Brachylophosaurus, Parksosaurus and Edmontonia. A contemporary author wrote, "No published study of Canadian dinosaurs is possible today without citing one or another of Sternberg's papers."

Digby McLaren

Digby Johns McLaren, (December 11, 1919 – December 8, 2004) was a Canadian geologist and palaeontologist.

Born in Carrickfergus, Ireland and educated at Sedbergh School, he received a Bachelor of Arts in geology from the University of Cambridge. During World War II, he fought in the Middle East and Europe with the Royal Regiment of Artillery. After the war, he received a Master of Arts in geology from the University of Cambridge in 1948. In 1948, he moved to Canada and joined the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). In 1951, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

From 1959 to 1967, he was the head of the palaeontology section of the GSC. In 1967, he became the first director of the Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology of the GSC and in 1973 he was appointed Director of the Geological Survey of Canada. In 1981, he became Assistant Deputy Minister of Science and Technology for Energy, Mines and Resources Canada.

He was the author of over 100 publications and maps in the fields of palaeontology, biostratigraphy and regional geology. He was one of the early theorists of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

From 1987 to 1990, he was the president of the Royal Society of Canada. He was also President of the Geological Society of America.

In 1942, he married to Phyllis Matkin with whom he had three children: Ian, Patrick, and Alison.

Duncan McNaughton

Duncan Anderson McNaughton (December 7, 1910 – January 15, 1998) was a Canadian athlete, who competed mainly in the high jump. He went on to a career in petroleum geology.

Edward A. Irving

Edward A. "Ted" Irving, (27 May 1927 – 25 February 2014) was a geologist and scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. His studies of paleomagnetism provided the first physical evidence of the theory of continental drift. His efforts contributed to our understanding of how mountain ranges, climate, and life have changed over the past millions of years.

George Frederick Matthew

George Frederick Matthew (August 12, 1837 – April 14, 1923) was a Canadian botanist and geologist. Described as an amateur geologist, he is nevertheless recognized for his work in the then-nascent field of ichnology. His work grew from study of Cambro-Ordovician rocks near his birthplace, leading to the description of new genera and species of ichnofossils. His early interest in geology may have been inspired by local access to the Abraham Gesner geological collection.

Matthew was the first curator of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. After Canada's Confederation in 1867, his geological work came to prominence as the Geological Survey of Canada began, and he worked part-time for the survey.

He received honorary doctorates from Laval University and the University of New Brunswick, and was awarded the Geological Society of London's Murchison Medal in 1917.

George Sherwood Hume

George Sherwood Hume, (March 1, 1893 – November 24, 1965) was a Canadian geologist.

Born in Milton, Ontario, Hume was a graduate of the University of Toronto. After serving in World War I, he received a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1920. He joined the Geological Survey of Canada and became its Chief in 1947. He was later Director-General of Scientific Services in the Department of Mines and Resources. After retiring in 1956, he worked at Westcoast Transmission in Calgary.

He was president of the Geological Association of Canada from 1952 to 1953, president of the Royal Society of Canada from 1955 to 1956, and president of the Geological Society of America from 1956 to 1957.

He was a Freemason and a member of Civil Service Lodge No. 148 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Lawrence Lambe

Lawrence Morris Lambe (1863–1919) was a Canadian geologist, palaeontologist, and ecologist from the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).

His published work, describing the diverse and plentiful dinosaur discoveries from the fossil beds in Alberta, did much to bring dinosaurs into the public eye and helped usher in the Golden Age of Dinosaurs in the province. During this period, between the 1880s and World War I, dinosaur hunters from all over the world converged on Alberta. Lambeosaurus, a well-known hadrosaur, was named after him as a tribute, in 1923. In addition to paleontology, Lambe discovered a number of invertebrate species ranging from Canada to the Pacific Northwest. Lambe's contemporary discoveries were published in works such as Sponges From the Atlantic Coast of Canada and Catalogue of the recent marine sponges of Canada and Alaska.

Melville Peninsula

Melville Peninsula is a large peninsula in the Canadian Arctic north of Hudson Bay. To the east is Foxe Basin and to the west the Gulf of Boothia. To the north the Fury and Hecla Strait separates it from Baffin Island. To the south Repulse Bay and Frozen Strait separate it from Southampton Island at the north end of Hudson Bay. On the southwest it is connected to the mainland by the "Rae Isthmus" named after arctic explorer Dr John Rae.

Between 1821 and 1823 its east side was mapped by William Edward Parry. Since 1999, it has been part of Nunavut. Before that, it was part of the District of Franklin. Most of the peninsula lies in Nunavut's Qikiqtaaluk Region, while its southwesternmost section, around Repulse Bay, lies in the Kivalliq Region. Communities on the peninsula include the hamlets of Repulse Bay and Hall Beach. The hamlet of Igloolik is located on an island lying just off the northeastern coast of the peninsula.

Mount Ayles

Mount Ayles is a mountain located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. It forms part of the border of the Quttinirpaaq National Park. Like the nearby Ayles Ice Shelf, the mountain was named by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1965 for Petty Officer Adam Ayles of HMS Alert, who was serving in the British Arctic Expedition under George Nares.

Piper Pass

Piper Pass (82°24′07″N 68°14′33″W) is a mountain pass in the United States Range, Nunavut, Canada.

Roche moutonnée

In glaciology, a roche moutonnée (or sheepback) is a rock formation created by the passing of a glacier. The passage of glacier ice over underlying bedrock often results in asymmetric erosional forms as a result of abrasion on the "stoss" (upstream) side of the rock and plucking on the "lee" (downstream) side. These erosional features are seen on scales of less than a metre to several hundred metres.

Silverthrone Caldera

The Silverthrone Caldera is a potentially active caldera complex in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, located over 350 kilometres (220 mi) northwest of the city of Vancouver and about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of Mount Waddington in the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains. The caldera is one of the largest of the few calderas in western Canada, measuring about 30 kilometres (19 mi) long (north-south) and 20 kilometres (12 mi) wide (east-west). Mount Silverthrone, an eroded lava dome on the caldera's northern flank that is 2,864 metres (9,396 ft) high may be the highest volcano in Canada.The main glaciers in the Silverthrone area are the Pashleth, Kingcome, Trudel, Klinaklini and Silverthrone glaciers. Most of the caldera lies in the Ha-Iltzuk Icefield, which is the largest icefield in the southern half of the Coast Mountains; it is one of the five icefields in southwestern British Columbia that thinned between the mid-1980s and 1999 due to global warming. Nearly half of the icefield is drained by the Klinaklini Glacier, which feeds the Klinaklini River.The Silverthrone Caldera is very remote and rarely visited or studied by geoscientists, such as volcanologists. It can be reached by helicopter or — with major difficulty — by hiking along one of the several river valleys extending from the British Columbia Coast or from the Interior Plateau.

Sun Tower

The Sun Tower is a 17 storey 82 m (269 ft) Beaux-Arts building at 128 West Pender Street in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is known for its faux-patina steel dome painted to imitate copper cladding. Nine nude muses, the "nine maidens" supporting the cornice line can be seen. The terracotta for this building, including the ladies, was made in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England by Gibbs and Canning Limited.

Volcanology of Canada

Volcanology of Canada includes lava flows, lava plateaus, lava domes, cinder cones, stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, submarine volcanoes, calderas, diatremes, and maars, along with examples of more less common volcanic forms such as tuyas and subglacial mounds. It has a very complex volcanological history spanning from the Precambrian eon at least 3.11 billion years ago when this part of the North American continent began to form.Although the country's volcanic activity dates back to the Precambrian eon, volcanism continues to occur in Western and Northern Canada where it forms part of an encircling chain of volcanoes and frequent earthquakes around the Pacific Ocean called the Pacific Ring of Fire. But because volcanoes in Western and Northern Canada are in remote rugged areas and the level of volcanic activity is less frequent than with other volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean, Canada is commonly thought to occupy a gap in the Pacific Ring of Fire between the volcanoes of western United States to the south and the Aleutian volcanoes of Alaska to the north. However, the mountainous landscape of Western and Northern Canada includes more than 100 volcanoes that have been active during the past two million years and whose eruptions have claimed many lives. Volcanic activity has been responsible for many of Canada's geological and geographical features and mineralization, including the nucleus of North America called the Canadian Shield.

Volcanism has led to the formation of hundreds of volcanic areas and extensive lava formations across Canada, indicating volcanism played a major role in shaping its surface. The country's different volcano and lava types originate from different tectonic settings and types of volcanic eruptions, ranging from passive lava eruptions to violent explosive eruptions. Canada has a rich record of very large volumes of magmatic rock called large igneous provinces. They are represented by deep-level plumbing systems consisting of giant dike swarms, sill provinces and layered intrusions. The most capable large igneous provinces in Canada are Archean (3,800–2,500 million years ago) age greenstone belts containing a rare volcanic rock called komatiite.

Waputik Range

The Waputik Range lies west of the upper Bow Valley, east of Bath Creek, and south of Balfour Creek in the Canadian Rockies. "Waputik" means "white goat" in Stoney. The range was named by George Mercer Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada. The President Range lies within the Waputik Range.

The Waputik Range should not be confused with the much larger Waputik Mountains which encompasses this range and other peaks along the Continental Divide in Yoho National Park.

Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field

The Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field, also called the Clearwater Cone Group, is a potentially active monogenetic volcanic field in east-central British Columbia, Canada, located approximately 130 km (81 mi) north of Kamloops. It is situated in the Cariboo Mountains of the Columbia Mountains and on the Quesnel and Shuswap Highlands. As a monogenetic volcanic field, it is a place with numerous small basaltic volcanoes and extensive lava flows.Most of the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field is encompassed within a large wilderness park called Wells Gray Provincial Park. This 5,405 km2 (2,087 sq mi) park was established in 1939 to protect Helmcken Falls and the unique features of the Clearwater River drainage basin, including this volcanic field. Five roads enter the park and provide views of some of the field's volcanic features. Short hikes lead to several other volcanic features, but some areas are accessible only by aircraft.

William Edmond Logan

Sir William Edmond Logan, FRSE FRS FGS (20 April 1798 – 22 June 1875), was a Canadian-born geologist and the founder and first director of the Geological Survey of Canada.

William Henry Collins

William Henry Collins (October 26, 1878 – January 14, 1937) was a Canadian geologist. He was educated at the University of Toronto, Heidelberg University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His 31-year career with the Geological Survey of Canada included 16 years as Director of the Survey. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and served as President of the Society's geological and biological sciences section. He was also President of the Geological Society of America.

Departments of the Government of Canada
Major agencies
Historic/defunct major departments


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