Michelle DeWolfe elected to Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars

Dr. Michelle DeWolfe, PhD, professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at MRU.

DeWolfe’s research has included studying 1.9 billion year old volcanic rocks in the Karrat region of West Greenland, and what they may have in common with those found in northern Manitoba.

From conducting extensive field research on Earth processes to passionately teaching the geoscientists of tomorrow, Dr. Michelle DeWolfe, PhD, professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at MRU, demonstrates excellence in all aspects of her academic career.

For the quality and impact of her research into volcanology and mineral deposits, DeWolfe was recently elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC) College of New Scholars, Scientists and Artists — an honour that recognizes her as one of the nation’s top mid-career researchers.

Launched in 2014, the College is “Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership” and members are elected for a seven-year term.

“This year, the Royal Society of Canada welcomes an outstanding cohort of artists, scholars and scientists, all of whom have excelled in their respective disciplines and are a real credit to Canada,” said RSC President Jeremy McNeil during the announcement of the class of 2021, which includes 51 new members to the College and 89 new scholars to RSC’s Academies of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Science.

The official induction ceremony took place on Nov. 19, making DeWolfe the second-ever Mount Royal faculty member elected to the College. She joins Dr. Trevor Day, PhD, professor in MRU’s Department of Biology, who was elected in 2020.

“Election to the RSC College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is an outstanding achievement for Dr. DeWolfe, and is an honour that recognizes her research excellence,” said Dr. Mike Quinn, PhD, vice-provost and associate vice-president, Academic at MRU. “Moreover, election to the College indicates her potential to become a national and international leader in her field.

“I feel very fortunate to have her as a colleague at Mount Royal.”

While DeWolfe is grateful to have her work recognized in this way, she says the opportunities presented by being elected to the College mean much more.

“Being a member of the College provides the opportunity to be connected with leading scholars, scientists and artists across Canada, so that together we can advance knowledge and increase understanding of issues critical to Canada and Canadians.

“As a woman in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) discipline, I am acutely aware of the need for inclusion and opportunity for minority groups in the natural sciences. I will contribute to the College by striving to increase the inclusion and advancement of women and other underrepresented groups in the natural sciences.”

Out in the field

Whether she’s conducting field research in Flin Flon, Manitoba or the Karrat region of West Greenland, there’s no mistaking the passion DeWolfe has for studying Earth processes.

“To be able to understand, even if it’s just small things, about early Earth processes and how they are similar or dissimilar to modern processes is fascinating,” DeWolfe says. She notes that the practical application of her research to mineral exploration is also an exciting prospect.

In 2018, DeWolfe was awarded a prestigious NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant for her project, “Evaluating mineral potential of the Winter Lake greenstone belt, Slave carton, Northwest Territories.”. As a testament to the quality of her research, DeWolfe was also awarded the William Harvey Gross Award in 2019. This award is bestowed annually to a geoscientist who has made a significant contribution to the field of economic geology in a Canadian context.

Just over a year later in 2020, the quality of DeWolfe’s research was once again recognized as she was awarded an NSERC Discovery Grant with Northern Research Supplement.

Earlier this year, Professor DeWolfe was in northern Manitoba studying 1.9 billion year old volcanic successions to help better understand how volcanic processes have evolved throughout Earth’s history.

Currently, DeWolfe can be found studying ancient volcanoes, including ones in northern Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, as well as modern volcanoes located along a mid-ocean ridge in the Indian Ocean. Her research is helping add to our current understanding of how volcanic processes have evolved over Earth’s history and what they can tell us about the Earth’s evolution, such as atmospheric and oceanic oxygenation events and when plate tectonics began.

Teaching the next generation

Starting in 2019, DeWolfe was appointed to a three-year term as MRU’s Board of Governors Research Chair in Science, Technology and Society. Chairholders play a critical role in helping strengthen the teaching, training of students and research capacity at Mount Royal.

DeWolfe says the position has helped her to supervise more research students as well as take on more research projects of her own.

“It has allowed me to balance my teaching and researching, making sure that this increase in volume of research has not had any negative impact on my classroom teaching.”

When it comes to her students, DeWolfe has been able to bring research into the classroom and in turn also bring her classroom into the field. She says being able to mentor young geoscientists as they begin their research careers is what excites her the most about her work.

“Because my own research is primarily field-based, it allows me more opportunities to bring students out of the classroom, such as for field trips and field school, and mentor and supervise them as they conduct their own research related to mine” DeWolfe says, adding that she tends to lead in places where she has done her own field work and knows the geology of the area well.

In addition to the experiences she offers students through regular classes, DeWolfe also hires two MRU undergraduate students each year to participate in research projects in the Arctic. She explains that these interactions also help to inform her classroom teaching.

“Supervising students’ field-based research gives me a much better understanding of what they want to learn in the classroom — what is important to them in their education and in moving forward their aspiring geoscientist careers.”

Dec. 1, 2021 — Rachel von Hahn

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