Curator of Mineralogy, Royal Ontario Museum; Associate Professor, University of Toronto
I am the Curator of Mineralogy at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2007 and started at the ROM just a few days later. I have a fairly unique position where I work at the museum, but have students and teach at the University - in some ways the best of both worlds! At the ROM, I take care of the mineralogy, meteorite, gem and rock collections and oversee research on the collections.
I've wanted to be a geologist since I was a child; picking up rocks and bringing them home as a child. Now, I get to build the ROM's collections in four areas, which can be really exciting. I love getting calls about new donations and great new objects that could be key to building the collections.
I'm really interested in how minerals are put together at the atomic level. If you can understand the conditions that the minerals present in rocks are formed, that can tell you a lot about the planet-wide processes that existed, sometimes spanning back billions of years.
Outside of work, I'm a big fan of hockey, and love to travel and spend time with my family. Please see the Current Opportunities section for research projects that we are currently working on.
Mineralogy and Geology Research Technician, Royal Ontario Museum
Veronica is a Mineralogy Research Technician in the Department of Natural History. Here she's responsible for the analysis and identification of minerals, meteorites, gems and other inorganic material.
Early in life (we're talking 6 years old), Veronica was led astray from a career in biological sciences after she visited the ROM Earth Sciences galleries. That's really when the trouble started. No longer did she ask for a pet pony, but soon her birthday lists were filled with things like rock tumblers, crystal growing kits and streak plates. What child asks for a streak plate?! Ever since that fateful visit, she hasn't been able to get enough of Earth's Treasures, be they botryoidal, platy, or acicular. Lately, her geological pursuits have started to spread beyond the Earth and now include extraterrestrial materials (meteorites) as well.
In 2011, Veronica graduated with a Hons. BSc with a specialist in Geology, and in 2013, she completed a MASc on the mineralogy and geochemistry of a vanadium-graphite property in Madagascar. After graduating, Veronica worked for Activation Laboratories Ltd. (Actlabs), where she was a member of the Business Development team. In 2015, Veronica joined the ROM in her current role where her love of mineralogy now has a more productive outlet.
Bennett's project seeks to better understand the mineral apatite in meteorites. Apatite is a versatile mineral and by studying the volatiles and trace elements, it is possible to identify the atmosphere of past planetary environments, water reservoirs of other planetary bodies, and the age of the apatite. However, in order for meteorites to get to Earth, they must have been impacted (shocked) at least once. Shock can cause the trace elements within apatite to mobilize and partition. This ultimately introduces heterogeneity within the volatiles and trace elements and may yield inaccurate results.
The goal of his project is to use full crystal characterization coupled with nanoscale analytical methods to attempt to determine if the results generated by apatite are reliable and trustworthy
University of Toronto
Steve was born and raised in Toronto and pursued a career in retail where he held numerous positions, including store manager roles and category management. Deciding that he was ready for a career change, Steve returned to school and is pursuing a second degree in geology, with a particular interest in meteorites.
When he is not cramming for school, Steve spends his spare time taking care of his dogs, being active, and traveling the world. He blends his passion for being active with travel by running marathons in Québec City, all across Ontario, Walt Disney World, the Yukon...during winter, and trekking the Andes and Himalayas.
I joined the ROM as a volunteer after a career in the investment business. Whereas the knowledge base is very different, I have found that researching minerals isn't all that different from researching potential investments.
I became interested in minerals after seeing a hand-sized specimen containing three minerals, each of a different geometric shape and colour. Knowing nothing about crystal structure at the time, I was mesmerized by the precision of the forms and wanted to understand more about them, which led to a life-long interest in minerals as a hobby. I joined local mineral clubs and became acquainted with a number of professional mineralogists and geologists associated with the U of T and the ROM.
I was soon introduced to Mont Saint-Hilaire, just east of Montréal. This "magic mountain" has more mineral species than any other single locality in the world. It has also produced a large number of previously unknown species and is still doing so.
In the early years of the ROM, I had been involved in the identification of many of these minerals and had a large number of staff-collected specimens, as well as several donated collections that were rich in Mont Saint-Hilaire material. Having acquired some knowledge of these minerals, I was asked in 2000 if I would be interested in volunteering at the museum to help sort it all out. Other collections followed, and I am still sorting things out.
Mineralogy and Geology Technician, Royal Ontario Museum
Katherine Dunnell is a Mineralogy technician in the Department of Natural History and came to the ROM in 1997. She is a graduate of the University of Windsor geology program after transferring out of biology because things were very slimy. She worked in the field during the summers and gained a better appreciation for the beauty of the unspoiled north, the ability to cook a roast over an open fire, and a huge disdain for black flies. She realized that her passion were museums, something that she loved from an early age was the Detroit Institute of Arts and the McLaughlin Planetarium were two of her favourite places. It was after she arrived at the ROM that her interest in gemmology blossomed when a colleague noticed she had a keen eye. Katherine believes the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize. She has had the privilege to work on numerous exhibitions and permanent galleries at the ROM.
PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
As a Graduate Student/Research Assistant, my work includes completing detailed petrographic and geochemical investigations of rare Martian meteorites. I am specifically interested in the “shocking” effects that impacts can have on the isotopic and chemical compositions of phosphate minerals in Martian meteorites. Phosphates have been studied extensively as reservoirs of water and geochronometers, but they are also thought to be the main source of bio-essential phosphorous for potential life on Mars. The goal of my project is to establish a correlation between the microstructural state of phosphates and their chemical and isotopic compositions; allowing for more accurate predictions of phosphorous bio-availability, water content, water origin, and age determinations in Martian rocks.
Before coming back to school in 2016 I was originally trained as a geological engineer (I received my BScEng from Queen’s University in 2013) and worked as an environmental engineer for over 3 years. When I came back to school for my MSc I was given the opportunity to analyze and characterize the petrogenesis of a rare Martian meteorite, gaining new insights into magmatism on Mars. From there I caught the “research bug” and am now continuing my research on Martian meteorites in my PhD. I am also passionate about science communication and outreach and have been a speaker and organizer of several science outreach events tailored to the general public.
University of Toronto
Megan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Natural History at the ROM and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. Her current project involves the study of sulfur isotopes in terrestrial and Martian rocks. Megan also recently completed her M.Sc. degree at the ROM and U of T, where she studied small melt inclusions trapped in crystals that composed a unique type of Martian meteorite. The composition of these inclusions helped gain a better understanding of how these types of meteorites formed, and may provide detail on their source being a volatile- or water-rich reservoir in the interior of Mars.
Long before graduate studies were even a thought in her mind, Megan was a curious child that could always be found searching through river rocks in her backyard for crystals and fossils. She was thrilled by any chance she got to come to the museum, and never grew tired of the Natural History exhibits (even to this day!). Megan finally had the chance to really explore her passion for geology during her undergraduate degree at McMaster University. She was intrigued by mineralogy and petrology courses that allowed her to look at minerals under the microscope, providing a look into the Earth’s past. She had the opportunity gain research skills dating rocks from the Canadian Shield, but became interested in studying other types of rocks, including those from Mars. Megan obtained her B.Sc. in Biology and Earth Sciences in 2019 from the Integrated Science program at McMaster University
Beth is currently focusing on developing non-destructive techniques to study sensitive meteorites and asteroid sample return materials. Carbon-rich meteorites and asteroids contain some of the oldest and most primitive material in our solar system along with organic material like amino acids. Studying these materials in a way that is non-destructive and preserving the material for future generations is important so that when new technological advancements are made we have pristine material remaining. Beth is developing the ESCAPE (Environmental Spectrum Chamber for Analysis in Planetary Exploration) system to analyze these sensitive planetary materials using laser-based analysis while under controlled environmental conditions. This chamber will be ideal for mapping mineral and organic abundances in meteorite and asteroid samples while maintaining an optimal temperature and atmosphere for preservation.
Beth originally studied Geology at Dalhousie University (Hons. Earth Sciences '15) because of her love for the outdoors and the need to understand the world around her. Beth's honours thesis centered around the geochemistry of millimeter-sized features in meteorites and how they compared to that of some of the oldest rocks on Earth. From there, her interest in studying meteorites and developing space instruments grew into a Master's project at York university in collaboration with the ROM where she used UV light to map tiny features in carbonaceous meteorites (Msc. Earth and Space Science '17). Beth also received a Master's in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto ('19) before starting her PhD at York University in Earth and Space Science, supervised by Dr. Michael Daly and Dr. Kim Tait at the ROM.