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Fogo Island geologist-in-residence engages tourists and locals in geology of the region

Maggie Whalen (Geology Program summer student), instructing children during the first Thursday-afternoon children’s program of the year. Taken near Simm’s Beach, Brimstone  Head, Fogo Island on July  5, 2018.
Maggie Whalen (Geology Program summer student), instructing children during the first Thursday-afternoon children’s program of the year. Taken near Simm’s Beach, Brimstone Head, Fogo Island on July 5, 2018. - Contributed

Jane Wynne leads hikes, children’s programs and delivers talks as part of her six-week rotation

FOGO ISLAND, N.L. - As the current geologist-in-residence with the Geology at the Edge Program on Fogo Island, Jane Wynne is spending her six-week rotation talking to a lot of different people about interesting rocks.

“The rocks here are fantastic, the coastal exposures and the mix of rocks are, for a geologist, really exciting,” Wynne, who has done two previous rotations in 2014 and 2016, said. “All kinds of interesting, visually-arresting textures to the rocks.

“If it was all boring, boring, the same, it would even be hard for a geologist to get excited, but these are all attractive, so it is easy to tell a story about these rocks.”

The geologist-in-residence program is a public education program developed by the Shorefast Foundation to highlight and celebrate the varied geological features of Fogo. The program runs from late spring to early fall, and up to five different geologists commit to at least four weeks of sharing their enthusiasm for geology.

“I’m here because the Shorefast Foundation has an geologist-in-residence program, just as they have an artist-in-residence program. For me, to have science afforded that same sort of honour as artists get, I think is tremendous.”

-Jane Wynne

That commitment includes leading hikes for guests of the Fogo Inn and for the local community, as well as giving talks, and being part of the children’s geological program.

“We lead guests from the inn on hikes and talk about geology and on set afternoons we lead community hikes, we pick a different one every Sunday,” Wynne, said. “Members of the community and their kids come out and we talk about the geology along the way and we talk about the flowers, and plants.”

During the children’s program on Thursday July 12, 2018, the group collected and then painted rocks at the Geology Centre in Shoal Bay, Fogo Island.
During the children’s program on Thursday July 12, 2018, the group collected and then painted rocks at the Geology Centre in Shoal Bay, Fogo Island.

“The hikes follow paths established by the community, but geology was not a feature of the hikes before we started,” Wynne said.

“On Thursdays from 2 to 5 we have a children’s program,” Wynne said. “We’ve painted dino-eggs and painted rocks, and last week we talked about geological time.”

The children’s program attracts around 10 to 18 people per event and the attendees are a mix of local people and visitors. Wynne enjoys interacting with the new people that she meets during the various programs.

“You get to meet people from over, the last people I took on a hike were from a family of five from Bruges, Belgium,” Wynne said. “And I see lots of Americans, and people from all across Canada. The best ones are the ones who are willing to chat about their own lives.”

Her love of the geology of the region also takes Wynne outside of her role to hike with other groups. She has also gone to Change Islands to lead a hike with the Change Islands Hiking Trails Group.

The geologist-in-residence is not solely responsible for all of the program’s activities. This summer, the geologists in each rotation have been working with Maggie Whelan, who is from St. John’s and is a geology student at McGill University.

Wynne, who earned her Masters at MUN, retired several years ago from her work for the Geological Survey of Canada in Sydney, BC, heard about the geologist-in-residence program during her first day of retirement when Zita Cobb gave a talk about geotourism at a Geology Association of Canada conference.

 “She said, ‘We’ve got these great rocks. We’ve had a geologist, Paul Dean, look at them and there’s enough interesting geology there to make it a focus. All we need are geologists.’” 

Wynne, who, by coincidence was already planning a trip to Fogo Island with her husband, immediately wanted to volunteer, joking that she could start right away. Her first rotation, in 2014, was the following year.

She really appreciates this opportunity for geologists to work on Fogo Island.

“I’m here because the Shorefast Foundation has an geologist-in-residence program, just as they have an artist-in-residence program,” Wynne said. “For me, to have science afforded that same sort of honour as artists get, I think is tremendous.”

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