Venus in Morocco
By Liam Rockliffe, Staff Writer
Venus is a fascinating planet. It’s a gigantic volcanic structure, which means it is mostly igneous rocks— rocks formed from lava. Venus’ composition gives us more information about igneous rocks than we could ever hope to gain from our own planet, due to a very large amount being covered by water and top layers of ground.
Back in June of this year, Katherine Boggs, a professor from Mount Royal University’s (MRU) Geology program, brought a group of five students from MRU to Morocco for an international conference. This conference mainly pertained to large igneous provinces and geological dykes (a large slab of rock slicing through another rock) on Venus.
Two of the students, Jerry Democy and Lovleen Dhami, said each of the students attending the conference had to complete their own research in mapping Venus’ geological conditions. Being able to attend the conference was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to compare notes with other specialists in the field and improve their own research methods.
Of course the trip to Morocco was not strictly business, as the students were able to venture on camel-back through the Moroccan desert, visit coastal towns, and truly experience the immense difference in culture between Canada and Morocco. Dhami’s favourite part of the trip was the tour of Essaouira, a coastal town in Morocco. She said this experience changed her life forever. Democy’s favourite part of the trip was the camel expedition, as it was unlike anything any of them had experienced before.
“Best trip of my life”—Dhami
Both students wished they could have stayed longer, but classes and cash are a constant battle for university students.
In a field trip, the students learned about the Berbers, the Indigenous peoples of Morocco and their lasting impression on the country. They also learned about three different main points of the Marrakesh mountains on an incredibly intimidating hike. Collecting geological samples, the students learned about the geological history of Marrakesh, which relates highly to Venus’ geology. The field trip also covered ancient hieroglyphics that are carved into the mountains.
Struggle to finance
At the conference, the students interacted with professors from all over the world, including some professors from Yale University. MRU had the most noticeably young students—being all undergraduates, they made a very strong impression on the other masters and PhD level students, as well as professionals in the field. The trip provided MRU students with the ability to network with upstanding people in the industry.
This trip cost the students between $4,000 and $6,000 each, which includes a $2,200 round trip flight, food, lodging, and extracurricular activities throughout the trip.
Through SAMRU, some students obtained $700. Boggs managed to obtain $310 from the Science department. However, it was only available if you were actively a member of the faculty.
Democy received zero funding from the school despite being an MRU student. He also works full-time and therefore did not qualify for any additional funding.
The students also applied through the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists for $3,000 but received no response. The group says that they would have used this money for accommodations.
However, by reaching out to the co-head of the International Venus Group, the students were able to find residence in a bungalow for ten dollars per-person per-night, though according to Dhami and Democy’s description, the stay was heavily disturbed by peacocks.
Democy states that trips like these are “a must” in the field of geology, to learn about different geological conditions in different parts of the world.
“Having funding specifically for students who wish to participate in international conferences and represent one’s academic institutions puts the university’s name out there,” he said.
Boggs and other faculty fought incredibly hard for the students to receive funding.
With a maximum receivable of $1,010, as well as being incredibly difficult to receive, MRU covered only 20 percent of the cost, despite the students representing MRU at an academic conference where other prestigious universities and scholars attended.
Additionally, the trip was barely advertised by MRU despite being a considerable endeavour.
Despite the financial struggles, it was a trip everyone will remember forever and will benefit the students and the university for years to come.