Shanna Law - “Research and Presenting at a Conference”

Shanna Law

Shanna has travelled from the USA to study for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geology at the University of Otago in New Zealand.  When she’s not studying she likes to hike, paint and read.

 

The largest benefit of studying abroad for a full academic year is that I had enough time to complete my own independent research project. I took a year-long class in the geology department called “Independent Field Studies,” and through this I found an environmental geology project to do. I was lucky to have an excellent advisor who oversaw my project, and he gave me the opportunity to present the findings at a conference!

For my project, I made maps of the geology, vegetation, and soil chemistry at an abandoned gold mine.

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Left over from the mining processes are mine channels that were dug into the ground, which created steep slopes. The mining had also left large areas barren and exposed. Both of these factors lead to a lot of sediment runoff, which is washed down the slopes and then fans out on the flat ground at the bottom.

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“Left over from the mining processes are mine channels that were dug into the ground, which created steep slopes.”

The old mine is in Central Otago, which is an arid region, and this leads to salt encrustations forming on the fans of runoff. Some tiny, endangered salt-tolerant plants actually thrive in this environment! Because they are so rare and endangered, the Department of Conservation in New Zealand made the old mine site a Scientific Reserve. Luckily, there are no toxic elements exposed by the mining, so the site does not need intensive remediation. It’s just really bare and really salty, and that counter-intuitively created a safe haven for some unique plants.

 


 

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“My maps showed that there was a direct correlation between the different rocks exposed at the site, the soil chemisty, and the distribution of the plants.”

We used my data to argue that mine operations should incorporate diverse landscapes and soils during remediation in order to support diverse plants and thus increase biodiversity. Many current mine remediation ends up leaving a site flat and only planting grass or a few kinds of trees.

I had to write a few reports about my findings, but I also made a poster and presented it at mining conference that was luckily held right here in the city of Dunedin.

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“Even though I was extraordinarily nervous to speak to professional geologists at a conference, it was also really exciting.”

 


 

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“For being a presenter, I received a free book and complimentary bag!”

 Even though I was extraordinarily nervous to speak to professional geologists at a conference, it was also really exciting. For being a presenter, I received a free book and complimentary bag! There were even hors d’oeurvres to snack on while I stood by my poster and waited for people to ask me questions. After talking to a few people, I was able to relax and I ended up immensely enjoying the experience. I met some impressive people and had enriching conversations, and it was an amazing addition to my study abroad experience!