In the summer of 2008, Mount Etna was erupting. When Europe’s largest and most active volcano starts spewing ash and lava, most people don’t try to get closer. Except for a few select earth scientists, including Megan Eyre.
A geophysics undergraduate student at the time, Megan spent a week at Mount Etna deploying seismometers on her 2008 summer placement.
“It was almost like having behind-the-scenes access, since everything was closed off,” said Megan. “But because we were working with the Volcano Observatory, we got to go to areas where other people weren’t allowed to go.»
It was tough work. Megan hiked to Mount Etna through the heat in long sleeves and long pants with a 40lb pack on her back (contents included either a car battery or a seismometer, cables, spade, and heavy-duty rubber gloves).
“To deploy the seismometer, you have to dig a hole several feet deep with a spade,” Megan said. “But you have to use rubber gloves because the volcanic sand is so sharp. Normally, you have to duct tape your clothes around your ankles and wrists, so no sand gets in.”
It was Megan’s first time in the field. It was also when she knew she made the right career choice.
“I loved going out and actually doing field work on the ground… getting to see volcanoes,” she said. “My love for geophysics just went even further from there.”
The next WING / Seequent Visibility Scholarship winner
Now, Dr. Megan Eyre has eight academic publications under her belt, and was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Calgary for over three years. Originally from Northern Ireland – with stops at the University of Liverpool in England for her undergraduate masters degree, at University College Dublin in Ireland for her PhD, and a layover in France as a Post-Doctoral Researcher – she’s now settled in Calgary, Canada with her family.
She’s currently working as an Earth Scientist at Borealis GeoPower Inc., a private Canadian corporation focused on developing projects in geothermal and solution mining throughout Western and Northern Canada.
Her next stop is Christchurch, New Zealand where she’ll be meeting with Seequent’s Geothermal team as the next WING / Seequent Visibility Scholarship winner.
WING is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation focused on promoting the education, professional development, and advancement of women in the geothermal industry. Currently, it’s the largest geothermal association in the world with representation in 48 countries and over 1,500 members.
For a second year, Seequent partnered with WING to fund the WING / Seequent Visibility Scholarship – open to WING members across the world. The winner of the scholarship is sponsored to attend and present a research paper at the New Zealand Geothermal Workshop taking place November 25 to November 27 in Auckland, New Zealand. They’ll also get a chance to learn from and spend time with the Seequent Geothermal team.
“I’ve never been to New Zealand before,” Megan said. “And as part of the tour I’m going to see some geothermal sites. I’m just excited to take in everything.”
Megan won the scholarship for her role in Borealis GeoPower’s research using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) for thermal infrared and magnetic surveys over their geothermal project located in Terrace, British Columbia. The surveys were combined to determine how high-resolution thermal anomalies correlated with magnetic features that would typically be undetected in surveys with lower resolution. They believe that this technique could be applied for wider geothermal exploration.
“I came into the company after the area had been surveyed,” Megan said. “I did the magnetic interpretation once I arrived. After we had re-processed the thermal data, we also went into the field to ground-truth the anomalies.”
Supporting the next generation of geophysicists
In addition to her role in the research, Megan also won for her outlook on diversity in geothermal. What’s her advice for women in geoscience?
“Never underestimate yourself,” she said. “If you think you can do it, you can. Have faith in yourself and surround yourself with positive people.”
Megan believes that key to diversity in the industry is having role models to look up to. For her, that includes having the presence of a strong female mentor like Alison Thompson, the CEO of Borealis GeoPower.
“I think I’ve had quite a lucky experience,” Megan said. “I’ve always had people who’ve been very supportive throughout my career. It’s important for not only women to support women, but also just for people in general to support each other.”
Looking to the future, Megan leaves us with a powerful message:
“When it comes to the visibility of women in professional environments, I say ‘Show the change you wish to see.’
Hopefully, soon we will stop asking ‘Where are the women?,’ and instead we will be able to say, ‘Here are the women’.”