Did you know the Okanagan Valley is divided by a fault line?
Maybe not. But if you did, then you’d be right in line with the college instructors who arrived in Penticton for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers annual conference on June 25.
Okanagan College’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence filled with some of the Pacific Northwest’s best and brightest rock enthusiasts, keen to dig into the region’s geological landscape for the next two days.
Heading the three-day conference is Todd Redding, Okanagan College’s Professor of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Based out of the Penticton campus, Redding saw the potential in bringing the conference to the Okanagan for the first time.
“The valley is split down the middle by a big fault, which has resulted in very different rock types on either side of the valley,” Redding said. “On top of this, we have an amazing glacial history that leads to many of the interesting land forms we see. This geology – combined with our unique climate – allows for the ability to grow excellent wine grapes and tree fruit.”
These interesting land forms include Giant’s Head Mountain, just a stone’s throw from Penticton in the nearby town of Summerland. Now an extinct volcano, this hike and the accompanying view were a part of this morning’s field trip outing.
A visit to the cliffs that sit beneath the well-known Penticton sign is part of the itinerary too, along with a drive to the Naramata Bench and Skaha Lake to explore various types of rock and glacial sediments.
But the most intriguing geoscience element that attracted attendees to the conference is in the wine that the region is so famous for. The local terroir is a focus of the conference, with a feature keynote held yesterday on the relationship between wine, geology and the soils of the sprawling vineyards of the south Okanagan.
“Wineries take the idea of terroir very seriously. It is a key consideration that most producers take into account when choosing a vineyard site,” Redding said.
While the conference kicked off Tuesday, it continues through until tomorrow. Held on campus to start, attendees had the opportunity to present research, teaching techniques, as well as undergraduate findings. The two days following include site visits mentioned previously as well as other outings, including a highly anticipated visit to a winery or two.
All of the field trip sites are within a short distance of the Penticton campus, and are locations that provide research and learning opportunities for Okanagan College students. As instructor of first- and second-year Physical Geography, Weather, Climate and Environmental Sciences courses, Redding takes his students on field trips regularly, noting the high value in learning about processes in the field.
Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for South Okanagan-Similkameen adds, “the NAGT conference coming to Penticton is a great opportunity for both our instructors and students to learn from and collaborate with world-class geoscientists.”
“The Okanagan region has a naturally convincing pull, and we hope that by hosting this conference, we’re able to share more about diverse geography and the work our Geography, Earth & Environmental Science department is doing in the field of education and research.”
While Redding’s classes are out for the summer, he still has two students volunteering at the conference. The sessions and field trips are educational and social at the same time – an opportunity for people to meet, learn and glean from each other. Attendees will be permitted to take photos and collect rocks at certain sites, taking them back to their respective institutions for case studies and examples for classroom teaching.
For more conference information, visit the website or contact Todd Redding at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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