Canada's oldest scientific agency celebrates 175 years

Canada's oldest scientific agency will mark its 175th birthday with a celebration in Vancouver this week.

The Geological Survey of Canada was founded in 1842 during the industrial revolution, 26 years before Confederation.

"That phase of our industrial growth was based on iron and steel and coal and copper and all the rest of the metals," said John Chapman, a scientist with the GSC in Vancouver.

These days, the GSC falls under the Earth Sciences sector of Natural Resources Canada.

New technology, new tasks

Tasked with the sustainable development of mining, energy and water resources, it's also in charge of assessing geological hazards and developing new technology.

"We have a whole bunch of people who are trying to do things from space; big-scale planning using modern satellites and drone technology.

"We're right at the forefront of some of that stuff too." Chapman told CBC's North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

One area where this new technology may be applied is with the search for new copper reserves in British Columbia.

Plentiful copper

Chapman said B.C. is unique in the world because of its plentiful copper deposits, but noted there are still many questions about how copper got here and where more can be found.

"We don't fundamentally understand why some parts of B.C. have lots and other parts have none," he said.

While mineral exploration is still among the agency's priorities, seismic activity and tsunami planning are some new areas of study. If you want to know more about the agency's various roles, visit the GSC's open house in Vancouver, May 5.

There, members of the public are invited to play with seismographs, which are used to detect earthquakes and seismic activity.

Other activities will include creating topographic maps in a sandbox and viewing microscopic fossils under a microscope.