Each year, the Forum on Education Abroad recognizes excellence in academic work completed by students as part of an educational abroad program. This year, BCA Study Abroad alumni, Shanna Law, will receive the Academic Achievement Abroad award for her studies in New Zealand on Geology: Evaporative Salt Accumulation and Geoecology at Springvale Historic Gold Mine in Central Otago.
Shanna, who graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Geology from Juniata College, attended the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand with BCA from February – November of 2015. During her time abroad, Shanna conducted a year-long independent field study. Her goal was to connect the vegetation patterns to the different underlying geologic units of a local mine.
The Springvale Scientific Reserve in New Zealand is now the site of the retired Springvale Gold Mine, active approximately 80-100 years ago. In this area, the effects of mining left exposed an impermeable mudstone landscape with variable topography throughout the reserve. Due to the semi-arid climate and the high saline levels in island’s rain, salts crystallize on the mudstone’s surface. Over time, the mudstone erodes and creates muddy, silty outwash pans where the evaporitic salts collect. Here, rare and native salt-tolerant plants called halophytes grow in the post-mine habitat. Since halophytes are native and endangered, the New Zealand Department of Conservation preserved the site as a scientific reserve.
In her part of a bigger mine rehabilitation discussion, Shanna Law was tasked with making maps of the site’s geology, vegetation and soil chemistries. This involved visual identification of the plants and collecting samples of the geology and soil. Thanks to University of Otago, she was able to study these samples with equipment like a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and an x-ray diffractometer (XRD). With the data she collected, Shanna was able to correlate different plant species with different geological units, which can be used to further understand halophyte habitat and incorporate more biodiversity and ecological recovery into mine remediation.
To conclude her research, Shanna Law wrote a 30+ page report which her mentor, Geology professor, Dave Craw, shared with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. She also presented the research at a NZ mining conference, and was a contributing author in an article Dr. Craw submitted to the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. Now, she is being recognized with the Forum’s Academic Achievement Abroad award in March of 2017 at the organization’s annual conference.
“Doing undergraduate research while I studied abroad in New Zealand was instrumental to my development as a scientist, a professional, and a global citizen,” Shanna shared with the Forum.
Shanna’s comments showcases how studying abroad can be a door to new beginnings. We encourage all our students to seek out opportunities and take advantage of all resources available at their study abroad university and in their host city, as well as make their contribution to help bridge the world, connect for peace, and act for justice.