Chris Herd is one of Canada’s foremost experts on meteorites and the U of A’s Meteorite Collection is the foundation of his research.
How do you examine the evolution of our solar system through the lens of a microscope? Christopher Herd knows because that’s exactly what he does as a researcher in earth and atmospheric sciences.
As researcher and curator of the University of Alberta Meteorite Collection, Herd studies comparative planetology, comparing samples from Earth with those from asteroids, Mars, and the Moon, generating insights into planetary formation and differentiation.
Canada’s largest university-based meteorite collection houses 1100 samples, including pristine, frozen samples of the Tagish Lake (B.C.) meteorite and iron meteorites associated with the impact crater in Whitecourt, Alberta.
“I have to balance the needs of teaching and research today with the need to preserve the primary materials for researchers of future generations,” says Herd. Objects are documented in detail prior to cutting and processing them for various types of analyses. Herd teamed up with Academic Information and Communication Technologies to address this by preserving objects’ 3D shape using a desktop laser scanner. Resulting files are used to provide public access to rare meteorites using a combination of online images and tangible models created using AICT’s 3D printer.
The knowledge gained from the study of meteorites is a cornerstone of the university’s Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology. Insights into how best to curate, handle, and study meteorites will contribute to ever-expanding international efforts to bring samples back from the Moon, Mars, and other planets.
The Meteorite Collection is part of the University of Alberta Museums, one of the largest collecting institutions in Canada, with a 100-year history of object-based learning and research. This network of 35 diverse museum collections is housed in 120 locations within departments across campus from art and archeology to paleontology and zoology. Totaling more than 17 million objects, the collections are used to fuel discovery and advance knowledge through teaching, research, and community outreach. Approximately 5000 students register annually in courses that use collections as primary sources in discovery learning.
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