Geology of the Snowbird zone, Saskatchewan and NWT

Regions: South Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, geology, Canadian Shield

Principal Investigator: Williams, Michael L (2)
Licence Number: 16127
Organization: Dept. of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts
Licensed Year(s): 2017 2016
Issued: Jul 07, 2017
Project Team: Michael Williams (Principal Investigator, University of Massachusetts), Sean Regan (C0-investigator, University of Massachusetts), Jeffrey Chiarenzelli (C0-investigator, St. Lawrence University)

Objective(s): To determine if the Snowbird Tectonic Zone was the boundary between two ancient continents fused together, or a feature that was imposed on the continent long after it formed.

Project Description: The snowbird Tectonic zone is an enigmatic structure in the framework of the Canadian Shield. It is a linear zone on geologic maps stretching northeastward from the Rocky Mountains through Lake Athabasca to Hudson Bay. It was originally recognized on aerial surveys. It was clearly an important element in the construction of the North American continent more than 2 billion years ago, but interpretations vary concerning the exact role it played in the growth of the continent. The major objective is to determine if this structure was the boundary between two ancient continents fused together, or a feature that was imposed on the continent long after it formed. This will help to complete the understanding of the geologic history of North America in general.

The goal is to describe and measure the rocks to the northwest, southeast, and within the Snowbird structure. The research team will collect small samples of the rocks in order to determine the age of the rocks (at the University of Massachusetts) and importantly, the age of tectonism. The team will try to determine from the structure and chemistry of the rocks if the rocks on either side of the Snowbird zone are similar (part of the same original continent) or very different (parts of two different continents).

After discussions with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, it was agreed that the research team would produce a poster with abundant illustrations about the research and the implications. In addition, the team will produce a 2-page report/summary in plain language about the work and the implications for the geologic history of the Northwest Territories.

Results of this study will be published in scientific journals available to all researchers. In addition, the research team will happily compile brochures or videos for the general public or for schools about the nature of the findings if there is interest.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 23, 2017 to August 11, 2017.