Meet an expert, Pierre Lacoste
A noted expert in mineralogy and mineral identification, author and co-author of several geological reports, geologist Pierre Lacoste, a Montréal resident, has been working at the Ministère des Ressources naturelles for several years. The Québec Mines bulletin asked him a few questions.
Beginning the day with our feet in the water in Abitibi ... during the last century, in 1985!
Bulletin Québec Mines (QMB) – You have been a geologist for many years. You signed and co-signed many geological reports. How did you develop this interest in geology and earth science?
Pierre Lacoste (PL) – Like many young people, I had a small collection of minerals and rocks, from the MRN, that I looked at carefully. But my interest in geology developed a little late and almost by accident. Until college, I was interested in medicine or medical research and was preparing to study it. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I started my bachelor’s degree at UQAM during the winter session and was hired the following summer to work in the field in Baie-James (the James Bay area), in geochemistry. Conditions were very difficult: four of us living in a tent for three months, traveling by canoe and eating a lot of fish. In short, it was memorable and very out of the ordinary. I then worked two more summers as a "super-junior" in Val-d’Or, mapping ultramafic rocks. It was a new field with plenty of openings at the time. Continuing my master’s studies at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) and my PhD at Laval University allowed me to focus on topics and themes that have always interested me, such as volcanology, mineralization, petrology and metamorphism. I was also fortunate to work with people who taught me a lot and who let me share their knowledge, expertise and life experiences.
Leading a workshop during
QMB – Mapping seems to be an important part of your work. You began your career at the MRN as a cartographer. You mapped several regions of Québec, the last summers being spent in the Côte-Nord region. What makes mapping so interesting?
PL – Each region has its own characteristics and you always find out a lot when you go into the field. At its core, a geologist’s job is field work. During my studies and later, the various places where I worked, such as the Abitibi, Estrie, Gaspésie, Saguenay, and Côte-Nord regions, as well as the Laurentians and the Far North, have been interesting in different ways because of the types of rocks and geologic phenomena occurring there. The more you see, the more interesting it gets, because you try to compare and understand. During fieldwork, life with your team is interesting; I like teamwork and I find it easy to adapt to people and various situations.
QMB – You are known for your expertise in mineralogy and microscopic identification of minerals. How did you become an expert in this area?
PL – I developed the expertise over many years. At the master’s degree level, we examined a lot of rock samples and thin sections, and that continued throughout my doctoral studies. I also worked for seven years at the Centre de recherches minérales (mineral research centre) (now COREM) as a mineralogist and project leader in materials characterization. During that period, the optical microscope and various other identification devices were my primary tools. I also worked with people to whom mineralogy and the microscope were important and I am extremely grateful. It takes a lot of time and practice.
QMB – You are making a major contribution to the acquisition of geological knowledge, but you are also working to pass it on. You are a lecturer at UQAM. How do you feel about it?
PL – I enjoy it a lot; I find it very rewarding; it is also a kind of knowledge transfer. The work is very intense; I try to explain the material or concept as I would have liked to be taught—with examples, in a clear and sometimes personalized way. I regularly visit laboratories and microscope rooms; I talk to students and give them a hand or answer their questions. That is the advantage of having our offices at the University; I can make the students aware of the MRN.
During training sessions for primary and secondary school teachers, Pierre is always part of the panel of experts.
QMB – You are very involved in educational program Géologie pour tous, especially during trade fairs open to the public, workshops in schools, etc. What do you tell the people and students you meet?
PL – The educational component is important to initiate and inform people, be it the general public or students in schools. The visits to schools began a few years ago with one to three visits a year, and have now grown to include 15 to 20 schools. Each visit involves two to three classes, sometimes four, with about 20 students apiece. I tell them about various rocks and minerals and about work as a geologist. I bring samples; I have a presentation with lots of pictures and I identify samples the students bring in; they are amazed. Their eyes and minds are wide open and they have plenty of questions. I am also involved in Montréal mineral clubs, the Innovateurs program, Québec’s Communicateurs scientifiques association, and the Conseil des loisirs scientifiques de Montréal.