A thick fog quickly rolls in while Michael Tamosauskas collects glacial till samples atop a mountain in Nunavut. With his nearest colleague at least 100 metres away, Michael’s radio alerts him that an emergency helicopter pick-up is on its way before the pilot loses more visibility.
When the roar of the helicopter sounds close, all Michael can see is the thick, white fog enveloping him. “I was kind of panicking because if they couldn’t pick me up for a certain period, I would have to camp out on the tundra overnight,” said Michael.
The helicopter pilot, with Michael’s crew on board, struggles to spot Michael and, when he does, there is nowhere nearby to safely land.
“I made the decision to sprint – and fall – down the side of this mountain to flatland, where he was able to pick me up… with him and my crew laughing at my tumble down the mountain,” said Michael.
Fleming Career Fair leads to summer employment at GroundTruth Exploration
The opportunity for Michael to spend his summer working at GroundTruth Exploration, a mineral exploration company, came from attending the annual Career Fair at Fleming’s Frost Campus. At the time, Michael was an Earth Resources Technician Co-op student looking for work experience in his field.
Michael has spent the past couple summers working for GroundTruth Exploration; first in Nunavut, later in Labrador. The company, based in Dawson City, Yukon, is involved in gold exploration projects across northern Canada and begins a new project in Alaska soon.
As an Exploration Field Technician, Michael marked soil sample site locations, collected soil samples and described their physical attributes. He worked four weeks on, one week off, and then another 4 weeks on, with workdays being seven to eight hours.
“Nunavut was a very unique place to work,” said Michael, adding that his camp was approximately 200km north of the nearest town, Rankin Inlet, and had about 200 people working there. He describes the camp as well-developed, including a wastewater treatment facility, clean washrooms, and professional chefs who cooked for everyone.
“While working in Nunavut in the summer, I was subject to 24/7 daylight, which took a while to get used to; although I was always so tired by the end of my workdays, I did not need darkness to fall asleep,” he said. “Also, the lack of trees on the tundra made it easy to spot all sorts of wildlife, such as caribou and wolves.”
He returned to GroundTruth Exploration the following summer and was assigned a project in Labrador, where he was one of a five-member crew.
“I found life in Labrador a little more rough,” Michael said, explaining that his crew assembled their kitchen/office tent, dry tent, and personal tents to sleep in. “The scenery of Labrador is gorgeous, although the bugs I had to deal with daily were horrendous. To make my workdays bearable, I needed to wear bug nets and apply bug spray on my skin every 20 minutes or so.’
‘Although, the helicopter rides and the interesting rocks I spotted up there made up for it!” he added.
This summer, Michael will be working in Dawson City, Yukon, as a Geologist, sampling soil and rock using a GeoProbe. He will then utilize X-Ray Fluorescence to determine whether the samples have high concentrations of arsenic and/or iron, which can indicate gold.
Co-op placement and applied learning gives Michael Tamosauskas a competitive advantage in geology field
Michael has always found Earth dynamics extremely interesting, so when he began exploring post-secondary options, his heart was set on geology. But with mainly college-level high school credits, Michael ran into issues trying to get into a university geology program.
He met with his guidance counsellor to research college geology programs and discovered that Fleming College’s Earth Resources Technician program features a paid, six month co-op, which he believes is incredibly valuable. Michael enrolled in the program and describes his two years at Frost Campus as an excellent experience.
“For my ERT Co-op term, I was a Geotechnical Field Technician for Golder Associates. This summer experience was an excellent foundation for my career, as I had no prior relevant work experience,” he said. “That experience on my resume has drawn interest from every job interviewer I have had so far.”
After graduating from Fleming in 2017, Michael used Fleming’s education pathway to Acadia University to earn his Bachelor of Science in Geology.
“Before I went to Fleming, I believed I was not fit to go to university. But I realized my potential throughout my two years there,” said Michael. “I give ERT faculty a lot of credit because they did a great job teaching the complex subject of geology within a two-year span and prepared me well for studying geology in university.”
Michael recommends the ERT program to others because of its applied learning opportunities, including field trips, projects within the Drilling and Blasting facility, and mandatory co-op placement.
“I found that this experience gave me quite the advantage compared to my fellow university students, since the university approach is mainly theoretical rather than practical,” he said.
Michael plans to gain more experience as a mineral exploration geologist and is interested in focusing on the business side of mining in the future. He is currently enrolled to complete his Honours project with an Acadia University professor and, once he graduates from his degree program, Michael would like to pursue graduate studies and conduct research with an economic geology professor.