“When we look at rocks, we tend to see them as immovable; but they have travelled through the process of tectonics and are now on the Earth after a journey both in space and in time.”
The art and science of storytelling
Dr. Charlotte Keen is an internationally recognized research scientist in the field of geophysics with the Geological Survey of Canada. She worked at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography from the 1960s until her retirement in 1998. Her expertise is well known and highly regarded. In particular, her involvement in the LITHOPROBE project in the early 1990s proved to be groundbreaking - literally.
LITHOPROBE was the largest earth science project ever undertaken in Canada. It aimed to study the evolution of the continent by examining the geology of the continental lithosphere of the ocean floor. It was Charlotte who established a data set that used deep seismic reflection information to provide the first look at the crustal structure of the continental margins.
“What earth scientists try to figure out is the story of how they [rocks] got to where they are today, explains Charlotte. In a sense, we are telling a story on a scale of millions of years rather than in terms of a human lifespan.”
Pushing beyond boundaries for women in science
Charlotte’s contributions to geophysical research are outstanding, and have influenced and inspired a generation of women in earth sciences. Her work has not only pushed the boundaries of existing research — it has also helped break down barriers faced by women engaged in the technically and physically demanding fieldwork of marine seismology.
Charlotte’s first sea voyage, on the Theta in 1964, saw her climb the ship’s mast to reach the crow’s nest and repair a damaged antenna. The ship, chartered by the Government of Canada during the summer months for scientific research, had a predominantly male crew. Determined to contribute some elbow grease and apply her abilities, Charlotte did much of the work that was typically carried out at that time by male crew members of research vessels.
Today, Charlotte continues to appreciate the many personal and professional satisfactions of her successful career: “My life has been richer for those experiences of being in that environment. I have no regrets.”
“A healthy society needs to have people in it who are happy with what they are doing and are doing it for the love of it,” says Charlotte, who continues to do research to support women in science and to promote scientific excellence. “These are the truly creative people in our society.”
- 2003 - Honorary doctoral degree from the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University “for her outstanding and widely recognized contributions”
- 1995 - Distinguished Fellow, Geological Association of Canada
- 1995 - J. Tuzo Wilson Medal, awarded annually by the Canadian Geophysical Union
- 1994 - Woolard Award of the Geological Society of America
- 1993 - Michael J. Keen Medal in Marine Geosciences, Geological Association of Canada
- 1992 - Featured in Claiming the Future: The Inspiring Lives of Twelve Canadian Women Scientists and Scholars, about role models for young girls interested in science and research
- 1991 - Canada–United Kingdom Rutherford Lecturer, Royal Society of London, Royal Society of Canada
- 1986 - Fellow, American Geophysical Union
- 1980 - Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
- 1979 - Past President’s Medal, Geological Association of Canada
- 1975 - Young Scientist Award from the Atlantic Provinces Inter-University Committee on the Sciences
- 1970–1998 - Research scientist at the Atlantic Oceanographic Laboratory and Atlantic Geoscience Centre
- 1970 - Ph.D. from Cambridge University for a landmark study of the geophysical structure of the mid-Atlantic ridge
- 1966 - M.Sc. in Geophysics from Dalhousie University
- 1964 - B.Sc. in Physics from Dalhousie University
- Natural Resources Canada. Dr. Charlotte E. Keen