Abstract

Lithoprobe is Canada’s national, collaborative, multidisciplinary, Earth science research project established to develop a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of northern North America. It is regarded internationally as one of the most successful national geoscience projects ever undertaken. Part of Lithoprobe’s success derives from its history and organizational structure. A one-year Phase I program (1984–1985) was highly successful. Phases II to V carried the project forward until 2005, when funding terminated. Lithoprobe was organized as a decentralized research network of multidisciplinary scientific studies and collaborating scientists. About 1500 scientific publications were generated. Lithoprobe’s legacy also includes economic and social benefits. New and improved understanding of Earth history provides petroleum and mining companies with an enhanced knowledge base. Lithoprobe demonstrated the applicability of high-resolution seismic reflection studies to mineral exploration. Development of a portable seismic refraction recorder and a long-period magnetotelluric system led to technology transfer to Canadian companies. Very high-resolution seismic reflection studies, applied first by Lithoprobe, are proving effective for exploration for uranium deposits in Saskatchewan. In the cratonic areas of Canada, Lithoprobe seismic and magnetotelluric studies have provided significant new information relevant to exploration for diamonds. On the west coast of Canada, Lithoprobe studies provided data and a framework for better understanding the mega-thrust earthquake hazard in the region. Lithoprobe established a highly effective public outreach strategy that involved the print and electronic media as well as material for educational purposes. Unequivocally, Lithoprobe has enhanced the already strong reputation of the Earth sciences in Canada.

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