Bianca Iulianella Phillips, Ph.D. Student, University of British Columbia


Prior to becoming a geologist, Bianca trained as a classical ballet dancer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She then pursued an undergraduate education in geological sciences at Queen’s University. During her studies, she became interested in exploration geochemistry due to influence from her professor, Dr. Kurt Kyser. Bianca was a part of the Exploration Geochemistry Initiative at the Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU) at the University of British Columbia, led by the late Dr. Peter Winterburn. Her work there was the starting point in her mineral exploration research looking at microbiological vectors for concealed kimberlites and copper-porphyry deposits. During Bianca’s time at UBC during her M.Sc., she also led a UBC SEG (Society of Economic Geologists) field trip to South Africa and held the title of UBC SEG Chapter President. Bianca now consults in exploration geochemistry and continues her research as a Ph.D. student at UBC, working under Dr. Sean Crowe and Dr. Craig Hart.

Project Description: Soil Microbial Community Biosensors of Concealed Mineralization

Bianca is developing the application of molecular tools for the exploration of mineral deposits concealed by soil cover. Microorganisms are extremely abundant in soils and their communities are sensitive to subtle environmental variability, reflecting such variability in composition, structure, and activity. Shifts in microbial community profiles, induced by chemical or physical differences related to geology, are detectable in the surficial environment and can be used to vector toward discrete geological features. Recent advances in DNA sequencing and the development of sophisticated tools for data-management and processing allow for inexpensive and rapid fingerprinting of soil microbial communities with the potential to detect concealed ore mineralization. Her Ph.D. is an expansion on her M.Sc. research, studying microbiological mineral exploration methods. In her M.Sc., her field tests, over copper-porphyry deposits and kimberlites and in ore-amended soil incubation experiments, provided evidence that microbial community data can be used to explore for mineralization concealed by overburden.