Bianca Phillips, MSc Student, University of British Columbia


Prior to attending university, Bianca attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's professional classical ballet training program in Winnipeg, MB. After completion of this program, she moved to Kingston, ON, to pursue academic interests at the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering at Queen's University, where she completed an honours Bachelor of Science degree in geological sciences. It was at Queen's that she first became interested in geochemistry from the influence of her professor, Dr. Kurt Kyser.

During her final year at Queen's, Bianca produced a final honours thesis project that focused on the hydrous sulphates in the mine waste of Faro, Yukon. In the summer after graduating, Bianca started at the University of British Columbia with the Mineral Deposit Research Unit under supervision of Dr. Peter Winterburn and Dr. Sean Crowe. She is currently working on the application of microbiology to mineral exploration and hopes to work in exploration geochemistry upon completion of her Master's.

Project: Molecular biology in mineral exploration

Bianca’s project involves the evaluation of the application of molecular biology to mineral exploration. The project aims at assessing and developing a more robust method of through-cover mineral exploration. This aids in initial discovery, as well as delineating targets more effectively to contribute to more successful mine development and resource extraction.

Microorganisms are everywhere and extremely abundant in soils, contributing to their statistical power in this study. Microbial communities are very sensitive to subtle changes in subsurface chemistry on short timescales, which is an added advantage when assessing changes in microbial abundances experimentally. Three main goals drive the project: i. qualifying and quantifying microbial profiles in till above zones of mineralisation relative to background soils and creating database of indicator species for different deposit types, ii. evaluating the relationships between geochemistry, physical chemistry, and microbial footprints to determine the driving factors in microbial community shifts, and iii. develop practical field and analytical procedures and protocols for the mineral exploration industry.