Photo by: Martyn Unsworth
Fill us in on the background of Mount Meager.
About 10 years ago, rock slopes above Capricorn Creek at the Mount Meager Volcanic Complex (MMVC) failed, in what became the largest landslide in Canadian history. The event caused roughly $10,000,000 in damage, and while no lives were lost, the communities of Pemberton and Pemberton Meadows are still in significant danger of a large runout landslide.
Wow! Tell us about what you’re working on now.
We’ll be implementing a landslide monitoring system at Mount Meager, using a tri-axial geophone and infrasound system, coupled with a weather station and a camera. This is just a fancy way of saying that we will be looking, listening and feeling, with the intention of detecting landslides and other alpine mass movements.
The beauty of this project is that it is collaborative. Our main partner is Weir-Jones Engineering (WJE), a geophysical group out of Vancouver. They have offered equipment, a small honorarium, and lots of time and technical support. They’ll also be using the system we’re helping design and install to create a landslide alarm system for an Innergex power plant at the base of the MMVC.
How did this big project come about?
Dr. Steve Quane and I were driving through the desert in Nevada in a Quest minivan, during a class called Tectonics of Western North America. When I told Steve that I was having trouble picking a direction for my Keystone, he said that he had a colleague, Glyn Williams-Jones, who was working with some newly discovered gas vents up at Mount Meager.
I did some digging into Meager, and what caught my attention was the history of massive landslides. A couple months later, I wrote a grant proposal to create a rudimentary monitoring system. Steve sent it to Glyn, who sent it to Weir-Jones Engineering, who offered to support a more robust version of the project.
Great teamwork! And does this all relate back to the Sea-to-Sky region?
Landslides are a real danger in mountainous regions like the Sea-to-Sky. Just recently, another large one made headlines at a popular recreation site, Mt. Joffre. With rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, we expect to see an increase in these sorts of events.
Why are projects like this important to the community?
The implications of a landslide are multi-faceted. Not only can they “change the face of a backcountry destination,” as the CBC article put it, but they can also destroy communities. We hope that the data we collect can have a real impact on landslide risk-management in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).
My long-term vision is an event-detection system that has a direct link to SLRD emergency coordinators. Research has identified potential landslide sources that are large enough to hit Pemberton. In an event such as this, having an alarm is critical to public safety.
Thanks, Mason! That’s really great work. Anything else you’d like to add?
I am exceedingly grateful for all the support that I have received through this project. I’d like to thank my mentor, Steve Quane, without whom this would never have happened! I would also like to thank Glyn Williams-Jones from SFU for his incredible work at the heart of all research at Meager.
A huge thanks goes to the Quest Summer Fellowship Program for supporting my research this season. Finally, I’d like to extend sincere gratitude for the undying expertise, support and patience of Iain Weir-Jones and Michael Trevorrow.
Okay, one last question… what’s your favourite thing about Quest?
The Block Plan, hands down! Having the ability to focus on one thing at a time make projects like this one not only possible, but exciting to pursue.