Cassian Pirard Ph.D

Introduction

I am an Earth & Environment scientist who lives in Chiang Mai since 2016. Since the early 2000s I was doing research in universities in Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia on a variety of subject including among many other things, exotic ores in Central Africa, recreating magmas in laboratories, understanding the details of plate tectonics in the  south-west Pacific, deciphering the origin of volcanoes and even spent some time working on rocks from the Moon & Mars. During that time I also taught and supervised university students in Earth Sciences and in an advising role for university students in other fields (biology, chemistry, physics, arts, medicine).

 

Since I moved to Chiang Mai, I focus on the education of broader science to kids (and adults) with a particular emphasis on natural sciences, using the Chiang Mai environment to illustrate important scientific concepts.

Education & previous occupations

2000 - Building up my interest in natural sciences - After doing most of my secondary education in Belgium, I finished my last year in New Zealand, during which my innate interest in the observation of nature truly crystallize into a life objective. On my return to Europe, I started a degree in Earth & Environmental Sciences and eventually developed a strong interest in Geological Sciences.

2005 - Research on exotic geological locations - By the end of my graduate studies, I spent considerable time doing field maping in the Ardennes mountains and eventually finished my studies with a thesis on copper-cobalt-uranium ore in Katanga (D.R. Congo). In 2007, I finished another research project on very rare minerals in Namibia, Rwanda & France, leading to my M.Sc thesis.

2007 - Research on the plumbing under volcanoes - I was given the opportunity to start a PhD program at the Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES), ANU, Australia in early 2007; at the time RSES was considered in the top 5 best places in the world for Geological research and it was very exciting times to work there.

               At RSES, I did my PhD research on understanding what exactly occur around 100 kilometers below volcanoes, where elusive reactions occur to produce magma. This work was partly done in a laboratory using ultra high-pressure devices to recreate rock from the deep Earth and another part was based on field work done over several months in an archipelago of the Pacific Ocean named New Caledonia.

               During that time I was also involved with numerous teaching activities including field trips, practicals and public outreach as well as some technical support for some scientific instruments (electron microscope, mass spectrometer,...)

2011 - Technician for fancy scientific equipment - For a few months, I worked at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam in the Netherlands as a post-doctoral position for technical support for post-graduate students using electron microscopes and X-ray fluorescence instruments.

2012 - More research on volcanoes - I moved back to Australia in the area of the Great Barrier Reef at James Cook University. I initially started as research post-doc focusing on the recycling of oceanic crust under volcanoes. This research was supported by rocks from the Alps, Kazakhstan, China and New Caledonia that I knew already quite well.

2013 - The beginning of intensive teaching - In addition to research, I became lecturer for undergraduate and postgraduate geology students. I was mainly teaching Minerals & Volcanism for 2nd B.Sc and Igneous Petrology (that's the real hardcore science behind volcanoes) in 3rd B.Sc and post-graduates.

2014 - Lab management - Another duty next to research and teaching was the supervision of students and researchers in a rock-processing and analytical facilities. My laboratories included a series of devices to crush and mill rocks, separate them into their mineral components, preparing them for different kind of analysis, and the analysis itself that included electron microscope, X-ray fluorescence, and mass spectrometers for chemical & isotopic analyses as well as radioactive dating.

2016 - Change of path - I moved to Chiang Mai in late 2016 and bought some land in a remote area on the foothills of Doi Inthanon. There I spent most of my time building my own house, bringing water and electricity and still developing my land for my family and my horses.

Current occupation and services offered

Geology Field trips

- Half or Full-day field trip for student groups (5-10): Introduction to Earth Sciences

       adapted for different age groups from 8 years old to adults, this field trip includes  

       basic elements of geology with some emphasis (depending on age group and

       interests) on mineralogy (mineral prospection, mineral identification), landscape  

       interpretation (mapping, geomorphology), sedimentology (current and past

       sedimentation) and general petrology (understanding rocks as witnesses of the past).

      Following interests and schedule, several locations are currently accessible including:

              - Limestone cliffs, coarse calcite crystal veins & cave network

              - Oligocene sediments and their comparison with recent river sediment

              - River banks pebbles displaying a dozen of different rock type (quartzite,  

               metapelite, garnet-micaschist, basalt, greenschist, augen gneiss, mylonite, onyx, ...)

              - Mae Ping to Doi Inthanon Chiang Mai province geology (full-day)

              - Pha Chor Canyon for Oligocene sediments and extreme erosion processes

              - with more location to be added as I explore the region

      Typical learning outcomes from these trips includes but not limited to:

             - Distinction between rocks & minerals

             - Distinction between the three main types of rocks

             - Field tools for rock and mineral identification (chemistry, physics & biology)

             - Basic understanding of the geoogical cycle

             - Basic conceptualization of the geological timescale

Astronomy Nights

- Weather permitting, starting from sunset, this activity includes stargazing (identifying 

        celestial objects and constellations, some stories on the history of astronomy and its

       ancestral use, mythologies, etc.), use of binoculars and telescope to observe fainter

      objects and details and an introductions to astrophysics and cosmology (adapted to

      the audience)

Biology Field trips

- To be finalised , this would be Half or Full-day field trip for student groups (5-10): 

       Introduction to Field biology adapted for different age groups from 8 years old to

      adults, this field trip can include ornithology (birds in wetlands, dry forest, plantations,   

      wet forest and mountain environment, with migrating bird depending on the season),

      arthropodology (insects, myriapods, arachnids and others, as Chiang Mai is a hot spot

      for these animals), botany in different type of ecosystem (wetlands, dry forest and

      plantations, dipterocarp forest, rainforest and cloud forest

      This program is still in development stage

Geography Field trips

- To be finalised , this would be Half or Full-day field trip for student groups (5-10): 

      Introduction to land uses in northern Thailand adapted for different age groups from

     14 years old to adults, this field trip will include the administrative and physical structure

     of villages in Thailand, the distribution of farmland around villages, the distinction

     between various agricultural lands, the farming practices in Northern Thailand and their

     role in a global economy, the protection of forest land and their importance for the

     future of Thailand

      This program is still in development stage