About This Project

Exploitation of oil sands in Alberta — the largest industrial endeavor of our age — is changing the face of Canada and, in many ways, all of North America. But dimly seen from the United States, the effort seems remote, somehow miniaturized. This website attempts to convey the scale and complexity of the oil sands enterprise. It provides a starting point for those who wish to better understand what is happening in Canada today, and how it is likely to shape tomorrow.

South of the border, the pursuit of unconventional energy is transforming the United States.  Oil shale developers have carved large swaths across Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing is turning Pennsylvania into a pincushion in the search for natural gas. And now plans are laid for the first oil sands strip mines in Utah. But the cumulative effects of these enterprises are poorly understood. In the near future, Collier and Sisk hope to expand their inspection of each component of the oil sands industry into in-depth teaching modules. We would do well to learn as much as possible about Canada’s extraction of bitumen before the next big energy play is irrevocably thrust upon the Book Cliffs of Utah.

About Michael Collier & Tom Sisk

 Michael CollierMichael Collier received his BS in geology at Northern Arizona University, MS in structural geology at Stanford, and MD from the University of Arizona. Collier has published books about the geology of Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Denali, and Capitol Reef National Parks, as well as books on the Colorado River basin, glaciers of Alaska, climate change in Alaska, and a three-book series on American mountains, rivers, and coastlines. As a special projects writer with the USGS, Collier wrote about the San Andreas Fault, downstream effects of dams, and climate change. He has produced an iPad app about seeing landscapes from the air. Collier received the USGS Shoemaker Communication Award in 1997, the National Park Service Director’s Award in 2000, and the American Geological Institute’s Public Contribution to Geosciences Award in 2005.  He rowed boats commercially in Grand Canyon and is now a 6000-hour pilot living in Flagstaff where he practices medicine.

Tom SiskTom Sisk trained as a biologist at Colorado College and received his doctorate in ecology from Stanford. He was a visiting professor in 2010–11 at the University of British Columbia before returning to Northern Arizona University as director of the Landscape Conservation Initiative. He also serves as the Charles Olajos and Ted Goslow Chair of Southwestern Environmental Science and Policy.