Judah Tyreman holds up a piece of amethyst for family friend Emily Coutu and geology professor Kevin Ansdell (right), as Avi Tyreman checks out a drawer full of samples. (JAMES SHEWAGA)

U of S helps out young rock collectors

Judah Tyreman felt like a little bit of a rock star on Thursday.

After starting the day by being interviewed on a nationally televised morning show, 14-year-old Judah and his younger sister Avi and their family received the royal treatment at the University of Saskatchewan as the Department of Geological Sciences rolled out the red carpet to give the young collectors the rare opportunity to select samples from the university’s treasure trove of rocks, minerals, meteorites and fossils in its secure storage facility.

“I am really grateful and it means a lot to me, to get all these pieces from the geology department,” said Judah. “It’s amazing.”

The Tyreman family spent hours searching through and selecting pieces from the university’s stockpile of samples, to help re-store an estimated $8,000 in items that were stolen during a March 10 break-in at their Sesula Mineral and Gem Museum in Radisson, located 60 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. With a little help from their parents Chris and Kim, Judah and his eight-year-old sister Avi opened the museum two years ago and were thrilled to have the opportunity to re-stock it with items from the university’s extensive collection.

“It’s like going to a candy store and getting all the candy you can, for free,” said Avi, with a grin.

When U of S geology professor Kevin Ansdell and fellow members of the department learned of the break-in, they quickly offered to help out the young collectors.

“It was very disappointing to hear what happened to Judah and Avi’s museum, so we wanted to reach out to them and help restore the collection,” said Ansdell. “We are fortunate to have compiled an extensive assortment of rocks, minerals and fossil samples from around the world, over decades of research and field trips. As a department we are happy to share some of our samples with these eager young collectors, who just may become star students in our geology department one day.”

Judah mowed lawns and did odd jobs to help raise money to start the museum, and also donates 10 per cent of all sales in the rock shop to the Morrow Missionary Family orphanage in Zambia. He said he is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received since news broke of the break-in, with donations of specimens and financial contributions from collectors across North America and overseas. The chance to also select a stunning array of samples from the U of S on Thursday was more than he could have hoped for.

“I really appreciate it,” said Judah. “There are so many beautiful pieces here. I am being given stuff that I don’t have at the museum and I really appreciate it because I am getting specimens that would cost me a fortune and I am being given them for free, so it’s amazing.”

What began as a hobby for Judah and Avi has developed into a popular destination spot for rock and precious stone collectors, as the museum has quickly become one of the hidden gems in the province.

“We have put in a little bit of time with them, but they raised all the initial money and they raised enough to get into the building and get it painted and get it all up and running,” said Kim Tyreman. “And now he has his little sister addicted to this as well. So it’s a pretty proud moment for us.”

Two years ago, Ansdell guided the Tyremans on a tour of the Geology Building’s Natural Sciences Museum and its spectacular array of rock and mineral displays that are open to the public throughout the year. Ansdell also gave the family their first chance to view the university’s extensive collection in the basement facility that is largely kept under lock and key.

“It was fun to watch their eyes light up as they searched through our collection of research samples when they toured our facilities in 2016,” said Ansdell. “We knew they would be thrilled to have the chance to look through them again and we are fortunate enough to have a large enough collection that we are able to donate some samples to display in their museum. As geologists, our department is dedicated to sharing knowledge, whether that occurs in the classroom on campus or to visitors of the museum.”

The first geology courses at the university were taught 91 years ago back in 1927, with the department currently offering undergraduate and graduate programs in geology, geophysics, paleobiology, and environmental earth science. The College of Arts and Science department also features the Ore Gangue, which is the oldest student society at the U of S and will be celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019.
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