Helen Reynolds Belyea, (February 11, 1913 – May 20, 1986), was a Canadian geologist best known for her research, in Western Canada, of the Devonian System, a geologic period of the Paleozoic era.
Belyea was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, to a family with French Huguenot origins.
Belyea received both her Bachelor’s and master's degrees in Geology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia; she earned a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her doctoral thesis was titled “The Geology of Musquach Area, New Brunswick.” Before she devoted herself to geology, Belyea worked as a high school teacher and served as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy.
Belyea was hired as a technologist in 1945 by the Geological Survey of Canada, and was promoted to geologist in 1947. After oil was struck at Leduc, Alberta, the Geological Survey opened an office in Calgary, and Belyea was sent to monitor the discovery. She was the only woman to go out into the field. This office eventually led to the creation, in 1967, of the Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology.
Belyea wrote over 30 scientific papers. Her first paper, on facies relations and reef-off-reef sequences in the upper Devonian, was published in Geological Survey of Canada in 1952. She is known best for contributing to the volume on “Geological History of Western Canada,” which is known as “The Atlas.” In “The Atlas”, she published maps and text for the whole Devonian region based on her work in the late 1950s on a geological survey that mapped the Southern Northwest Territories. She specifically contributed on the region west of Hay River and south of the Mackenzie, and her knowledge of the regional geology helped produce a synthesis for the Devonian rocks of that region.
Belyea was noticed for her contribution to geology in Alberta, where she spent 35 years with the Geological Survey of Canada. Her many awards included the Barlow Memorial Medal for her paper, “Distribution and Lithology of Organic Carbonate Unit of Upper Fairholme Group, Alberta”, awarded in 1960. She was the first woman honored this way. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1962 and was also made an honorary member of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. She was one of two geologists sent to open a Calgary office and the only woman to do field work there. In 1976, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Belyea was also active in mountaineering, skiing, walking, and horseback riding. She was an equestrian and rode her horse to many of her field excursions. She rode in the mountains of Alberta, British Columbia and Great Slave Lake area. She was a member of the Calgary Continuing Arts Association, the Women's League of the Calgary Philharmonic and associate director of the Calgary Zoological Society. She traveled extensively, especially in France. During one her travels in France she gave many lectures.
She died in Calgary in 1986 at the age of 73 years.