NEW! Volcanologist, Charlie Barrington @cb797: A Day in the GeoLife Series

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NAME: Charlie Barrington

CURRENT TITLE: Volcanologist, Department of Volcanology, Instituto Geofisico, Escuela Politécnica Nacional in Quito, Ecuador

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Volcanic degassing, Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS)

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  ~1 (including placements at the Centre for Exchange and Research in Volcanology, Colima and Montserat Volcano Observatory)

EDUCATION: After graduating from the University of York with a BSc in Environmental Science, I enrolled on the Geophysical Hazards MSc programme at University College London, which I completed in September 2014.

What’s your job like?

I couldn´t ask for a better job! What I enjoy most about my work here in Ecuador is that it´s not just the study of one volcano. Between the Volcanology and Seismology Departments at the Institute, there’s so much going on all the time – it’s a great environment to be part of! Whilst I have my own role and responsibilities working in the area of volcanology which interests me most, I have the opportunity to get involved in lots of other aspects through fieldwork, department lectures, and during the weeklong-shifts at Tungurahua Volcano Observatory (OVT). The beauty of my job is its diversity.

volcanologist

Viewing my first ever volcanic explosion – Volcan Reventador, Ecuador. Photo copyright: Charlie Barrington

What’s a typical day like?

My primary role is to process incoming sulfur dioxide (SO2) data that arrives at the Institute from a number of volcanoes across Ecuador. I begin by retrieving wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) meteorology database before using the Network for Observation of Volcanic and Atmospheric Change (NOVAC) program to obtain a daily flux value for SO2 emissions. I use this data to compile monthly reports about the degassing behavior of Volcán Sangay, largely considered the world’s most active volcano.

I also get to do a lot of fieldwork, which ranges from taking day tips with instrumentation to fixing monitoring stations to collecting samples from immense avalanche deposits in the South of Ecuador. Concerning gas studies, this month I spent three days on a boat mapping carbon dioxide (CO2) flux from the lake-filled Cuicocha caldera.

Currently, I am at OVT. Here, I have the chance to be involved in all aspects of volcanic monitoring, and it’s especially interesting now that Tungurahua seems to be waking up again! When the volcano is quiet, it’s really peaceful, except when I’m kept awake by the croaking frogs!

What’s fun?

Of course being out in the field is hugely exciting; for me it’s a new country, a new continent and some of the world´s more active and spectacular volcanoes. Watching incandescence at Volcán Reventador, hiking on Cotopaxi (with a rather uncooperative donkey) and seeing Sangay´s infamous peak in the distance whilst driving through Ecuador´s spectacular countryside are just some of the amazing experiences I´ve had so far.

Despite the great fun which comes with fieldwork here, I also still really enjoy being in the office and putting all the things I´ve previously learnt into practice.

volcanologist

Volcan Reventador erupting whilst installing new solar panels at
Copete station, Ecuador. Photo copyright: Charlie Barrington

What’s challenging?

For me right now – the language! Making sure I understand colleges, trying to follow discussions in meetings and making sure my work isn’t compromised because of my Spanish skills are challenging. Improving my Spanish is now a huge focus to ensure I can get the most out of my time here.

What’s your advice to students?

Don’t be intimidated. I have always second guessed or lacked confidence when working with those who have far greater experience than me – especially when it’s a field primarily made up of geologists. I was definitely nervy first joining a team of scientists who have lived and worked on the doorstep of these volcanoes for many years! Trust your education and experience and don’t be scared to provide input.

Updated! Catchment Research Assistant, Peter Fitt @Pjfiddy: A Day in the GeoLife Series

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Hydrology

Peter Fitt, Hydrology Intern

NAME: Peter Fitt

CURRENT TITLE: Catchment Research Assistant / Project Communications Intern, both at the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom)

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  I currently work on projects investigating hydrology, water management and agricultural related issues such as diffuse pollution.

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  Less than 1 year!

EDUCATION:  BSc Environmental Earth Sciences from the University of East Anglia with a year in North America. I also plan on further study, and I am considering master’s degrees at the moment.

WEBSITES:  Agritech Water Cluster and Wensum Alliance

What’s your job like?

I currently work on two part-time roles, and I really enjoy both of them. They are both related to water and agriculture.

Firstly, I am a Project Communications Intern for the Agritech Water Cluster. We are investigating how water will be managed between the environment, industry, agriculture and domestic needs in the future with a focus on the Anglian region in the United Kingdom. We are starting to uncover some serious challenges that can only be solved by working together. My role is predominantly office based and includes conducting research, running workshops with our stakeholders, writing and promoting our website, and attending conferences and meetings as well as outreach activities.

I also work as a Catchment Research Assistant for the Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC). This project is investigating methods to reduce agricultural diffuse pollution whilst maintaining food security on an intensive arable farm. I spend time in the office preparing, correcting and writing up data from a variety of sources. I also get to spend quite a lot of time in the field which is great!

My main field duties involve sampling a biobed, which is an organic filtering system. It contains a ‘biomix’ (a mixture of straw, compost and topsoil). Pesticides tend to cling to organic matter and the biobed is a way of filtering these and reducing their concentrations further through microbial reactions. Water is used to wash the inside/outside of the sprayer in a concrete area to ensure there is no point-source pollution and is then irrigated through the biobed.

I take water samples of pre/post biobed effluent and water samples from the field the treated effluent drains into. The goal of the biobed is to significantly reduce pesticide concentrations and the data so far is very promising! I also help out on other field duties and sampling rounds such as water and soil sampling.

Biobed

Biobed sampled regularly by Peter Fitt. Photo copyright Peter Fitt

What’s a typical day like?

It depends on the day of the week! I am involved in field duties including general maintenance of all of our monitoring equipment, extracting soil and water samples and sampling the biobed. Fieldwork can depend on the daylight hours available in winter but is usually completed before 5 p.m., as we have to drive out to the sites.

Most of my time is in the office, where I could be working on presentations/leaflets for workshops, writing website blog posts, preparing for conferences and meetings or gathering and correcting weather data/analysing pesticide concentrations.

What’s fun?

I really enjoy the diversity of tasks I am involved in. I have always loved being outdoors and working in the field, so it is great to have the chance to do that!

We run events for the Agritech Water Cluster, and it is a fantastic feeling when people really enjoy being there. The goal is to ensure people leave the events and talks with either new knowledge, new contacts or a new perspective, and this is quite satisfying to achieve.

What’s challenging?

Being out in the field when the weather is miserable isn’t too nice, but you crack on with it. Problem solving in the field can be challenging at times too, especially when you only have access to limited equipment. Things don’t always go as planned and equipment can fail, but I usually have a back-up plan.

I also think research can be challenging. After all, you are trying to answer unanswered questions. The interdisciplinary nature of the research I am involved in requires you to know how different processes and subjects are linked together. It can be frustrating at times, because there are many hurdles to overcome! However, it can be fantastic when you pass those barriers.

What’s your advice to students?

Do what you enjoy the most and throw yourself in at the deep end! I imagine most people have studied geoscience because they have a passion for it – you just have to find out what you are interested in and pursue it.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid about not knowing what you want to do. I graduated with a BSc in 2014 with a lot of uncertainty over which particular discipline I wanted to pursue as a career. You are more likely to know what you want or don’t want to do once you have some experience.

Scientific Resume Writing Strategies: Perspective from a Hiring Manager

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Resume Writing StrategiesA follower asked me to write a blog on what I look for on resumes, since I’m a hiring manager in the field of geology. The thought was that I could provide a different perspective than the general resume information currently available on the internet. At first I doubted I could because, to be honest, I just skim resumes. But after thinking about it more, I realized that this is exactly the problem. I’m skimming resumes, because they are not as useful as they could be. Therefore, I’ve thought of some strategies to help you with getting your resume noticed when applying for a job in the sciences.

First, some background. For my employer, a candidate is required to fill out an application online which is submitted to the Human Resources department who screens them for inclusion into a pile for me to review. Including a resume is optional. Only those who have the relevant education and experience are forwarded to me. Once I receive the pile, I primarily focus on the application. If there is an accompanying resume, I will glance at it. This is not to say that I do not advocate sending in a resume with the application. Candidates who take the time to include resumes are usually a stand out to me. It’s just that most of the information on the resume is just a repeat from the application, so there isn’t much to learn.

This leads me to the first strategy: Use the application to succinctly highlight experience or education directly asked for in the job posting and use the resume to reinforce them and provide other interesting or relevant information. The resume should tell your story, not just repeat the information in the application. For example, if the job posting requires groundwater sampling experience, list this in the application but expand on it in the resume. You can do this by describing the types of equipment used, methods of sampling, rules and regulations followed, sampling location, and analytical preparation techniques. If you keep my attention through the application AND resume, I’m going to want to talk with you.

Nothing can kill your chances for an interview more than showing no similar requested experience or education. Unfortunately, by not filling out the application in its entirety or not describing experience or education well enough you could be left in the “only if I can’t find another candidate” pile. You don’t want to be there. Or worse yet, your application could be excluded from reaching me at all by Human Resources. So, include as much relevant experience on the application and resume as possible. In fact, as you’re typing both, have a copy of the job posting at your side and make sure to include as many of the listed job requirement terms as possible. Remember – when I advertise for a position and list the requirements, I’m looking for these on the application and resume. This is free information for you! Take advantage of it. Use the words in the application to form your documents, then support your experience with examples to show you truly have the experience. For example, if I’m requesting a hydrogeologist with field experience for a job in Florida, and you have listed your experience while at field camp in Montana, explain how your experience relates to the job in Florida. Did you describe the lithology of limestone and fossils, study a certain area that included evaporites, or visit a cave system with karst topography on your way back? If so, describe it and tell me what you learned. The bottom line is to relate your experience to the job and tell me how your experience benefits me.

I can have a stack of over 100 candidates for a position. This makes going through the paperwork a challenge, and I could easily miss important information buried in text. Don’t let that happen! Make sure all relevant and directly related experience and education is towards the front of your resume. If chronology is a problem, then bold the information or key terms requested in the job posting on your resume and include a list of technical expertise tasks towards the top of the first page. Making your information easier to find will help you from being overlooked.

The structure of the resume or style of the font is not important to me. A professional-looking resume with no spelling or grammatical errors is important, especially if the position requires report writing. But the most important is the content. This is your opportunity to sell yourself (yes, I intentionally wrote that). Those outside the world of sales or marketing are not used to this concept, especially scientists. As with any job, you must persuade me to look at your talent. What makes your experience unique? What sets you apart? What can I learn from you? Where do you want to go? What’s your specialty or favorite area of study? Again, grab my attention. It’s okay to show a little personality in the resume – just don’t overdo it. And keep personal information such as snow-skiing in Colorado out of it – keep it strictly related to the job.

A resume can be a useful tool to enhance your job application. Take advantage of the opportunity to show your talents. The more I can learn about you, the less I will want to skim!

Good luck on your career endeavors. –Sandie

Astrobiology, Mars, Tristan DEQUAIRE @TristanDEQUAIRE: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME: Tristan DEQUAIRE

CURRENT TITLE: Ph.D Student in Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Detection and photostability of organic matter on Mars; linked with Mars Science Laboratory (MSL/Curiosity) mission.

YEARS EXPERIENCE: 3 to 4 (with internship)

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in Geodynamics and Planetary Sciences, Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique (LPG), Nantes, France

WEBSITE: http://www.doyoubuzz.com/tristan-dequaire/geologue-planetologue-astrobiologiste

What’s your job like?

I am in the second year of my Ph.D at LISA (Laboratoire Interuniversiatire des Systèmes Atmosphériques/Atmospheric Systems Laboratory) at the University of Paris-Diderot in Paris, France. My research focusses on detection and photostability of organic matter on Mars. My work presents two parts. The first includes the detection of organic matter with the Curiosity Rover on Mars since August 2012. I use the ChemCam (Chemistry and Camera) testbed located at IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie) in Toulouse, France in order to determine the detection limit of organics in martian representative samples synthesized in the laboratory.

The second part includes measuring the photostability of organic molecules. For that, I use the MOMIE (Martian Organic Molecules Irradiation and Evolution) laboratory experiment. It permits a temporal follow-up made by a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) in order to estimate the degradation kinetics of target molecules (quantitative analysis) and their transformation to solid or gaseous products or to stable products (qualitative analysis). So, I use a wide variety of techniques like FTIR, ultraviolet (UV) spectroscopy, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), remote sensing, interferometry, etc.

Mars

Close view of the MOMIE laboratory experiment (top) and ChemCam (bottom) onboard the Curiosity Rover shooting on rocks on Mars.

What’s a typical day like?

Like a lot of my colleagues, I begin my day checking my emails (around 80 per day between French and American colleagues). Then, I spend a lot of my time in the laboratory for different reasons:

1) Preparing samples (1 day per sample for an intimate mixture between organics and mineral matrixes);

2) Analysing samples with the MOMIE set-up (when I irradiate during 1200 minutes — it’s quite long); and

3) Analysing samples with the ChemCam testbed (when I am in Toulouse).

The other part of my time is in front of my computer processing data, reading some articles, and writing abstracts for conferences. Some days, I am in various meetings such as science team meetings (a lot with the MSL team) and laboratory council meetings. I also teach in the geo/astrochemistry field at the University of Paris-Diderot.

Mars

Pierre-Yves Meslin (right) and me (left) working with the ChemCam testbed at IRAP in Toulouse to search for organic matter limit detection the ChemCam instrument. Photo credit: Cyril Szopa

What’s fun?

First of all, it’s awesome to see the surface of Mars every day. I know Mars better than my own city! Second, I can travel and discover a lot of people – the world is rich in diversity. And third, I am never bored at work, because there are various activities. Science and teaching are exciting!

Mars Rover

Curiosity at Kimberley Science Waypoint site where the Rover drilled into a sandstone target called Windjana (613th martian day). Photo credit: NASA

What’s challenging?

Many things are frustrating like a broken experiment and gas leaks. If something does not work as expected, it’s lost time and while preparing your thesis, time is precious. But all of this is nothing compared to the good sides of the job.

What’s your advice to students?

Be motivated would be my first advice. I think it is the most important quality when entering into a scientific career. It is also necessary to like what we do! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with professionals to begin internships as soon as possible, because it looks great on your curriculum vitae (CV) and like this webpage, we have an important professional network (don’t neglect it!). And don’t forget to enjoy!

Research Geologist/Energy, Geochemistry, Circe Verba @circeverba: A Day in the GeoLife Series

energy

Research Geologist, Circe Verba. Photo credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory

NAME: Circe Verba

CURRENT TITLE:  Research Geologist

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  My expertise has fluctuated from my original area of study in planetary geology (2003-2009) to geochemistry of engineered natural systems (2009-current). Both require image analysis and interpretation from a microscale to a macroscale.

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  8

EDUCATION:  BS in earth science with emphasis in geology from Oregon State University; MS in geology from Northern Arizona University; PhD geology with focus in civil engineering from University of Oregon.

WEBSITES:

Linked In:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/circeverba/en

Twitter: @circeverba

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/legoresearchgeology

What’s your job like?

I am a research geologist at the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Projects are to advance science and technology to fulfill DOE’s mission. I specialize in bridging geochemistry and civil engineering relating to research projects that involve: 1) carbon sequestration; 2) well bore integrity (relevant to mitigating climate change); and 3) understanding the interaction of oil-gas shale in unconventional systems.

What’s a typical day like?

My day varies from conducting experiments, analyzing samples in the petrographic/electron microscope laboratory, and writing proposals, manuscripts, and reports. I spend a lot of time answering emails, filling out paperwork, and attending meetings/collaborating with our sister sites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia and with universities and industry. I also have interns that I meet with that assist in projects.

Dr. Circe Verba, Photo Credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

Dr. Circe Verba, Photo Credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

 

energy

Dr. Circe Verba. Photo credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

What’s fun?

As the planets mesmerized me, so does looking at unseen, microscopic worlds. Using the scanning electron microscope (SEM) is one of my favorite parts of the job where I can see alien worlds. It becomes an art, really.  Here are some photos of the images:  Microscopy Images

Dr. Circe Verba. Photo credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

Dr. Circe Verba. Photo credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

One thing I do enjoy is that we study hot topics which allows me to work on different projects. One project may relate to carbon storage, examining the adsorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) in shale, whereas another one may require looking at microbes that can precipitate calcite to seal fractured well cement. I get really excited when something unexpected happens and could have potential impacts (both in positive or negative way).

One fun thing outside of my job I’ve been working on is my Lego Ideas – Research Geology set (https://ideas.lego.com/projects/93813) which depicts male and female geologists in both the field and a petrographic laboratory. I grew up with Lego bricks and wanted to highlight geology as both an educational tool and toy.

What’s challenging?

What is challenging to me is that I miss going into the field. I never wanted to be a field geologist, but I miss hiking and seeing amazing landscapes. I got to visit Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and lots of domestic places during undergraduate/graduate school. Now, I spend more time in the office!

Because technical writing is such a huge part to get funding and get your research out into the community, it can be very challenging for me.  It’s like repeating writing my dissertation over and over!

Research Geologist, Dr. Circe Verba

Research Geologist, Dr. Circe Verba in Morocco as part of a Mediterranean geology course (2011).  She was studying the continental collisions between Iberian Peninsula and Africa.  Photo is of the Rif Mountains near Tangler with fertile cropland. Photo credit: Dr. Circe Verba

What’s your advice to students?

The best advice I can give to an aspiring geologist is to never stop learning. Take as many science courses as you can to figure out what field interests you, such as geology, engineering, physics, or mathematics. In addition, geography, computer science, environmental science, geographic information system (GIS), and drawing/art courses are also very helpful. Geology is a wide field with many hot topics to explore, including environmental, climate change, energy, geological hazards, mitigation, and mining.

Photo credit: Dr. Circe Verba

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco. This section of the mountains are mainly limestone dipping to the Northeast with interspersed volcanic rocks. Photo credit: Dr. Circe Verba

Research Scientist, Geomicrobiology, Ted Flynn @TedFlynn: A Day in the GeoLife Series

geomicrobiology

Research Scientist, Geomicrobiology, Ted Flynn

NAME: Ted Flynn

CURRENT TITLE: Research Scientist at the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago, with a joint appointment in the Biosciences Division at Argonne National Laboratory.

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  I study geomicrobiology, a field that aims to understand the interactions between microbial life and the geosphere. Because microbes are found in almost every environment on earth, my research spans locations from the deep subsurface to soil, surface and groundwater, and even the human body!

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  11

EDUCATION:  I began working in this field in 2004, when I started a PhD in the Geology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I have been at Argonne since 2011 and am currently part of the Molecular Environmental Science Group.

What’s your job like?

My job is extremely interdisciplinary. Scientists in my research group come from a wide array of different backgrounds including geochemistry, microbiology, soil science, and x-ray physics. Because most of our research is funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), we apply our expertise towards specific problems of interest to DOE. Most of our effort goes towards laboratory and field experiments that explore the fundamental relationships between microbes, minerals, and the environment. I perform both laboratory and field work, collecting samples of different geological materials (e.g. soil, sediment, and water). My colleagues and I characterize both the chemical and microbiological composition of these samples. Much of our work involves extracting deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), sequencing it, and using a variety of bioinformatics tools to understand the different genes and genomes found in the environments we study.

What’s a typical day like?

My time is typically split between meetings, lab work, and writing. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of our work, most of our projects involve multiple institutions and require close coordination of effort. Writing is another critical part of my job. In order to secure funding, we must constantly communicate the science we do to funding officers, lab management, and other scientists through peer-reviewed journal articles, talks, and posters at scientific meetings. Striking a balance between these areas is one of the most challenging parts of my job.

What’s fun?

I love opening a fresh dataset from a recent experiment to see whether or not it matches my hypothesis. Characterizing microbial communities using DNA-based methods requires patience, as there are many steps between taking a sample and the final sequencing. Sometimes several months can go by before you get the data from a specific experiment, so it feels a little like Christmas when you finally receive your data! I really enjoy processing the raw data and seeing the millions of seemingly random streams of A, G, T, and C coalesce into discrete taxa and functional genes. I also enjoy presenting my research to students and other scientists. It’s always exciting when you get together with other people in your field and to discuss your latest results. You never know when a conversation over drinks at a meeting will lead to an exciting new project!

What’s challenging?

The most challenging part of my job is dealing with rejection, particularly when it comes to grant applications. It can be very frustrating to spend weeks, months, and even years working on a paper or proposal only to have it rejected for lack of funds. Most funding agencies these days are facing significant budget shrinkage, so competition for these limited resources is always increasing. Persevering in the face of these challenges and maintaining belief in yourself and your colleagues is absolutely critical.

What’s your advice to students?

My advice to students is to always be open to new experiences and new knowledge. When you’re getting started in science, it is a good idea to say “Yes!” often. Go to seminars outside of your own area, even when you feel like you might be too busy. Some of the most exciting projects I’ve been a part of originated in meetings between researchers from completely different backgrounds. Go to lunch with seminar speakers and learn about what they do and how they got to be where they are. You never know when you might meet a new colleague, collaborator, future PhD or postdoc advisor!

Professor, Glacial/Fluvial Geomorphology, John Van Hoesen @Taconic_Musings: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME:  John Van Hoesen

CURRENT TITLE:  Associate Professor of Geology & Environmental Studies

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Glacial/fluvial geomorphology, surficial/soil mapping, spatial analysis, applied geographic information system (GIS), and geoscience education

YEARS EXPERIENCE: ~18

EDUCATION: B.S. Geology, University of Albany, New York; M.S. Geoscience, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Ph.D. Geoscience, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

geomorphology

Dr. John Van Hoesen, Associate Professor of Geology & Environmental Studies

What’s your job like?

It depends on the time of year and which hat I’m wearing. As a faculty member at a small, private, liberal arts college in rural Vermont, I often spend a fair bit of time inside and in front of a computer. As an undergraduate, I partially pursued geology for the lure of fieldwork, but the unfortunate reality is that committee work, curriculum planning, grading, etc., all interfere with opportunities to be in the outdoor classroom. I don’t mean to sound negative at all; I’m just offering a reality check on ‘life as a college professor.’ However, any frustration I have about not being outside is offset by the amazing opportunity to work with undergraduate students on research projects or helping them solve a difficult exercise or understand a complex concept they are curious about.

In the summer, I work as a consulting geologist or GIS analyst and both offer more field-based opportunities. I spend a lot of time knocking on doors, asking permission to walk private property to dig soil pits or describe and sample exposures of surficial sediments. Other times, I might be waist deep in a river collecting cross-section data and evaluating high-water marks, bank full indicators, and scour potential.

What’s a typical day like?

During the semester, each day is a balance between preparing questions and activities for classes, offering feedback on assignments, more often than not rushing to a committee meeting (or meetings), and battling the non-stop onslaught of email.

I wish my typical day included a fixed time for working on manuscripts, presentations, grant proposals, or reviewing manuscripts or grants, but the reality is that I work in cycles. So, other days I might spend the entire day working on a GIS project, writing/editing an article or developing an assignment for a course. I’m more of a binge writer, and this job is conducive to that approach.

What’s fun?

My job is mostly fun, because it’s wildly variable with the autonomy to explore topics that either I or my students are interested in and the freedom to pursue consulting opportunities in the summer to maintain an understanding of the expectations placed on working professionals outside of academia. I get the best and worst (but mostly best) of both worlds without having to follow someone else’s research agenda.

But day-to-day, the most fun occurs in the classroom, lab, or field seeing someone else get just as excited about the origins of reticulate, the simplicity but importance of pebble counts, the poetry of Globigerina ooze or an exposure of billion-year-old stromatolites… Without question, the most fun is the interaction with students and their own curiosity about the natural world.

What’s challenging?

The almost constant tug-of-war between teaching, research and service within the academic environment. Describing a typical day was challenging, because every day brings with it something unexpected, which is a double-edged sword with respect to time management. It could be something really awesome that distracts you from something less interesting but more important, or it could be something administrative that isn’t really important but is time sensitive and distracts you from something awesome.

One challenge associated with teaching is overcoming the hierarchical model of learning and trying to foster an environment of exploration, curiosity and healthy skepticism to move away from the focus on grades and getting the correct answer. It’s a difficult case to make when the pathway to success is paved with grade point average (GPA) results and class rankings.

What’s your advice to students?

Volunteer. I completely understand and agree with the current backlash against internships that don’t provide compensation — that’s not what I’m referring to. Volunteer to work in a lab; volunteer with The Nature Conservancy; volunteer with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), etc.; volunteer while you are also working and going to school. You will be amazed by the doors that open if you do a great job, and it is an excellent way to discover you don’t like something you thought you would! So, find an internship that pays you for your knowledge and skills, and then volunteer for something too.

I live in Vermont, and yes, we have a lot of cows and a lot of silos. They are beautiful to look at, but death to curiosity and research. It is important to have a specialty, but it is also important to be open to other fields of research. Don’t be fooled that our discipline has all the answers. I’ve learned a great deal from my colleagues in anthropology, biology, art and English.